Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Milito's Bar-Ristorante-Pizzeria, Downingtown PA

The hottest current pizza trend is Neapolitan style, those personal sized pies with light puffy crusts that bake in 90 seconds or so at 900+ degrees. Right on the heels of authentic Neapolitan pies are the mass-produced assembly-line versions, offered at places like MOD, Snap, Blaze, and RapiDough.
Burg's Pie at Milito's. Click to enlarge

Most rare, though, and hence still most precious, are those "one of a kind places" making bar pies, pan pizza, or  a unique version of NY, Trenton, New Haven, or other regional style of pizza. One way or another, these are the old-school pizzas that I call American Pie.

We heard about a "Pittsburgh" style pizza and set out to investigate. Milito's Bar-Ristorante-Pizzeria in Downingtown PA is housed in a beautifully restored and converted stone mill, and the ambiance is first rate. Even on a week night, both the restaurant and large bar area were packed with happy patrons.

There are several pizza options on the large menu, but we targeted the "Burg's Original," which we ordered with pepperoni and roasted red peppers. This pie features "unique dough, red sauce, and a special blend of cheese that creates a one of kind taste." This large personal-sized pizza is modestly priced at $11, and available for just $5 at happy hour.

To round out our meal, we also ordered a salad with roasted beets (a worthy menu holdover item from the previous Barra Rossa restaurant here) and Linguine Bolognese. Both of these were very good, but our focus here is the pizza.

Owner Joe Milito hails from Pittsburgh, and like most of us, he carries a memory of the favorite pizza of his formative years.
The pizza ovens

For Joe, that pizza came from P&M Pizza, a bar in Arnold PA near Pittsburgh. Much like the magical Midwestern pies at Rubino's in Columbus OH, the dough goes through a "sheeter" pressing machine to flatten it, remove air bubbles, and create a crust that does not rise much.
Large, rustic, warm interior at Milito's

Joe uses a secret blend of cheeses, and the pie is baked in a fashion that the cheese and the house-made sauce essentially blend into a single orange colored topping. 

Our pie arrived with considerable eye appeal, with the cheese covering almost all of the cornicione. The crust was uniformly thin from center to edge, crisp, and rigid. The sauce was indeed largely invisible, because (as Joe later told us) it had melded into the cheese.
Good spotty char underneath

The crust had an excellent flavor all its own. It was dense but al dente, having a good crunch and chew all at the same time. The cheese was applied generously, as were the toppings. The pepperoni added the expected savory flavors and enhanced the pie. 

The roasted red peppers were flavorful, but a mistake on our part. They were just too wet and heavy and threw off the balance. I removed them and enjoyed them separately.

The cheese blend offered a lot more substantial flavor than the typical mozzarella found on pizzas. I'm guessing that there is some cheddar or colby in there, or maybe even muenster. The melted parts formed a shiny bubble in areas, which may provide some hints. 
Shiny blistered cheese bubble

In all of my pizza eating experiences, some of the most magical have been found in the simplest constructions of thin crusted bar pies. The party-cut pie at Rubino's, for instance, and the decidedly unfancy offerings at Lee's Tavern in Staten Island. The Burg pie at Milito's falls into this category. This was a simple pizza where all the elements are in harmony for flavor and textures.
Another look at the crust underside

I loved this pie and we ate it with gusto. It's not going to appeal to all pizza eaters, but it's bound to become a local cult classic. Downingtown is on the opposite side of the state from Pittsburgh, but it's two thumbs up for the "Burg's Original" at Milito's. Joe Milito is making the pizza he loves, and we're the beneficiaries.
Joe Milito, left, with PQ

Just five years ago, Chester County was essentially devoid of pizza worth the calories. Now, there are several worthy stops, such as Rapidough, Vecchia, Snap, Anthony's Coal-Fired, and La Porta. Joining this elite group is the quirky Burg pie from Milito's. Unique pizza in a warm and lively setting.

Milito's Ristorante Bar Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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