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Homemade dough, sauce spice up offerings at Mio Pizza

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By William Loeffler
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
 

For those who like a little dish with their pizza, consider that Matthew Porco, owner and chef at Mio Pizza on Freeport Road in Aspinwall, is the same guy who opened the well-regarded Mio Kitchen and Wine Bar, the upscale but unpretentious restaurant on nearby Commercial Avenue. It might seem curious that the chef who served entrees such as Olive Oil Poached Swordfish and Roasted Saddle of Elysian Lamb is making pizzas and paninis.

Porco clearly is tired of talking about the other Mio, which he sold last year. The day-to-day operations simply were too demanding, despite customer raves and plaudits such as being named 2010 Chef of the Year in Pittsburgh Magazine.

"The restaurant was much too stressful," says Porco, who spent several years at the prestigious Veritas restaurant in Manhattan. "You've got to be executive chef. You've got to be the front-of-the-house manager. You've got to be an accountant. You've got to be all that when you run a restaurant of that size."

Mio Pizza represents a return to Porco's roots, in a sense.

"My first kitchen jobs in my teens were all shops, so I have a soft spot in my heart for pizza shops," he says.

It's a simple affair, sandwiched between Sherwin Williams and Med Express in the Freeport Shops near the Highland Park Bridge. Apart from some arty black-and-white photos, there's little decor beyond a red, white and black color scheme. There's no woodburning oven, no prep crew. The business is strictly takeout, although there are three tables that seat a total of six if you want to come in, order and eat. Delivery is available for limited area.

Porco and his staff make their own dough, including a wheat dough, which is $1 and $2 extra for a small and large specialty pizza, respectively. The traditional calzone ($8 for 8-inch, $15 for 16-inch) is made with ricotta, provolone and mozzarella cheeses and packed with fresh basil that this customer, at first, mistook for spinach. The calzone was filling and flavorful, with the basil providing a flavor that begged for a glass of Cabernet.

The specialty pizzas are $8 for a small and $15 for a large. The Mio Blanco proved a good choice. It's made with tomatoes, olive oil, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and fresh basil. It has a chewy crust and a potent garlic kick.

The garlic-infused bread sticks ($6 for five) come with red marinara sauce. Porco says they make their sauce by slow-cooking San Marzano tomatoes, an heirloom variety of plum tomato. Mio Pizza features daily specials Mondays through Fridays.

"We're not trying to change the mold," Porco says. "I'm just trying to give people a really great product at a really affordable price."

Additional Information:

Mio Pizza

Location: 50 Freeport Road, Aspinwall

Hours: 11 am. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturdays; 1 to 9 p.m. Sundays

Details: 412-252-2393 or www.mio-pgh.com

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