Munch goes to Pizza Taglio in East Liberty




The merry, merry month of May gets underway tomorrow and here's an unsolicited pro tip on how to keep a New Year's resolution going for nearly five months: make it fun and fattening.

What began as a half-joking dare between my better half and I while binging on a bad pizza after a late New Year's Eve, has evolved into a cheese-laden crusade: to try a different Pittsburgh-area pizza each week in 2015.

Challenge accepted. Nexium acquired. Belt-buckle straining.

Though it's crossed my mind she may be trying to kill me slowly, thus far this year I've: chomped at Circolo, crushed some Caliente, gotten fixed up at Fiori's, masticated Michael's, mowed down at Mineo's, snacked at Spak, beat up some Beto's, said buona sera to Signor Sergio at La Gondola, stuffed myself with Stone, snarfed down at Spoonwood, lapped up Larry & Carol's, polished off Paisano's, partook of Mama Pepino's, ripped through Rialto's, demolished some Danny's and got voracious on a Vinnie pie.

That's 16 if you're counting. This is the 17th week of the year. I'm starting to sweat pepperoni.

But this week's destination brings me to the spot I've been the most geeked-up to try: Pizza Taglio in East Liberty, a BYOB Roman-style pizzeria nearly a year in the making. Proprietor Tony Giamarita is an attorney-turned-pizzaiolo who traded in his briefcase and wing tips for a peel and an apron. The transition was a natural move -- his family has tossed pizzas and served Italian classics at Mount Washington institution La Tavola for decades.

After an extended soft-opening, regular service began earlier this month in the former AVA Lounge space. Visitors are immediately seduced by the sweet scent of dough baking and Lou Rawls on the radio. The black tin ceiling and wooden benches with brass nameplates, salvaged from the old Masonic Hall in Oakland, lend a handsome air and the walls are painted red and white, like the two styles of pizzas on the menu.

As opposed to its cousin from Naples, a Roman pizza is cooked longer and at a lower temperature resulting in a crispier, slightly thicker crust and nearly any topping might be employed, in contrast to the conservatively dressed Neapolitan pies (which have become increasingly ubiquitous around town).

Typically, the pizzas are formed into long rectangular slabs, colorfully topped and gorgeously beckoning from behind glass display cases, providing postcard-worthy picture fodder for visitors of the Eternal City. Pieces are cut off, often with scissors, "Taglio" style, and that's the ultimate plan for Pizza Taglio, however some hiccups have delayed that for the moment.

In the meantime, however, they create some impressive traditional round "Tondo" pies.

There's the "Speck-Mato," a white pizza with blistered cherry tomatoes, garlic, speck, mozzarella, fontina, arugula and a balsamic drizzle ($14) and "The Jackie," another white pizza with mozzarella, cremini mushrooms, prosciutto, truffle cream, grana cheese and a "marking" of tomato sauce ($15).

Inspired by the eponymous classic Roman pasta staple, the "Carbonara" is white pizza with a Pecorino bechamel, guanciale, black pepper and an egg yolk in the middle ($13). A salty bite to be sure, but great fun to spread the runny egg around each piece.

Named for a longtime customer at La Tavola, the Bob Malnati ($14, and not to be mistaken with legendary Chicago pizza haunt Lou Malnati's) is an exceptional pie. The zing from the sopressata and Calabrian chiles combined with smoked mozzarella and crispy crust provide a wonderful depth of flavor. I've been fortunate to travel to Rome, and with one bite I was transported to Dar Poeta, a top pizza spot in the city's Trastevere district.

Another, the Greenpointer ($14) combines mozzarella, spicy sopressata and Mike's Hot Honey, a Brooklyn product that infuses wildflower honey with chilies for an excellent mix of sweet heat.

Mr. Giamarita is a natural host. Service was warm and very helpful in explaining the pizzas, but there are some issues related to pacing and general attentiveness that need work. Hopefully, that will come together with time, as will the rest of the planned pizza program.

Until then, Pizza Taglio offers more than enough to make one salivate, or create, as the Italians say, l'acquolina in bocca -- the water in the mouth.

Pizza Taglio: 126 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412-404-7410; facebook.com/tagliopgh.

munch@post-gazette.com or Twitter @ PGMunch. Become a Facebook Friend of Munch at www.facebook.com/munchPG.





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