Ariano is an authentic pizzeria Napolatana featuring traditional rustica style pizzza pie that is typical to the town of Ariano Irpino, Italy, where the owners’ family came from. The pizzas start with fresh dough that is made daily and baked directly on the hot stone surface of their hand crafted clay oven. To achieve the desired flavor, the pizzas are seared to perfection in temperatures ranging from 800 to 1000 degrees.
We were blown away by this restaurant’s ambiance, service, and food. The restaurant, which been open less than a year, took the owners three years to build. It was worth the wait. It is decorated in muted tones of tans and coppers with beautiful wood around the windows and decorative antique wood furniture used in new and interesting methods. The first floor has about 6-7 tables in addition to the service bar and a gelatto bar (more about that later.) The second floor has both indoor seating and seating on a balcony and a high domed ceiling. Again, decorating is understated — none of that typical kitchy decorating you see in most Italian restaurants. I didn’t spot a fake grape or candle wax encrusted wine bottle in the place. Around the top of the ceiling is a painted mural that gives the history of the owners and their family, starting in Italy and coming to the United States. From the second floor, there is a spiral wrought iron staircase that takes you up to another smaller dining room. Overall there is a wonderful sense of upscale intimacy in the restaurant. This isn’t your typical pizza parlor where you would show up in shorts and T-shirt.
And oh, that food! We were there for lunch and I ordered an appetizer, the Zia Rosa which is pan fried panko crusted artichoke hearts rolled in prosciutto crudo and finished with a fresh basil pesto cream. Wish my husband had ordered an appetizer but there were 3 of these in an order plus a salad so it was plenty. I grudgingly allowed my husband to have one. These were eyes roll back in your head, slap your momma this tastes so good food. I could have happily just eaten appetizers but I’m glad I didn’t once I tasted their pizza. Our food server was Amanda, who couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive. Amanda explained that the home made dough is put in the wood burning oven for a few minutes to bake and puff up and then the pizza ingredients are put on the dough and it is placed back into the oven to heat them up. She happily described each of the items we asked about and recommended to me the Nonna Guisepina pizza which has hot Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes drizzled with fresh basil pesto sauce. Glenn got the Cardinale pizza which had mushrooms with a sweet sausage, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. This was absolutely the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. Lunch pizzas are 10 inches in size (dinner pizzas are 12 inches) and one really would have been plenty for the two of us. We each brought home half our pizzas and they were just as good heated up that night. We can hardly wait to go back. I want to try several other appetizers and Glenn next wants to order their Finalmente. This is described on the menu as “served in our homemade pizza bowl, filled with Prince Edward Island mussels, in a spicy garlic tomato sauce.”
The owner, Anthony, was kind enough to give us a tour of the restaurant and the kitchen. I don’t know about you, but when a restaurant allows a guest to see the kitchen it always makes me feel more secure about the cleanliness and safe food handling procedures. In the kitchen we watched a kitchen helper fileting fresh fish. In another room we watched the young man who was making their homemade gelatto. Anthony explained that the gelatto he was working on would not be ready until the following day. They offer about 6 different flavors of gelatto.
Although mainly a pizza restaurant, for dinner they have several specials available. And on Monday nights they have live music by Russ Ferrara. Right now it is bring your own wine but they are working on gettjng a liquor license.
How could this restaurant miss? These are the same people who also own Fellini’s Tratorria, just around the corner, which is another favorite Italian restaurant of ours.
Ariano is located at 114 South Olive Street in Media, Pa.