First Bite: DeSano Pizza Bakery



When Dana gave us all the heads-up last week about DeSano Pizza Bakery's opening, I was moved to head down there that very afternoon to try it out. I'd heard about their imminent arrival for a while, as they were rumored to be looking at several properties around town that were also being eyed by other restaurant projects. They finally decided on their new location at 155 16th Ave. S., which is kinda hard to find unless you know exactly where it is.

The secret is to drive to Dan McGuinness Pub at the top of Music Row from whatever direction you would normally come from to get your Scotch Egg on. When you pass the pub on the roundabout, take the next immediate right down the hill on 16th Avenue. DeSano is on your left in the first block of 16th across from the parking lot to Off Broadway Shoes. They just put a new sign up at the entrance to the parking lot, so that should help, but remember that since 16th is a one-way street, you won't be able to leave the same way you came.

The Napoletana
  • The Napoletana
Once I found it, I have to admit, I was moved to go back two more times in the first week. Y'know ... for research purposes. First the bad news: DeSano ain't cheap. Since each pizza is made to order and is in and out of the oven in just a couple of minutes, they don't serve slices. You'll have to commit to buying a whole pie for between $17 and $23, or a calzone for $13 to $15. The pizza are 15 1/2", so bring a few like-minded friends to share and it won't end up costing more than five or six bucks apiece. Or invite me and 1 or 2 friends.

Almost everything is made fresh in-house, and they use very high quality ingredients. The delicious dough is made from just four ingredients: 00 San Felice Flour, 100 percent sea salt dehydrated from the waters of the Mediterranean, water and yeast. Their mozzarella di bufala is flown in from Italy weekly, and their delicious sausage comes from Chicago.

All of those ingredients are featured on their signature pizza, the San Gennaro, along with peppadew peppers and caramelized cippolini onions. I have to say I think it is my favorite pizza I've ever eaten in Nashville.

DeSano is an offshoot of the popular Antico Pizza's in Atlanta, and we're lucky that Antico's head pizzaiolo, Brandon Blumber is in town training the new staff. The man certainly knows his way around DeSano's three oakwood-fired ovens. The process of baking a pizza at DeSano is much more active than what I have experienced at other restaurants, as Blumber works the pizza peel like a maestro.

He spins the pie around to ensure a perfectly even, slightly charred crust and then lifts the pizza into the top of the dome to sear the toppings without burning the bottom. I hope his trainees will be able to maintain this level of quality after he moves on to help open one of the next locations, in Los Angeles and Charleston.

I've sampled two other varieties in the past week, the Napoletana, topped with tangy roasted broccoli rabe and that great sausage, and a cheeseless Marinara with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and oregano. Both were delicious, but I do think that $17 for a meatless, cheeseless pizza is a little steep. DeSano provides a deluxed dipping bar for patrons to fill up a ramekin with high-end olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red peppers, grated cheese, fresh diced garlic, salt and black pepper. In Napoli, they dunk the whole slice, not just the crust, so when in Naples ...

As with most Neapolitan pizzas, the very tip of the slice tends to be a little less crisp than the crust, but if you simply fold the tip over toward the edge you'll have a great first bite. Desserts are made in house, including cannoli, sfogliatelle and biscotti, plus they have just added an imported gelato selection. Since the cooking process is so quick, DeSano should be an excellent carry-out option if you don't have time to dine in.

The dining experience is decidedly casual, with patrons sharing long tables with a view of the ovens, or during the evening you can even eat in the room where they make and proof their dough. While DeSano does serve a couple varieties of wine and Peroni beer, BYOB is encouraged — each table has stacks of plastic cups for you to pour and share your wine with with other diners. Pizzas are served on sheet pans with only paper towels to use as plates, so don't expect a fine-dining atmosphere. The one television in the restaurant is always tuned to soccer, so it probably won't be the best place to watch American football.

But if you're looking for someplace to dig on some Italian background music and a great pizza, give DeSano a try. As always, share your impressions here in the comments and save me a place next to your wine bottle.

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