112 S. 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Any place that makes you feel okay about ordering more than one pizza pie easily deserves a rating of three cheesesteaks. The fourth comes as a result of fresh ingredients and crisp flavors in a mildly comforting way.
Zavino Wine Bar Pizzeria sits on the corner of 13th and Sansom, among other popular hot spots like El Vez and Raw. The layout of this eatery is a lot like its pizza: thin and understated, yet surprisingly adequate. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar, you’ll be greeted by friendly bartenders and quick service. The proximity to the wood burning oven is just an added bonus that teases your senses and intrigues your taste buds.
Lining the back of the bar are a few high tops and a row of tightly packed booths that sit along the windowed walls. On a nice night you could be lucky enough to get a seat outside – and don’t worry if there’s rain, the awning will keep you dry.
As a party of three on a Saturday night, we weren’t surprised that there was a 40 minute wait – Zavino does not take reservations. But aside from this little glitch, the hostess pleasantly took our phone number to call us when our table opened up, allowing us to pop into another bar down the street as we waited for our table. Just a few minutes shy of a half hour we were getting a call that our table was ready.
Aside from a large selection of red, white, and sparkling wines, Zavino also offers several Victory drafts, a handful of bottled beer, and a few specialty cocktails. In the mood for something other than wine and beer, I took the waitress’ suggestion and went with the Rosemary Peach Sangria.
The concoction combines white wine, peach brandy, and Prosecco. But the sweetness of those three beauties is tamed with the blunt earthy spice of fresh rosemary. The sangria was refreshing with a bit of a kick, perfect for a warm night.
When it came to the food we started with a Tasting Board, a plank of wood adorned with the chef’s selection of meats, cheeses, vegetables, fresh baked pita, and a trio of spreads. On this particular night our Tasting Board came with a mound of salty prosciutto, buttery salami, a whole roasted red pepper, pickled onions and carrots, two triangles each of drunkin' goat cheese (although more on the mild side) and Pecorino Romano. Our spreads included a tangy whole grain mustard, fig jelly (which went amazingly with the meats and cheeses), and strawberry rhubarb jelly (a little too perfumey for my taste). Although a little on the pricey side ($18 for the board) the ingredients were fresh, the combinations were inventive, and most of all it kept up busy picking while we waited for the pizza.
The pizza came out just as we picked the plank bare. They were hot from the oven, and a few inches larger than a personal sized pizza. My warning comes now – don’t be shy – order more than one! The crust is thin and you can easily get away with ordering one pie per member in your party. It seems excessive, but you’ll have a hard time choosing between your options. Make life easier on yourself and splurge.
Our first pizza was The Joey, topped with Berkshire pork sausage, Fior Di Latte, crushes tomato, spinach, garlic, chili flakes, and provolone cheese. This pizza had it all, juicy sausage, healthy veggies, and the perfect subtle thrill of heat. The flavors were balanced and no component was too overpowering.
Our second pizza was The Stache. This one started with a whole wheat crust topped with pistachio pesto, Fior Di Latte, Parmigiano Reggiano, Meyer lemon vinaigrette, and baby arugula. The name is clever, but the pistachio pesto seemed a little heavy handed in comparison to the rest of the ingredients.
Although I’m a fan of everything that comes on this pie, I couldn’t seem to get past the thick texture of the pesto. I was really looking forward to tasting the lemon vinaigrette against the arugula (one of my favorite greens), but every bite I took came up a little short. I wouldn’t say this pizza was bad, but in comparison to The Joey, which came with a generous amount of sausage and cheese, ironically this one felt a little heavier in the waist.
Overall I would give Zavino 4 cheesesteaks out of 5. The pizza is delicious, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and the atmosphere is comforting. The only reason I wouldn’t give Zavino a 5 cheesesteaks is because some might find the prices a little steep for the portion size (price of pizzas range from $14-$18). But if you’re looking for fresh ingredients and an interesting combination of flavors, this is not the place to miss.