I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Enoteca Vespaio

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 30: Enoteca Vespaio
1610 S. Congress Ave. 441-7672, www.austinvespaio.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.30.12
I knew the waitress understood my complex needs when I mentioned the prosciutto pie at Enoteca Vespaio. “Do you want eggs on both ends of that pie?” she asked. “Because you said ‘eggs.’ “ Yes I did, and the bacon-and-eggs pizza at Enoteca usually comes with a single ray of sunny-side-up. On a rainy day, on any day, I need two, even if the extra adds half a dollar to my $16 pizza with air-dried Parma-styled ham, fontina cheese, arugula and truffle oil.
This is the pizza I ate for one of my first Statesman reviews in 2008, next door at Vespaio, the parent restaurant of this more casual cafe. Enoteca’s a bright, market-style bistro and bar where you can get selected hints of the Vespaio menu for less money. But more important, you stand a much better chance of getting a table. Vespaio still means every bit of “beehive.” And Enoteca means roughly “a place for wine.” Understanding the need to balance the pizza’s fat, oil and yolk, Enoteca came through with a Terlano pinot bianco from Italy with short, fat fruit up front followed by heat and lemon peel. At $10, it was a lunchtime splurge, but you should always pick the right tool for the job.
The pizza’s like a kid playing stickball in the street, with no time for fancy rising or artsy swirls of red sauce. Just strong white cheese, a generous sheen of oil, thick shavings of ham cooked hard at the edges, a crust as low and rough as a throw to second base and runny-yolked eggs to mark first base and home. As long as we’re out in the streets, we have to move out of the way for the adults, because a heavy dose of truffle oil and soggy leaves of arugula interrupt as loudly as if we had to stop and yell “Car!” Truffle is a subjective thing, but I’m not alone in liking arugula better as an after-oven garnish than a baked-in green. But that thin, crackled crust makes this pizza like a breakfast snack on toast if your Mom were the best morning cook on the block. One who pulls one hell of an espresso for herself once you’re out the door.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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