My friend recently came to spend a long weekend with me in Nashville, leaving her 8- and 10-year-old sons back in New York City with their 42-year-old father. On the third night of her visit, she called home to see how everyone was faring.
All three were alive and well, settled in front of the television for another cozy evening of video games. She asked what they had eaten for dinner the first night she was gone. “Domino’s pizza.” She asked what they had the second night. “Leftover Domino’s pizza.” While she was on the phone, the buzzer rang from the locked front door of their building. When her husband pushed the intercom button, she heard the delivery man shout, “Domino’s Pizza.”
Left to their own devices, men and children would probably eat pizza every day. And why not? It’s tasty, it’s filling, it doesn’t require utensils, and it’s easy to clean up. But let’s face it, eating pizza night after night in front of the TV can get tiresome. For a change of pace, why not pile the family in the car and go out for pizza?
If you live in the Green Hills neighborhood, that option is now available to you, thanks to Anna Maria and Gary Miller. Their Milano’s Pizzeria, which opened March 5 next door to Ruby Tuesday, is Green Hills’ only dine-in pizza place. The first Milano’s opened in bustling Brentwood nearly five years ago, so the Millers must know something about demographics. The question is, are they as knowledgeable about the restaurant business? Yes. And no.
Milano’s Pizzeria is a casual place with industrial carpet, a nice mix of brick and faux stone walls, large plate-glass windows, nifty lighting fixtures, butcher-block tables, and comfy wooden chairs. As in most other pizza parlors, the kitchen is open, and the children were kept amused by the pizza tossing. Two televisions are mounted high on the wall; on the night we were there, they were tuned to Nickelodeon.
Not surprisingly, the menu kicks off with pizzabrick oven, Sicilian, and white; then it segues into grinders, pasta, and salads. We started off with the breadsticks, which created high expectations for the rest of the meal. Long snake-like tendrils of dough had been twisted together, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic salt and parmesean, and cooked golden crisp in the oven. They were served with a ramekin of Milano’s good marinara sauce. On both our visits, the kids went wild for them; we had to ask for more. Highly recommended.
Milano’s promotional material says the dough is made fresh every day, and it could well become the restaurant’s signature. Anything on the menu that prominently featured the homemade bread was successful. That generalization definitely covers the stromboli, a hefty log of crispy bread stuffed with meatballs and three cheeses, and the spinach-and-cheese calzone, which had a lovely hint of nutmeg.
Skip the salads; they are unremarkable, and the sweet, oily Italian dressing is truly awful. The Greek salad was better, but it was hardly worth $4.29.
Each of Milano’s pasta dinners is a variation on spaghettiserved with marinara, meatballs, meat sauce, Italian sausage, or the rudimentary garlic olive oil. The last of these options is the sort of thing that only works with freshly made, perfectly cooked pasta, the best olive oil, and exactly the right amount of garlic. It didn’t work here. We tried the meatballs; they passed muster with the kids, but not with the moms.
There are several sandwiches on the board, but I’d pass them up. The Philly cheesesteakthat’s a mighty big claimwas no such thing. And who ever heard of pizza sauce on a cheesesteak?
The Italian sandwich was ice-cold, as if it had been shivering in a refrigerator all day, anxiously waiting for someone to adopt it and take it home.
Of the three pizzas offered, we liked the Northern Brick Oven Style the best, though I confess to confusion about the “Northern” portion of the description. Northern Italy? Northern North America? Northern Nashville? A very good crust, a tomatoey but not sweet sauce, and a measured hand with the cheese help create a basic pizza that delivers. An inordinate amount of salt, or MSG, led to extreme post-pizza thirstiness. Toppings were pretty much middle-of-the-road, and they were sparse. The mushrooms were sliced so thin, they were transparent; the banana peppers were kicky, but skimpy. The same stingy hands had dispensed the pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, olives, etc. At 75 cents to $1.25 per topping, the Millers can afford to be more generous.
Service on both occasions was scattered and unprofessional; the place was staffed by teenagers, and no one seemed to be in charge. A sign asked us to wait to be seated; we waited and waited and, finally, a waitress just waved her hand in the direction of a clean table, one of the few clean tables. Although only about four other tables were occupied, none of the several dirty tables was bused the entire time we were there. It took an eternityin kiddie timeto be waited on, and it took even longer just to get the breadsticks. On both visits, I ordered a sausage sandwich; both times, it failed to show up. We had to ask repeatedly for utensils, napkins, extra plates, and drinks.
Milano’s Pizzeria is in an ideal position to make a killing. But that’s no reason for them to believe they should get away with murder. Service needs a major dose of attention, and the kitchen could use a few tweaks. Location counts for a lot, but it doesn’t count for everything.
Milano’s Pizzeria is located at 2114 Green Hills Village Dr. (460-9997). Open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; noon-9 p.m. Sun.
On the kitchen hotline, tongues were wagging about the offer Bob Waggoner, executive chef at Wild Boar, had received from Louis’s Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C. It turned out to be an offer he couldn’t refuse, and a search is under way for a new top toque for one of Nashville’s most prestigious restaurants. Once Waggoner leaves at the end of this month, sous chef Michelle Weaver will be in charge of the kitchen.
Belle Meade Brasserie has promoted one of its ownAllison Trinkle, sous chef for 18 months, has been named executive chef. Trinkle is a graduate of the Opryland Hotel Culinary Institute’s three-year curriculum. Joining Trinkle in the kitchen is Corey Griffith, most recently of Cakewalk. Griffith is a graduate of the famous CIACulinary Institute of America.
All eyes are on the Capitol Grille, where executive chef Willie Thomas has established a stellar reputation for quality and creativity. However, with the sale of the Hermitage to Starwood Lodging Corporationand rumors of unresolvable culinary differencesThomas gave notice and is now on board with The Bound’ry’s Jay Pennington to help develop a new restaurant on the site of the 106 Club, which has been vacant about a year.
Larry Grosshans, another CIA graduate, has been named the Grille’s new executive chef. In a company press release, Grosshans states that the Capitol Grille’s fine dining reputation “allows me time to concentrate my efforts on our banquet operations.”
That statement, and the fact that Grosshans will retain his position as corporate chef overseeing Starwood’s properties in the Southeast region, prompts the questionwho’s going to be concentrating his efforts on the Capitol Grille?