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TAKE ANOTHER LITTLE PIZZA MY HEART: Agostino’s slings eccentric pies and Italian classics

Agostino’s in a nutshell? Simple, Italian classics at a great price. I can get down with that.

Dear drive-thru pizza, where have you been all my life? OK—so I didn’t actually partake in Agostino’s pickup window for my review, but I do dig the fact they have a drive-thru. Sometimes, a portable pepperoni slice that doesn’t even require getting out of the car is necessary. I get it.

PICCAtA on point: Rosa loves Agostino’s chicken piccata—made of juicy breaded chicken, lemon, white wine, butter and capers. Photo by Tom Dorgan

PICCATA ON POINT: Rosa loves Agostino’s chicken piccata—made of juicy breaded chicken, lemon, white wine, butter, and capers. Photo by Tom Dorgan

What’s that? Don’t know about Agostino’s? Welp, look no further than the newish strip of eateries in New Centre Commons (a stone’s throw from Target), I highly suggest a visit. For all things barbecue and beer, Skytown is there to satisfy all smoky needs. For fresh Japanese fare, there’s Mizuki. And when the marinara mood hits right, there’s no denying the carby creations at Agostino’s Pizza & Pasta.

While there’s no shortage of quality Italian bistros in the Wilmington area, one more can’t hurt—especially when the owners have northern roots. People may think New York is the only mecca for prime pizza, but those people haven’t been to New Jersey. After over a decade of owning Frank’s Pizza in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Shari and Tony Agostino packed up their pepperonis to head for Wilmington.

Agostino’s is the “greatest hits” album of their former spot, and it boasts quite the collection of classic dishes and pizzas, decorated with everything from tortellini to tacos. The clean, fast-casual dining room is brimming with natural light and is ideal for a quick lunch. I wouldn’t call it cozy, necessarily, but I wouldn’t discount Agostino’s for dinner. The menu is plenty lengthy, and there are a few wine and beer options for those looking to kick back, order an app and stay a while. The servers are also friendly and knowledgeable.

Now let’s get into the pizza.

One of Agostino’s meal steals is two specialty slices and a drink for $6. The magnitude of the human-sized triangles easily calculates into four slices of pizza. The display cases are brimming with colorful, inventive pies. I had my heart set on a slice of the Caesar (which basically is a pie with a salad on top), but I would have had to order an entire small pie. For by-the-slice, what you see is what you get that day—and there are more than enough inspired topping combos.

I read numerous positive reviews of the chicken, bacon and ranch (and the cashier assured me it was a hit item), but I’m a sucker for a white pie. She also noted the meat lovers was a popular choice, so I dabbled in both ends of the veg and very-non-veg spectrum. The white came either plain, with spinach or tomatoes. There was nearly an entire bag of greens on the spinach option, so I thought that would make me feel better when I looked down and realized I was wearing workout clothes and holding two enormous slices of pizza. (It didn’t, but YOLO.)

My teeth sunk into a silky sphere of ricotta and I was immediately hit with gentle notes of garlic. The sharp, stringy cheese balanced the smooth, almost-whipped ricotta, and the spinach was earthy and tender. The toppings were simple and delicious, and the crust was top-notch.

Online, people seemed to consistently identify Agostino’s as having thin, New York-style crust—but I felt it was on the thicker side … in a good way. The toppings on both slices (particularly the generous pools of ricotta on the white pie) were so abundant, I thought the crust might be soggy. The bottom layer was expertly crisp, and the secret layer between that and the top of the pizza was fluffy without being doughy. Thin enough to fold? Yes. An excellent contrast of textures? Also, yes. The meat lovers was straight from carnivore heaven: overcrowded (in the best way) with smoky bacon, shaved ham, pepperoni and savory sausage. It was sinful, rich and salty.

The side Caesar salad was the biggest miss of the meal for me. I’m a double dressing lover, but the romaine was practically wilted and the dressing tasted like it was from a Sysco tub. Classic Caesar is such a cinch to make, and I always give props to restaurants who take the few additional steps to go homemade—because, well, go homemade or don’t go at all.

Just before the meat sweats commenced, I jumped on two of the other affordable lunch selections. Chicken piccata, pasta, and garlic bread for $8? Don’t mind if I do. I can’t imagine what the dinner-size portion looks like (maybe double chicken?), as the lunch serving was more than enough. The chicken breast was flattened and juicy, and the sauce was a simple medley of white wine, lemon, butter and capers. The linguine was al dente and soaked in every drop of citrusy sauce.

The penne vodka was of equal size. With no protein, it started at $7, but I added shrimp for an additional $5. There were about four, which may seem like a small amount, but they were jumbo and fresh. The overall meal was plenty of bang for my buck. The sauce had some smaller chunks of tomato—which I adored—but was lacking the pink hue of traditional vodka sauce. To me, one must be liberal with the cream and Parmesan.

I would have liked to see a few more fresh touches, like parsley on the piccata, or big leaves of fragrant basil in the vodka sauce. All in all, both noodles were perfectly cooked, though, and definitely a good deal for the prices.

Instead of going for the full spaghetti and meatballs, I opted to taste the meatballs as a side. I heard they were a handed-down family recipe, and they tasted as such: very moist, straightforward in flavor, and bobbing in a sweet red sauce. On the side: a soft, open-faced baguette speckled with heaps of chopped garlic and butter.

The vast variety of hot and cold subs caught my eye, and the cashier mentioned the cheesesteak right off the bat. Sold. Despite being a Southern coastal town, Wilmington has a handful of eateries who rock one hell of a version of the Philly staple. Agostino’s serves up a solid number, loaded with mushrooms, peppers and onions. Snuggled inside of their poofy French roll was paper-thin, griddle-chopped steak, cheese and veggies—a traditional sandwich done well. Fairly average fries came alongside, but I would have preferred about 12 more pieces of garlic bread.

Agostino’s in a nutshell? Simple, Italian classics at a great price. I can get down with that.

DETAILS:
Agostino’s
4712 New Centre Dr., Unit 107
Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Thurs. – Sun., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sun., noon – 9 p.m.
(910) 769-1282
agostinospizzapasta.com

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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