Brick fired PIZZA oven and top quality fresh ingredients – yes please
As everyone knows, pizza is one of the main food groups after cheese and Indian food…
After the closure of the Irish bar / restaurant, Kavanagh’s on 1209 N. Mt. Juliet Rd in Mt Juliet, we were waiting to see what would appear next and as pizza (good pizza – not Dominoes…) is one of my favorite go to meals, I was looking forward to trying this out. And I wasn’t disappointed.
We turned up for lunch with the kid in tow and had a quick look around at the new layout. The most striking difference is the huge pizza oven and prep area in front where you can watch the chefs working hard to produce these gourmet, European style delights.
First thing to try was the garlic knots, the only appetizer on a deliberately limited menu. They were perfectly cooked, clearly very fresh and deliciously light and moreish. There would have been a fight over the last one except the kid stole it while we were taking pictures…
It comes with their homemade marinara sauce that’s delivered in a small silver jug that we asked to refill three times as we couldn’t stop eating it.
The pizzas come in one size – 11.5″ which is enough for one person. There is a kids menu but we stuck to ordering two pizzas for us all to share. First up was the Mushroom Asiago – wild mushrooms, cheese and basil – what could go wrong?!
Next up was the house recommended Sicilian, a mixture of sweet Italian sausage, prosciutto di Parma, mozzarella, parmigiano, artichokes and basil. This was cooked to perfection with a wonderful crisp crust and the best quality sausage I think I’ve ever tasted. This pizza alone made the visit worth it.
Unfortunately, we were all so full after these two entrees that we didn’t have room for dessert (we even requested a box solely for the last piece of Mushroom Asiago) so we didn’t get to taste the Nutella pizza (it looked great though).
The best pizza in Mt Juliet by far!
As usual, for the tasting session notes, it’s best to hand over to the professional; my wife, the Boss Lady…
Boss Lady’s views
The garlic knots are the only appetizer and frankly that’s fine with us. Just look at the picture – mouthwateringly good, soft, airy and perfectly seasoned with those wonderful herbs and garlic. As he said, the house made marinara sauce is so obviously fresh and packed with the traditional flavors you’d expect from a quality Italian joint. It is quite addicting.
The Mushroom Asiago came out and looked and smelt great. The outside of the crust was, to my mind, perfectly crisp and authentic – that’s what you get for cooking it at 900 degrees for a minute, I guess. The wild mushrooms, asiago and fresh basil worked really well together and I found myself enjoying this much more than I expected – I normally go straight for the salami or spicy pizza options – and I would certainly like to try it again at some point.
The Sicilian! This was my first choice and I wasn’t disappointed. The sweet Italian sausage tasted like a high quality pepperoni with a small kick of spices, with the sweetness balancing this perfectly.
By the end of the meal, we were all so full that we ordered a box for the single last piece of the Mushroom Asiago and gave up on any notion of trying the strawberry and Nutella dessert pizza so I can’t comment on the taste of that – but it sure looked interesting.
Calabria Brick Oven Pizzeria is the newest restaurant to open in Mt Juliet and is the only Brick Oven Pizzeria in the whole area. For those of us used to the pizza options being Dominos, Pizza Hut or Papa John’s, this is a truly different experience to those grease-filled, stodgy, fat-ridden, mass produced, poor imitations of a pizza.
Calabria offers To Go Orders but no delivery. Why no delivery? As Valon explained to us, the pizza he produces is hot and fresh and demands to be eaten within a few minutes of cooking. The kind of delay that delivery would result in would destroy the whole point of this very high quality artisan pizza.
Q & A with founder and owner, Valon
Tell us about the history of the Calabria concept
Calabria was established in 2016 and opened doors for business in July 2016.
And your personal history?
I’m an Albanian immigrant from Kosovo. I moved to the United States in August of 1999, to pursue the American dream.
As the owner I bring a business management background and extensive food industry experience.
Why wood-fired brick oven pizza?
More of a traditional taste.
When and why did you know you wanted to run a pizza restaurant?
The dream of owning my own business started many years ago… but I really started doing a lot of research and implementing plans in the year of 2015.
What is your favorite pizza?
Why did you choose Mt Juliet as a location for your business?
Mt Juliet is home for me and that’s were I chose to do business.
If we gave you $5,000 how would you spend it?
More advertising and different ideas of implementing different menu items.
If you weren’t a restaurant owner, what would you be doing?
My old job as a general manager at Tyson Foods
Its your last weekend on earth- what city (anywhere in the world) are you eating in and what are you eating?
Sea food platter in a small town called Himare in South Albania… the best food and hospitality I ever had in my life.
What is your most embarrassing professional moment?
I was giving a speech at an event and in a middle of the story I could not pronounce the words, and cut my speech in half with no meaning.
If you could pick 4 people from history to dine at your restaurant for an evening who would they be and what would you make for them?
What’s the secret to a perfect pizza?
Cook at high temperature – like in a wood-fired brick oven pizza oven!
A little more about Calabria and Valon:
In 1999 Valon was in his second year of law school when the war in Kosovo started. It was clear at that time that there was a rapidly diminishing need for lawyers in a war-torn country so Valon, as a young student with big dreams, decided to set off and pursue his own American Dream and set off to New York city.
Valon’s initial idea was to convert his half finished law degree in America – then he discovered the cost of education in the United States and was forced to reconcile this with the $40 he had in his pocket. He knew the answer to finding himself and deciding his life and his career path was to work hard and find his niche.
His first job was at a huge church, with some construction and painting on the side – working 4/5 stories up simply served to reinforce his fear of heights, but he persevered. Traveling to several states and trying his hand at many different jobs, he found himself in New Mexico where he met his soon to be wife and began what would be a fulfilling career in the food industry. Starting off with several types of restaurant work, especially Mexican food, he eventually arrived in Tennessee and began what would become a highly successful career with Tyson Foods working up to the point that he managed over 250 people with many supervisors working under him.
I asked Valon why he had left his position to start up a small pizzeria in Mt Juliet, “It has always been a dream of mine to start my own business. My family and I would drive all the way to Nashville to find a good pizza to eat – sometimes 5 Points Pizza or Bella Napoli. Or just to find some good Italian food like Gondola house in Hermitage. There are no other brick oven pizzerias in the area and I did a lot of research on the concept and location before starting earlier this year.
We’re just getting started and it’s going well. A few people have said that this location was a mistake but if you work hard, anything can be done. I believe this location works and there is nothing like this in Mt Juliet. Our marketing campaign so far has been almost exclusively word of mouth and Facebook and as more people taste our food and enjoy our experience I think the business will grow and grow.”
I, for one, agree. Valon is a very hospitable host and the food is excellent. I would encourage everyone to try it and support a wonderful local business.