After a culinary tour of Federal Hill on a frigid late-winter day, a group of us had our grand finale lunch at Geppetto’s Pizzeria. After so many snacks, we were glad to have just pizza to cap it off. But first we were treated to generous house salads of mixed baby greens with a balsamic vinaigrette. Then irregular triangles of grilled pizza, which co-owner Mark Maginot had been demonstrating to us, arrived. We sampled the “Old World,” with bits of fresh mozzarella, diced tomatoes, fresh basil, and grated Parmesan. It was very tasty, especially the smoky cracker-thin crust.
Next, we got individual portions of Geppetto’s fried calamari, which was lightly breaded and expertly fried, tender and non-greasy — a definitive version. Then more pizza, this time the “BBQ chicken with BBQ sauce,” plus carmelized red onions, mozzarella, and smoked gouda. Mmm-mmm. The sweetness of those onions worked well with the barbecue.
Next were wedges from three wraps: ranch chicken — fresh grilled chicken with artichokes, mozzarella, lettuce and tomato, and ranch dressing; “meat lover’s,” with beef, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and marinara sauce; and turkey club, with smoked bacon and basil-pesto mayo. All were hits at our table, and though we were already stuffed, we managed to also swoon over Geppetto’s house-made tiramisu.
Sufficiently impressed, Bill and I hit Geppetto’s for a pre-theater supper on a more recent Thursday around 6:30, and we were the only ones eating. A couple of other folks populated the bar, and a police officer stopped by to pick up a dozen dinner orders. Waitresses put candles on the tables around 7:30. It must be a late-night crowd . . . except when it’s warm enough for all the French doors to swing open onto the square.
We began with the calamari ($9.95) and could barely finish it. Mild and hot cherry pepper rings were tossed with squid loops (no tentacles, thank you!) and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. We each ordered small Caesar salads — complete with crisp Romaine and crunchy croutons, a hint of anchovy in the dressing — but couldn’t finish them because they were so huge.
We decided to try two of the four pasta sauces: smoked Gouda Alfredo on penne ($10.95) and pink vodka sauce ($9.95) on jumbo ravioli (made nearby at Venda Ravioli). The creamy vodka sauce had bits of plum tomatoes in it, and there was just enough Parmesan in the Alfredo to kick it up a notch.
The dessert menu features cheesecakes and cannoli as well as “Mamma’s Tiramisu,” a version with imported ladyfingers soaked in espresso and layered with mascarpone that’s been lightened with whipped cream. We remembered how it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Geppetto’s also currently has many frozen desserts from Caffe Dolce Vita’s menu, since the Caffe is under construction and one of the owners, Gianfranco Marrocco, is in partnership with Mark Maginot and Michael Kyriakakis, Geppetto’s owners. From the gelato and frozen pie options, Bill and I chose the Tartufo Nero, a large ball of chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered with dark chocolate ($9). It was just right after the pastas and salads.