Pizza, Local Brews and Giant Meatballs: City Oven Opens in the Heights

A couple of weeks ago, in the Heights space where D'Amico's used to be, City Oven quietly opened its doors and began serving a menu of dishes that can be described as "favorites-with-a-twist": chicken wing pizza, salmon and shrimp ceviche, strawberry-and-spinach salad with hefeweizen vinaigrette, and four different kinds of giant meatballs.

When you visit City Oven, bring your appetite.

Our tasting menu consisted of a salad, two pizzas, two meatballs, a burger and a seasonal berry cobbler for dessert. The City Oven Strawberry Salad came out first, so technically it can be said that vegetables were consumed at this meal; fruit, too -- strawberries, mangos, and dried cranberries.

Almost as soon as the salad came out to the table, the Buffalo Chicken Pizza followed. Everything about this was delicious, from the spicy wing sauce drizzled over the crispy flatbread and grilled chicken, to the cooling, crispy chunks of celery that studded each slice. What really makes this pizza special is the olive oil and garlic sauce base that hovers underneath the toppings, creating a fruity-salty flavor combination that is extremely addictive. Yes, this pizza has a little ranch dressing drizzled on top (where blue cheese would be preferable), but it's a minor flaw in an overall tasty dish. I liked it even better than the City Oven Supreme pizza, which sports pepperoni and sun-dried tomatoes, my two favorite pizza toppings by far.

If you've ever ordered a Bacon Cheddar burger and thought, "This would be better with twice as much bacon and twice as much cheddar, all of it on the inside of the burger," then give the City Oven version a try. A half-pound burger is stuffed with cheese and bacon and then smothered in the same, served in an extraordinarily delicious (and resilient) oat-wheat bun. It's juicy and decadent, and we carved and ate this burger like a pie to keep things manageable. (We still used a lot of napkins.)

The Giant Meatballs have their own section of the menu, and rightly so. Choose from four options that include a traditional meatball (mozzarella, tomato sauce, ricotta, basil), a "Texas-style" meatball (glazed with a sweet-and-smoky-and-spicy sauce, served with smashed cheesy potatoes), "The Big Swede" (mozzarella-stuffed, served on a bed of penne) or Mushroom (red wine and mushroom reduction, served on sautéed spinach). The traditional "City Oven" meatball oozed mozzarella when cut open; the mozzarella melded with the ricotta to make a creamy sauce, perfect for dipping with the garlic bread served on the side. Our poor seasonal berry crumble hardly stood a chance after all that meat; we managed only a couple of bites before surrendering.

This recent tasting just scratched the surface of what City Menu has going on -- the Baked Penne, chicken wings and BLT&E beg to be tasted next -- but it was an impressive sneak peek, and they seem like a perfect fit in what is becoming a fun little corridor in the Heights.