Pizza, pasta and more at Mount Vernon mainstay

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pacioni’s, the pizza place and Italian restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon, has been around for a while.

My parents went there once on a visit to the area sometime around 1990, when the restaurant had just recently opened.
My husband and I moved to Mount Vernon in 1997 and ate there occasionally, but after some changes in ownership the quality became, shall we say, spotty.

Happily, Pacioni’s most recent reincarnation is also its most successful. Since Meagan Pickett took over the business in 2008, it rapidly became our favorite pizza place in Mount Vernon.

For one thing, the current décor is the best yet—earth tones, with an aubergine accent wall in the back, and paintings from local artist Tom Pickett. The large ugly fountain that used to be front and center as you came in is nowhere to be seen. Booths are comfortable and well lit. It works as both a date place and a family restaurant (on a recent visit a small boy was dancing dinosaurs and Hot Wheels along the booth behind my head), but it can get very loud during busy times.

The only drawback of Pacioni’s as a pizza place is that they don’t deliver, and it can sometimes be tricky to find street parking right in front for a quick pickup, but there are always spaces up on the revetment, just a couple of blocks away. If you arrive early you can sit at the bar and have a glass of wine while you wait.

We’ve eaten innumerable pizzas from Pacioni’s. It’s made in the Neapolitan style, with a fairly thin, charred crust and a light hand with the toppings, and they have lots of great combinations. Sometimes I find their crust a little crackery, but it has a good flavor and is never doughy. Pizzas are $9.95 for a 10”, $15.95 for a 12”, and $22.95 for a 16” for both the regular and specialty pies.

My favorite specialty pizza is the Sicilian, generously topped with artichoke hearts and crispy-edged prosciutto, but I also like the Romana Bianca, which is salty and savory from pancetta, rosemary and sweet onions. Friends of ours love the Puttanesca, a cheese-free pizza lively with tomatoes, capers and olives. You can also build your own, and for evenings when we want a pizza to eat by the fire at home, my husband and I like to order a custom combination of sausage, black olive and pickled peperoncini peppers.

On a recent visit with friends, I was determined to get out of my usual rut and try something new. We walked in on a Friday night and very nearly gave up on being seated—every table was full, with several reserved for large parties. However, we persevered and lurked until a table cleared, then jumped in. We had to steal silverware from a nearby table, but our server was otherwise very prompt and helpful.

My husband tried one of the daily specials, a baked pasta dish in Bolognese sauce ($10.95), and said it was good, although the pasta was soft. Our friends ordered a small pizza with pepperoni and kalamatas, and a dinner-size Greek salad, ($9.95). The salad was reported to be excellent, with very fresh spinach and a tasty dressing. I decided to try the lemon chicken pizza, which I had never had before. It was topped with a thin layer of olive oil, garlic, spinach and perfectly cooked chicken, with a lemon wedge on top to squeeze over for just the right amount of acid. I would definitely order this one again.

Their wine and beer list is short, but they usually have at least one beer that I like and some simple Italian varietals, like Montepulciano and Chianti, that suit the food. I have never gotten dessert here, since after eating pizza I’m seldom up to anything beyond a piece of chocolate, but they have classic sweets like crème brulee and tiramisu (both $5.95), or a Spumoni sundae for $4.95.

They have panini at lunchtime, and some nice lunch specials like a cup of soup with salad ($7.95), a small personal pizza ($7.95), or half a sandwich with soup or salad ($8.95). In the summertime they set tables out on the sidewalk, and in the winter you might score a table in one of the large front windows.

I hope this iteration of Pacioni’s is here to stay.

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