I am wasteful when it comes to pizza. If it is not finished in one sitting, it goes into the trash. But that was before I tasted the Sophia pizza from the new Vero Pizza bistro in Plainville. Now my new rule is save the leftovers so I can enjoy it all.
Vero Pizza, owned by Great Britain-born Mario Nicolaou, is located in a storefront at 381 Farmington Ave., in a small strip plaza owned by his business partner Sunny Singh. Looks can be deceiving, however, because although it does offer amazing pizza and a menu to-go, this charming little place also boasts a cozy dining room and a BYOB option.
Nicolaou is a firm believer that good ingredients make for good food and has brought his extensive restaurant background and attention to detail to his new place.
"I work with farms in Glastonbury and Farmington and Urban Oaks in New Britain to make sure the vegetables and herbs I use are the best they can be," said the New Britain resident, who owned Freskos in Avon and Pomodoro in Farmington. "I use quality tomatoes, artisan breads and Bacio cheese," he said, referring to the fine Italian cheese made for the most discerning pizzerias. "We use a Bakers Pride oven for the pizza. It is considered old school, but is the best when it comes to baking pizza crust."
And what crusts they are: thin and baked to perfection with fillings that go way beyond the typical pizza joint.
The Sophia, named after his mother, features marinated pesto chicken spinach and sundried tomatoes. Other specialty pizzas include the Quattro Formaggi with mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone and ricotta cheeses; and the Ultimo, with pepperoni, green peppers, cremini mushrooms, red onions, hamburger and sausage. The Vero Hawaiian includes pineapple, prosciutto and chives; and the Vegetale showcases a topping of spinach, roasted red peppers, roasted yellow squash, cremini mushrooms, roasted melanzana and sundried tomatoes.
Fridays are for the Shrimp and Scallop pizza with marinated seafood, lemon, cilantro and olive oil; and on Saturday, the special of the night is the Vero Sicilian, a thick, square-crust pizza with roasted potatoes infused with olive oil and rosemary and spinach.
Vero's has already turned into a busy takeout place, but it also boasts a dining room that has already become one of the most popular in town. Walls are golden umbre Venetian plaster, and the lighting is soft in the two small dining rooms that together seat about 46. Walls are decorated with oversized canvas giclee portraits and street scenes taken in Italy by photographer Matthew Wagner. A granite countertop separates the dining area from the kitchen, making it easy to watch Nicolaou and company in action.
Besides pizza, Nicolaou offers salads, including the Italian Caprese, Caesar, spinach and a generous antipasto meant to be shared. Appetizers include Vero fries with pancetta and mozzarella and a garlic pizzetta. The restaurant also offers several types of paninis, a children's menu, and chicken, turkey fish, beef and veggie burgers.
There are several desserts, including the Nocciola Pizza featuring the trendy chocolate/hazelnut Nutella, bananas, seasonal berries and marshmallows.
Nicolaou is proud of his new place, noting that its name means "true" or "real" in Italian.
"We make every effort to pay heed to those words when crafting your meal and dining experience," he said. "We consider you family, and we take time to prepare each meal the way you want it."
Nicolaou also offers gluten-free pizza and encourages patrons to advise of any allergies so meals can be tweaked appropriately. Only recycled paper products are used for packaging, and there are no GMA, MSG or antibiotics in his ingredients, he said.
>> Vero serves lunch and dinner and is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Vero also does catering and will deliver to area businesses. Information: 860-846-0491, 860-846-0382 and veropizzact.com
>>Litchfield Saltwater Grille, 26 Commons Drive, celebrates St. Patrick's Day from March 14 to 17 with a menu that includes smoked salmon and corned-beef sliders, Guinness shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage. Live music will also be featured on Friday and Saturday. Information: 860-567-4900 or litchfieldsaltwatergrille.org
>>Carbone's Ristorante, 588 Franklin Ave., Hartford, is now featuring its $24.99 three-course menus through May 2. Entrée selections include chicken Marsala, veal piccata, potato gnocchi, roasted salmon and eggplant parmigiana. Information: 860-296-9646 or carbonesct.com.
