San Francisco Slice contributor David Kover checks in from a recent Utah adventure. —The Mgmt.
320 South State Street, Orem UT 84058; (map); 801-623-6712; pizzeria712.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-fired
The skinny: Truly impressive wood-fired pizzas, well off the beaten foodie track
Notes: Closed on Sundays
Price: Pies are $10 to $16
If Salt Lake City doesn't seem to get much credit as a food town, then Orem, Utah—45 miles south—isn't even on the radar.
But between a series of strip malls, down a long drive, and across from what looks to be a half-finished rent-an-office space, is Pizzeria 712. It's remarkable to find really good Neapolitan-style pizzas in this location. It is even more so when you discover that they are attempting to build these pies from sustainable, local ingredients despite the obvious limitations of the Utah growing season.
There are about six pizzas typically on the menu at Pizzeria 712, but you won't find the same ones on each visit. Though some products are imported from Italy, most ingredients are sourced locally, and this means offerings change with availability. In summer, pizzas might feature corn and red onion, but the pies on the menu during my December visit were a good deal more wintry. The Pizzeria 712 staff noted that this has sometimes been a challenge for local diners, who are not always accustomed to restaurant menus working this way—there have been some gripes when a favorite pizza disappears from the menu.
Forget the toppings for a moment though, because the crust is really good. Pizzeria 712's dough is grown from a sourdough starter using flour from Central Milling Company. Cooked in an oven that burns cherry and apple wood, the pies come out ultra-thin at the center and puffed up at the ends. Three of the four pies I tried came to the table with that coveted crispy skin on the outside of the cornicione. The fourth featured a softer, doughier edge, as if it could have used a bit more time in the oven. All of the pies, however, boasted an impressive depth of flavor.
The Margherita at Pizzeria 712 is topped with fresh mozzarella that is hand-pulled at the restaurant. The raw tomato sauce is made with DiNapoli Italian-style tomatoes, and the crew at Pizzeria 712 admits that even three years in, they still tweak the mixture now and then. In its current incarnation, the sauce gets some salt, pepper, basil, and a little bit of red wine vinegar to cut the sweetness of the tomatoes. I found the sauce just a bit too sweet, but I'm nit-picking, because it was robustly tomatoey and fresh-tasting. All told, this was a more than solid Margherita.
Another pizza offered on my visit to Pizzeria 712 featured speck, sopressata, and shaved garlic, along with sauce and mozzarella. Here, the sweetness of the sauce plays perfectly against the salty-richness of the meats, with an extra level of flavor added by the garlic. I can certainly imagine being disappointed if I were to return to find this rotated off the menu.
Pizzeria 712's Hot Pink will leave you hot and bothered. It features the same sauce and mozz from the other pies, but also Grana Padano and housemade ricotta cheese that gives it an intensely milky richness. A bit of shaved garlic adds pungency and some red pepper flakes a subtle heat. With a haystack of arugula placed at the center of the pie after it comes out of the oven, there's a peppery freshness that is beautifully balanced by all the other flavors.
Oddly, it was the pie with the boldest toppings that left me slightly underwhelmed. The combination of butternut squash, caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese, rosemary, and chunks of bacon screamed serious flavor potential. But the Gorgonzola had less tang than I expected, and the bacon flavor was surprisingly tepid. The sweetness of the squash and onions dominated.
At a restaurant with a menu that is as fluid as Pizzeria 712's, there will be some highs and lows. During my visit, there were mostly winners. Pizzeria 712 is in Orem, but it would fit right in—and earn my frequent patronage—even amidst the current pizza craze sweeping my hometown of San Francisco.