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With Fabrizio Cercatore, co-owner of Hot Italian, hailing from La Spezia, Italy, just a few miles west of Cinque Terre — or “five lands” — we thought What better way to prepare you for your trip to the midtown flagship than by walking you through the “five lands” that make Hot Italian so special: design land, pizza land, drinks land, gelato land, and merchandise land? Maybe we can convince them to make Pizza Land a thing? I mean, they did just secure hotitalian.pizza as their URL. Can’t be that far off!
Let’s start where you start:
1. Design Land. Walking into Hot Italian, you are immediately greeted by a black and white motif, clean lines, high ceilings with exposed piping, and a big ass fan. Excuse me. A Big Ass Fan. What with the wood-burning oven cooking off pies at almost 700 degrees, heat management was a concern, but co-owner Andrea Lepore also viewed environmental friendliness as a concern. Enter: the Big Ass Fan. Coming in at 12-feet wide, it serves as an eye-catching focal design element, and it allows for airflow without jeopardizing their LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The U.S. Green Building Council awards buildings that use less water and energy and that use sustainable materials with levels of compliance. Hot Italian earned Silver level, which is an admirable testament to their commitment to marrying high design with responsible practices. For other evidence of LEED worthiness, check out their hand dryers, compost service (through GRAS) and lighting. If you see co-owner Lepore around, give her an Italian double kiss for her hand in the design wand to congratulate her on her recent degree from Boston Architectural College! 2. Pizza Land. The brainchild of Italian restaurant-owner, Cercatore, and entrepreneur, Lepore, the concept behind Hot Italian was a fast pizza bar. Given the speed of baking in the oven, a mere ten minutes pass from the time you order to the time you’re taking your first bite. With some thin crust pizzas, the toppings can often overwhelm and lead to the dreaded droopy pizza syndrome. Not here. The crust stands up to the seasonal, balanced toppings and it’s bellisimo. Each pizza is named after a (hot) Italian — like Olympic skier Giuliani Razzoli or soccer superstar Fabio Cannavaro which you can enjoy for lunch, brunch, or dessert (sí, dessert!). There are no sizes here; while you can order a few pizzas panini-style, the pizzas are designed to be single servings, so order up and fill up!
If you’re still walking around looking for the Silver LEED plaque, while you’re at it, keep your eyes peeled for the Slow Food snail emblem, signifying that wherever possible, the ingredients are local and sustainably grown.
3. Drinks Land. Something unique about Hot Italian is its commitment to Italian wine varietals. Some highlights include Pinot Grigio by Lagaria and Montepulciano by La Quercia. Also worth a try is Hot Italian’s own house wines, which you’ll see on the menu as “Bianca della Casa” and “Rosso della Casa.” If you’re not in the mood for wine, there are several beers both on tap and bottled, and both from California (i.e. Racer 5 IPA, North Coast’s Scrimshaw) and from Italy (i.e. Peroni, Moretti). And if cocktails are calling your name (you’ve given yourself an Italian name by now, right?) we like the Vigorelli lemonade, which combines vodka, limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur), lemon-flavored Pellegrino, and fresh mint. The best part about this drink — aside from the bright and balanced acidity — is that you can order a glass or a pitcher, the perfect accompaniment to settling in to watch a soccer game or luxuriating under the Sacramento sun on the patio. 4. Gelato Land. Gelato can be made in one of two main ways: starting with a cream base and building or adding cream in at the end. The loving process by which the folks at Italian family-owned Almare Gelato — hailing from Berkeley — prepare the cream + sugar base produces a richness and creaminess that is only enhanced by the concentrated, traditional Italian flavors. With stracciatella (“straw-chee-a-tella,” say it with us) translating to “shred” or “rag,” we’re thrilled to apply that term to chocolate flakes mixed throughout. And we think the gianduja flavor, which combines chocolate and hazelnut, would make for a double-down pairing with the chocolate-hazelnut dessert pizza, no? Too much? Snag a shot of espresso from the espresso bar (made with Mr. Espresso beans, a Fair Trade company from Oakland). Should you find yourself in need of a scoop (or two) of gelato on a blistering summer’s day, you can even sidle up to the gelato window from the 16th St. side to start the cool down process ASAP. 5. Merchandise Land. The midtown Sacramento location comes in at around 6,000 sq. ft., which means there’s plenty of seating for parties big and small. It also means that there’s room for thoughtful merchandise from ‘47 Brand like onesies for babies, dog sweaters, cycling jerseys, and hats — all with artistic but clean logos designed just for Hot Italian. You can check out some of the looks here. The space has also hosted pop-up shops for Fiat and Public Bikes, showcasing the owners’ impeccable tastes and quest for synergy.Walk, drive, or — since Hot Italian was the first cycle friendly business in California — bike on over to Hot Italian for a trip through “five lands,” all without ever leaving the grid. Or, should you find yourself in Emeryville or (just opened!) Davis, pop in for a chance to “ciao” down and yell “Bravo!”