>>Just about two weeks until Easter and that means family dinner plans. At Angelico's Lake House, 81 N. Main St., East Hampton, choices include eating out or getting dinner-to-go to be enjoyed at home.
Dinner to go includes a Kentucky Legend Smoked Ham dinner with all the sides including mashed potatoes, green beans, glazed carrots scalloped potatoes, salad and tiramisu. Dinners are cooked and ready to eat and can be made for 4, 8 or 12 people. Orders must be placed by noon on March 29 with pick-ups on Easter Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Angelico's is also offering its traditional Easter Sunday buffer on March 31 with seats at 10 a.m., noon, 2:00 and 4 p.m. Adults are $26.95, children from 5 to 12 $13.95 and children under five, free. Information: 860-267-1276 angelicoslakehouse.com
>>Six well-known Connecticut chefs will come together to fight childhood hunger at a special dinner March 18 at 6 p.m. at the mill at 2t, 2 Tunxis Road, Tariffville. Benefiting Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, the six-course, wine-paired dinner will be prepared by chefs Jeffrey Lizotte of On20, Hunter Morton of Max Restaurant Group, Nick Mancini of La Tavola, Ryan Jones of Mill at 2t, Billy Grant of Grants Restaurants and Tyler Anderson of Millwrights. Cost is $150 a person. Reservations open at noon on March 14. A credit card is needed at the time of reservation. Information: 860-658-7890
>>Bonefish, the sister restaurant in the Florida-based Bloomin' Brands chain that includes Outback Steakhouse and Carabba's, will open its first Connecticut location in the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk on March 25. Other planned Connecticut locations for the restaurant are in Newington, Canton and Norwalk.
>>Apricots, 1593 Farmington Ave, Farmington, is offering its entire wine list and wine special bottles at 1/2 their listed price on Sundays and Mondays in both the main dining rooms and pub to all our a la carte diners. Information: 860-673-5405 or apricotsrestaurant.com
>>Prospect Café, 345 Prospect Ave., West Hartford will celebrate St. Joseph's Day on March 19 with its annual dinner celebration. The special event begins with a 6:30 p.m. appetizer reception followed by a family-style dinner including cavatelli pesto, roasted herbed chicken, center-cut slice pork loin and side dishes and Italian pastries and cookies. Beer and wine are included. Cost is $50 a person plus tax and tip. Reservations are required: 860-523-8069.
>>The American Liver Foundation will host its annual Flavors: A Culinary Experience dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville on April 9. The event features extravagant wine-paired dinners and elegant table settings to benefit the organization and its efforts to fund research, education and advocacy. Honorary chef chairman is Jason Sobocinski, owner of Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro. Among the celebrity chefs who will be participating are Will Talamelli of 116 Crown, Tim East of Besito, Vinnie Carbone of Cabrone's Ristorante, Mario Biniro Cirikovic of Cugino's , Billy Grant of Grants, Joseph Bucholz of Esca Wine Bar, Dan Fortin of Infinity Bistro, Rob Marfucci of Vito's, Dorjan Puka of Treva and Jean Pierre Vuillermet of Union League Café. Information: liverfoundation.org
>>The Firebox, 539 Broad St., Hartford, will launch its new dinner series Frog Hollow Supper Club on March 25 at 6 p.m. The evening will include multi-coursed, hand-held small plates, each paired with a different style of beverage, such as salty fries paired with a Mole Bacon Bourbon milkshake, or quail pork belly skewers with house made Kimchi. Information: 860-246-1222.
>>Cavey's, 45 E. Center St., Manchester, will host a Fete du Printemps Champagne Dinner on March 21. Featured guest will be Isabelle Tellier, chef de cave and winemaker of Champagne Ployez Jacquemart. Four seasonal courses and four champagnes include Cuvee Liesse D'Harbonville 1996 will be served. Cost is $125 per person. Cavey's is also featuring Brendan Walsh of Martin Scott Wines at its Italian Library Dinner on March 19. On March 26, Jim Brewer of Windbow will present the wines of Southern Italy. Each evening includes five wines and five small plates for $28. The evening begins at 6 p.m. information: 860-643-2751 or caveysrestaurant.com.