Side Dishes: Old faces return to new pizza place in Montpelier
Can there ever be too much pizza in the world? Probably not.
On February 1, Angelo and Joanna Caserta opened Montpelier’s Al Portico in the Berlin Street location that was home to La Pizzeria for 14 years. It was a return to the food scene for the Casertas, La Pizzeria’s original proprietors and the building’s owners.
The couple, originally from Italy’s Lazio region, closed that restaurant seven years ago with an eye to retirement. They leased their building to a succession of eateries, including Girasole. When the most recent business closed, Joanna Caserta says, she and her husband decided to dive back into Italian culinaria. “I was into gardening, but what are you going to do?”
Rather than building a full-service restaurant, the Casertas have focused on a trio of Italian mainstays: savory fare such as pizza, calzone and panini; espresso; and, still to come, gelato.
The energetic Angelo Caserta mans the kitchen, turning out creative pies such as pizza scarpariello (sautéed chicken, broccoli and mushrooms topped with romano and mozzarella cheeses) and Santa Monica pizza, named for a pie once requested by the couple’s daughter, Monica (pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and feta cheese).
Caserta’s calzone range from classic meat and vegetable concoctions to a calzone dolce stuffed with ham, pineapple, raisins, bacon and cheeses. Of his twists on Italian classics, Joanna Caserta says: “My husband reads cookbooks, and he modifies whatever he eats.” She adds that making calzone takes a special hand. “He is very fussy. Unless you get the hang of it, they can look crazy.”
Antipasto, panini and a range of salads round out the menu, which will soon include some Italian desserts as well as beer and wine. For now, the Casertas offer an espresso bar and wireless for those who want to belly up for caffeine-fueled work sessions.
This summer, Angelo Caserta will make seasonal gelato on the premises.
Since Al Portico opened, the Casertas’ former clientele have been coming in to wish them well. “It’s very rewarding that people remember us with fondness,” Angelo says. “They treat us like old friends.”