The prodigal pizza son returns. Ameraucana Wood Fire, the once popular sourdough wood-fired pizza food truck, has been reborn as a brick and mortar restaurant now called Ameraucana Pizzeria. Their location at 2410 NW 43rd Street previously housed Cairo Grille, Tasty Buddha, and Cabana Cove, but has undergone extensive cleaning and renovation complete with a bright red wood fire pizza oven imported from Modena, Italy. In fact, the team at Ameraucana has done a tremendous job of taking over a space that had tons of potential and well...actually meeting its potential.
But before I continue, I want to address those who are going to complain that the pizza is “burnt.” This is the way pizza should be, it’s the way that Italians meant it to be, and makes the pizza all the more flavorful. A high heat is necessary during the cooking process, as it is dictated by the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana”, who state pizza should be baked for 60-90 seconds in a 905 degree oak-wood fire. Yes, the Italians have a governing body for pizza. Like Chinese and Mexican food, Americans just make up their own recipes and then shovel it to the masses. Thus we have New York style, which serves as the basis for much of what we’re accustomed to, and Chicago-style deep dish…which is really just a giant casserole. So yeah, embrace the char. Now that we have that out of the way…
The creative and design team, led by Evan Poirier (the guy behind the downtown cat mural) has given the restaurant a clean casual feel that was a far cry from its sad state caused by a string of careless tenants. Seriously, it looks like the cover of an IKEA catalog in there. The aforementioned bright red pizza oven from Modena is proudly displayed upon entry, as is a glass divider so you can watch the kitchen at work. The dark wood accents, fancy but not fancy designer chairs, white subway tiles, and lively environment is every bit trendy as it is fun. The neon “Pizzeria” sign out front serves as a beacon in the night for those seeking tasty pizza.
At the helm is Chef Tyler Black, whose pizza-making talents are unquestionable. As such, they’ve retaken the crown as the best pizza in town with apologies to Root & Pecker, whose own sourdough pizza is priced lower and no slouch. But those who remembered the food truck know that Chef Black’s sourdough is unrivaled. Now, he has managed to make dough that tastes even better than before, with even better quality ingredients for his toppings. Just don’t ask for substitutions, they won’t do them.
All of the old favorites are on the menu like The Marge ($12 - Bianco di Napoli Tomatoes, Fior di Latte, Basil, Olive Oil, Sea Salt), the Fontina Fungo ($14 – Fontina Cheese, Portabella Mushrooms, Rosemary, Olive Oil, Sea Salt), the Fromage a Trois ($14 – Fior di Latta, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Red Onions, Fresh Oregano, Olive Oil), the Mariner’s Pizza ($12 – Bianco di Napoli Tomatoes, Sliced Garlic, Oregano, Olive Oil, Sea Salt), and the ever popular Spicy Pancetta ($16 – Fior di Latte, Sliced Pancetta, Basil, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Parmesan, and Local Wildflower Honey). But my absolute favorite is the Mortadella Vetri ($16), a tribute to Chef Marc Vetri with thinly sliced mortadella (what bologna is based on), Fior di Latte cheese, and a house-made Pistachio Pesto. The lightly crisped thin slices of meat, the crunch of the pistachios, and the light flavors of the pesto make this not only my favorite pizza in town, but possibly my favorite pizza I’ve ever had.
To complement the pizza, they serve sodas, beer, and wine. Meaning we finally get to enjoy that glorious patio with a can of cold brew in hand. There are small plates like marinated olives with burnt citrus and rosemary, dry aged meatballs in tomato sauce, a couple salad options, and a meat and bread board that range from $6 to $11. But if I’m honest, skip the appetizers and just order an extra pizza. After the meal, their flourless chocolate decadence dessert is very good, as is the tiramisu, albeit neither of which are particularly pretty looking. Both are ideally enjoyed with a cup of Opus Coffee’s nitro cold brew.
As Francis Mallmann says, “fire is a fragile and beautiful thing.” The restaurant has been opened for a few weeks now, and it appears they are still working out the kinks of cooking with wood fire. V Pizza downtown can attest to this with their sometimes charcoal and sometimes delicious wings, consistency is a never-ending struggle. But when it’s on point, it’s really on point. The restaurant is currently open from 5 PM to 9 PM on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and then 5 PM till the dough runs out on Fridays and Saturdays. Tentative plans are to serve sandwiches from their take-out window during lunch featuring their own fresh baked sourdough, keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram for that.
Despite having two chefs who are essentially ticking time bombs and a less than ideal location, the team at Ameraucana is churning out great food in a great environment. It’s a much needed injection of life into a part of town that doesn’t have much outside of Uppercrust, Bagel Bakery, and Dorn’s. For the sake of all of our tummies and the better good of Gainesville, I hope the restaurant doesn’t suffer the same fate as the food truck. Now go eat some tasty pizza.