Once upon a time there was a young girl who was studying abroad in Austria and spent her Easter break in Italy. She still cannot forget the delicious pizza she ate in Florence – and that was 23 years ago. Well, I don’t have to simply remember it anymore, because I can enjoy it whenever I want at Vero Bistro in Cleveland Heights. Vero Bistro opened last summer in the site of the old La Gelateria in the Cedar-Fairmount district. They serve pizza made in a wood-fired oven and gelato. Vero focuses on Napoletano pizza, which is the classic Italian pizza. The pizzas are served uncut and feed one person – just like I am used to from Germany and Italy. Vero Bistro prides itself on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The sources are printed on the menu.
I met with some friends on a Saturday night. We quickly found a four-top downstairs near the window. One of our friends brought several bottles of red wine and a bottle of Cava for our table. Vero does not have a liquor license yet (it is supposed to be approved very soon), so they do not charge a corkage fee. Several other diners had brought along six-packs of Great Lakes beer to enjoy with their pizzas.
I started with a house salad, which featured fresh greens, cherry tomatoes bursting with flavor, and a house balsamic vinaigrette. It was fresh and simple, yet very flavorful. I can’t wait to try their watercress & arugula salad next time.
I ordered a basic Pizza Margherita, which urban legend claims was commissioned in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. It features San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. The dough is made fresh every day using Italian flour and fresh yeast and proofs overnight. The sauce features hand-crushed Italian plum tomatoes, a touch of salt, and Italian herbs and is not cooked beforehand, waiting to be cooked by the heat of the oven. The pizzas puff up in the oven and are fully cooked in 90 seconds. It was divine. Simple, but absolutely divine. There was some char on the bottom of the pizza, but that is to be expected on a Napoli-style pizza from a wood-burning oven. The char added to the delicious flavor of the crust. While eating the pizza with my knife and fork, I would save some of the juicy inner slice to add to the top of the crust for the perfect bite of flavor. That is how it is meant to be enjoyed, and that is how the Europeans do it. Although there is appeal in folding a slice of New York pizza, this is my favorite way to enjoy a pizza and I’ve missed it.
I was able to taste my friends’ pizzas as well. The Pizza Funghi added mushrooms to the Margherita pizza, while the Pizza Radice features garlic aioli, oven roasted vegetables, fresh mozzarella and goat cheese, and arugula. The garlic aioli really made this pizza a standout.
I ended my meal with a small Stracciatella gelato. Stracciatella gelato is kind of like American chocolate chip ice cream, except completely different. Instead of the chips and sometimes chunks you find in the American product, Stracciattella has fine bits of chocolate throughout, which results in a smooth texture with just the slightest crunch in every bite. My all-time favorite gelato is Bacio though, which is a chocolate hazelnut flavored gelato, which is also served there.
There have been some complaints about slow service, but we were not there to rush. The servers also had to run up and down the stairs waiting on all of the occupied tables. If people came in for gelato then that was one less server on the floor. We sat and enjoyed several bottles of wine and good company.
I have since made this my go-to pizza place when I am craving pizza and want to go out. The seats may not be comfortable, but the pizza is so delicious I don’t mind.
If you want a quality pizza, you won’t be disappointed here. It’s a little pricier than Domino’s but infinitely more satisfying. In short, I can’t wait to come back again. Is today for lunch too soon?
12421 Cedar Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106