Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dante's Pizzeria

2900 Cedar Lane
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
(804) 520-8292

Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Friday and Saturday 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM

When my office was located on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights we were right across the street from a very small, unassuming pizzeria named Dante’s. No one in the office or anyone I knew had ever been to this restaurant but everyday around lunch the place was abuzz with activity, a line outside the door and a steady stream of customers and delivery drivers carrying piles of pizza boxes and brown bags overflowing with mysterious containers coming and going.  One day my lust for pizza and child-like curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided to try out this place called Dante’s Pizzeria. After that first visit I was hooked and to this day, I still call Dante’s my favorite pizza joint and one of my favorite restaurants in the Tri-Cities.  In December, my office moved from the Boulevard in Colonial Heights to the corner of Courthouse and Iron Bridge Road in Chesterfield; I cried.

Dante’s is a New York style pizzeria, with an extremely impressive selection. Unlike many restaurants that try to serve everything but excel at none, Dante’s is able to offer a very wide selection of dishes while still serving them up fresh and delicious. While my favorite food at Dante’s is the gourmet selection of pizzas, he has over 30 different signature styles from Texas (covered in French fries, bacon, mozzarella, cheese wiz and ranch) to the California Chicken (covered in chicken, bacon, onions, tomatoes and honey mustard), anything you buy at Dante’s is delicious. Along with pizzas he serves excellent cheese steaks in a variety of styles with a variety of toppings, burgers, salads, calzones, Stromboli, gyros and a large variety of classic Italian and pasta dishes. Dante’s is a very rare restaurant - it is able to make anything and is able to make it well.

About 2 months ago Dante’s moved from its quaint little shack of restaurant to a new building three times the size with five times the amount of seating and a large banquet room just a stone’s throw from the old restaurant. While I am extremely happy for Dante’s and am glad that they are able to grow and really flourish I do miss the old place and all of its charm. Honestly my only complaint about Dante’s is the decorating. There is practically nothing on the walls, which are painted the same color as the booths. Everything just seems to blend together into a very mute, unwelcoming atmosphere. Luckily Sal, the owner, is always there to cheerfully greet you at the door which more than brightens up the bland palate of the restaurant’s decor. Sal is the epitome of what a small business owner/ restaurateur should be - he remembers his customers and if always up for a chat.  I am happy to tell though that although the scenery and atmosphere has changed dramatically the food is just as delicious as always.

Last Saturday, my girlfriend, Amanda, and I had big plans. We were going to go the Farmer’s Market in Prince George, to Heretick Seed and Feed in Hopewell to buy some cold weather vegetables for our garden and then go shopping to buy Amanda a new dress for a black tie dinner we were attending in Petersburg on Sunday but Harvey, our dog, got loose. Three hours, a thousand tears, hundreds of mosquito bites, and one leech later we had found Harvey and found ourselves with three rumbling bellies. We fed the massive mutt, Harvey is a hundred and twenty pound Mastiff/Fox hunt mix (don’t ask me how that worked) and headed off to find some lunch. Little did I know that trying to find lunch would be the most difficult part of the day.  After almost 10 years of being together, Amanda and I have made it a tradition to fuss and bicker over where we are going eat until we just give up and eat at the first place we see. That day was no different, after about 30 minutes of going back and forth I said “Let’s go to Dante’s, that way we’ll both be happy!” Amanda immediately agreed and off we went.

                After a quick chat with Sal and look at the pizzas available to be ordered by the slice, Amanda and I seated ourselves and our waitress quickly arrived at our table to take our drink orders. Amanda ordered a water and because I knew I was getting the two gourmet slices and a drink combo for $6.75, I ordered a coke. Within seconds we had our drinks and were contemplating on what to order. Amanda is absolutely obsessed with garlic and cheese so we had to order two orders of garlic knots. Each order was $2.00and came with six large knots covered in garlic and other seasons, but not overwhelmingly, with a side of marina sauce. Although they were premade for lunch, a quick pop in the oven created a perfect outside with a slight crunch but left the insides soft and moist. These made an awesome appetizer.  Because it was 2:00 in the afternoon the selection of pizzas that could be ordered by the slice was limited compared to the smorgasbord that is on hand from around 11am-1pm.  But there were still some delicious choices left.  Amanda ordered a single slice of pepperoni and I ordered two gourmet slices- one meat lovers and one “Grandma’s.”  The three slices were popped in the oven to warm up and make the crust nice and crispy.

                Within a few minutes our slices of pizza arrived, each of them larger than the plate they were served on. These slices are huge, one can fill you up and two will cause you to skip your next meal. Luckily Sal, the owner, understands quantity and quality because not only were these slices enormous they were also expertly cooked, covered in toppings, but not too much tomato sauce, and delicious. I had to fold my slice of pizza in half just so that I can fit it into my mouth to take a bite. The crust had a nice crunch to it but was by no means burnt. My slice of meat lovers was covered in Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ham, and ground beef held together by mozzarella cheese. Somehow Dante’s has found a way to cover their pizza in toppings but have it so they do not all slide off into a pile on you or your plate. Each of the meat flavors melded together to form a tantalizing flavor combination that blows away the competition.  Since I had two slices of pizza but could easily be filled up by one I got creative and took a bite of meat lovers and then took a bite of the Grandma pizza. The Grandma pizza is a square thin crust pizza slathered in tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic, plum tomatoes and pesto sauce.  I was a little hesitant because I’ve never been in love with pesto sauce but it looked awesome and Dante’s had never done me wrong so I decided to try it out. It was surprisingly great with just enough pesto to give it flavor but not so much as to overwhelm the pizza and make it taste like nothing but pesto. The two completely different flavors of the pizzas made each bite exciting and stand out from the other. Because they were both so good I was able to power through and finish both pieces except for the crust. Amanda also informed me that her slice of pepperoni pizza was delightful and one of the best she’s ever eaten. 

                Once again, Dante’s more than exceeded my culinary expectations. The atmosphere and decorations of the new restaurant leaves a bit to be desired but with delicious food being served the last thing on your mind will be the decor. Dante’s is what a locally owned restaurant should be; fresh, friendly and delicious. The next time you feel the pangs of hunger head over to Dante’s Pizzeria for some of the best pizza you will ever eat.

This is not the whole menu, only the gourmet pizza list.

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