Hot Italian in Davis is not just another pizza joint in the heart of a college town with more than its share of pizza joints. Hot Italian actually has something of an original idea: emphasize interesting (both expected and unusual) fresh ingredients and traditional pie-making methods in a fast-casual setting.
“We want our pizza to stand out, to be delicious, to be memorable,” says co-founder Andrea Lepore, who with co-founder and Maestro Pizzaiolo Fabrizio Cercatore opened the Davis location in 2015. (They have earlier incarnations in Sacramento and Emeryville.) They share a belief that anything is possible—“Tutto e possibile” as they say—and that meant building a place where, “pizza brings people together to celebrate Italy’s new generation of art, music, design, sport, food and wine.”
Besides great food, the owners are focused on sustainable practices in their restaurant and delve into community causes in order, as Lepore puts it, “to create better neighborhoods.”
A UC Davis graduate, Lepore is a vivacious, self-described design and cycling-enthusiast with a background in sports marketing. She spent 10 years working for the Sacramento Kings, as well as six years creating projects and campaigns for professional sports stars as founder of the nation’s first cause-related sports marketing agency. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design from Boston Architectural College and is a member of the Board of Trustees of The California Museum.
Fabrizio grew up Northern Italy. He owned “La Tavernetta” restaurant on the Italian Riviera for 17 years; he recalls sometimes making more 200 pizzas in 90 minutes. He trained at the prominent Italian professional culinary school, IPAS. In 2012, Fabrizio created Passione Pizza, an original, organic flour company based in Berkeley, with the mission of bringing authentic, quality pizza into the home.
Really Good Pizza at Reasonable Prices
The Hot Italian menu features 16 pizza combinations, none of which would qualify as gut-busting behemoths. Consider the “Bellucci” with house-made fennel sausage, mozzarella, and fresh ricotta, or the richly flavorful pesto “Ligabue” with pecorino romano cheese. Many of the offering change with the seasons, such as the vegan “muti” pizza (seasonal vegetables with tomato sauce). More exotic creations include the “Murino” (seasonal pear with honey and gorgonzola dolce cheese) and “Fiori” (prosciutto, mushrooms, truffle oil). All of these combinations are scrumptious. Some pizzas are also available as calzones if you like yours folded up.
Hot Italian pizzas come on a thin-crust 13-inch pie, priced between $12 for a basic Margherita-style pizza and $18 for the combo-like “Jovanotti” with pepperoni, prosciutto, mushrooms and more. Add-ons, including not-your-usual-fare items like egg, pine nuts and prosciutto, run between $2 and $3. You can get a gluten-free crust for an extra $4.50.
There’s also a selection of inventive salads ($10.50-$11) and starter plates, including spreads of cheese and cured meats ($13-$14). If the prices seem a little dear for a pizza place, the quality of the food is excellent.
You can also enjoy a Weekend Brunch menu with six items like Razzoli (scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, house-made fennel sausage, mozzarella, fontina cheese) and Magnini (smoked salmon, fresh dill, mozzarella, and mascarpone cheese).
To help wash all of this goodness down, choose between soft drinks (from sparkling San Pellegrino juices and water to River City Root Beer and other small batch sodas), beer and wine.
You can sit and eat indoors at high-top wooden tables with small white stools, at the counter, or at a couple of standard tables; the ambiance is enhanced by Italian pop music and Euro soccer on the TV. Or during fair weather, grab a seat out on the patio.
And just this month, Hot Italian started offering evening delivery service within a 5-mile radius of their place, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Just call or go online to order whatever you like.
Hot Italian is at 500 1st Street in the Davis Commons shopping center. They open daily at 11:30am. For more information, call (530) 792-7015 or visit the web at www.hotitalian.net.