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Readers share fave pizza spots

Nov. 08, 2012 @ 01:55 PM

Forget burritos, burgers, wings or other things, Huntington is a city that's available by the slice.

While the Tri-State is anchored by long-time pizza giants such as Gino's and Giovanni's and such mom and pop establishments as Monty's and the one-and-only Evaroni's in Kenova, in the past year, a slew of other pizza shops are showing off their flour power, and putting their own spin on the age-old college-town business.

We've taken an unscientific survey of area pizza lovers, and since 3,400 Facebook friends can't be wrong, here's a look at just a few of their favorites and why they like that pie.

A Backyard 'n' Pub battle royal

What's better than one new Huntington pizza joint dishing up highly creative pies and pints in the heart of downtown? How about two -- side by side. While some folks are still collecting tears in their beer that there are no Pies and Pints in Huntington, two gourmet pizza places/pubs have opened this year and are locked in a flour-sprinkled, brew-tapped battle royal -- it's Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar, 841 4th Ave., and Pub & Oven, 401 9th St.

Both have ties to the ghosts of restaurants past as Backyard owner Drew Hetzer's mom worked at Chili Willi's from which Backyard got its wood-fired oven, while Pub and Oven is the creation of Danny Dyer, who ran Yesterday's on 3rd Avenue for 12 years.

For foodies and folks with some culinary adventure, both places feed that spirit as the menus carry traditional pies but can venture far afield like Pub and Oven's Grilled Peach pizza with chargrilled peaches, smoked gouda, white cheddar, white truffle oil, peach nectar, baby arugula and a peach balsamic reduction.

Backyard offers up such adventurous pies as an Avocado Pizza and the Jammin' Jamaican, which includes spicy black beans, topped with a bed of mozzarella cheese, juicy pineapple, red onion, jerk chicken and fresh cilantro.

Such well-traveled local folks as Jacqueline Proctor and Bill Rawlinson are raving about Backyard with Rawlinson tipping his hat to the Wu Tang, a Siriachi-sauced spicy pie drizzled with honey and bleu cheese while Chuck Minsker gives a nod to the "Flying Piggie."

Italian in the house

A little more than a year ago, Ralph Hagy, whose grandfather, Raffaele Lerardi, came to America in 1898 to work the N&W Railroad, brought his life-long passion for family and cooking to the house -- transforming a turn-of-the-century home into a cozy and bustling Italian deli.

La Famiglia, located at 1327 6th Ave., features pie out of a wood-fired oven that's winning votes including many folks raving about the kale pizza and Italian descendant Jessica Wood, who swears by the thin crust, wood-fired Napoletano style pizza and the 'Marinara' -- San Marzano sauce, fresh garlic, onions, peppers, cheese.

"I have to ask myself, has God made anything better?" Wood said.

In all the world --

there's only one Evaroni's

Stone Machine band-leader Dirk Blevins maybe said it best, "Evaroni's is the best, their sauce is my blood type."

Blevins is not alone in his fervent love of Evaroni's, the pizzeria that William and Jean Evans have been running since 1968 and that has been located for decades in a former glass factory at 914 Oak St., Kenova, (right on the main drag U.S. 60).

Like Rocco's in Ceredo, Evaroni's, whose slogan is "In all the world there's only one," has long been a destination restaurant thanks to repeat customers like Bernie Elliott, who said that after he first tasted Evaroni's in seventh grade he's averaged at least two pies a month for 40 years. You do the math, wow.

Tammy Monway swears by Evaroni's -- "Double sausage, pepperoni and banana peppers! Oh yeah!"

A hunka hunka burning Monty's love

Lifelong Huntington resident Philip Dain Powell, who sang by invite at the Super Bowl festivities in Indianapolis, knows a good pie when he sees one and nothing feeds his nostalgic soul like a slice of Monty's, which opened its doors at 815 6th Ave., in 1956, four years before the first Domino's opened in Michigan.

The distinct and recently remodeled red-and-white building whose interior walls are covered in Elvis memorabilia is a magnet for folks like Powell who remembers his mom walking his family down 6th Avenue and 8th Street on a Saturday afternoon where Monty himself, a burly man would always be there in the Connor Booth "counting his cash roll and listening to Elvis on the Juke Box."

Richard Bartram, the filmmaker who also programs Huntington's Public Access Channel 20, said although he laments the passing of Molletti's (corner of 7th Avenue and 8th Street) and Wendy's Pizza (corner of Adams Avenue and 11th Street W), that Monty's is the best of what's left. Readers such as Kevin Lewis, who loves Monty's crumbled sausage, agree that it is as advertised, "The Cadillac of Pizza Places."

Gio's and Gino's

While Huntington is chunked, covered and smothered with plenty of pizza-dancing chain places, two home-grown chains garnered tons of fan votes as local favorites.

Those of course, are Giovanni's which has about 20 local eateries, and Gino's which Kenney Grant and friends have grown from one place in 1961 (when only Monty's and Johnny Angelo's was competition) to more than 60 stores around the region today.

In particular, folks are drawn to the near-Marshall University campus original, Gino's Pub, 2501 5th Ave. The fan favorite for watching games is a TV-laden pub that has the old Fairfield Stadium scoreboard in the parking lot.

Folks also love the neighborhood Gino's, 943 9th Ave., Huntington. That cozy pizza place is painted with murals both inside and out and has a cozy corner neighborhood restaurant feel.

Several folks wrote in about the love of Gino's Two For Tuesdays deal for pizza and pasta and Ben Moore and Jim Treacy piped in about the simple, frugal family goodness of a hot Gino's pepperoni pizza.

While Giovanni's has gotten some next door competition from Mama Rosa's, the 2010 3rd Ave., slinging everything from meatball pizzas to a Lamb Grecian Delight, folks still love to flock to the Marshall memorabilia-filled Giovanni's, 2002 3rd Ave., that Tony Mancini has been running across from the football stadium for some 15 years.

Although Kristy Doyle humbly admits the best pizza in Huntington is at her house, she says Gio's locks it down for second best traditional pie.

More ways to slice it up

Here are some ways you can enjoy your pizza in the Tri-State:

By the slice: Slyce, Husson's and Backyard

Gluten free: Hussons and Uno's (Backyard is also adding gluten-free)

Deep dish: Uno's and Pizza Hut

Super-sized: Monty's in Chesapeake (30-inch The Monster Monty), Daniello's (18-by-26 sheet pizza)

Gourmet and specialty: Backyard, Pub and Oven, Z Brick, UNO, Husson's,

Side dish of entertainment: Billy Bob's Wonderland (Rockafire Explosion band, laser tag, mini golf and arcade), and Gino's The Pub, with arcade and Gattiland in Ashland with games, indoor bumper car rink

Non-pizza joint pizza: MU Hall of Fame Cafe probably has the most in Huntington with eight different fast and fresh thin-crust pizzas on their large American pub grub menu including a Sicilian, BBQ Chicken, Buffalo Chicken and a vegetarian option as well.

New kid on the block: Marco's Pizza, a chain in Toledo, Ohio, has 320 franchises in 26 states and the Bahamas. They are set to open soon where Jolly Pirate used to be at 110 5th Ave. Go online at www.marcos.com or call 304-523-5757.

Roadtrip: Pies and Pints in Fayetteville and Charleston, Dick's Pizza in Sciotoville, Ohio, Portsmouth Brewing Company in Portsmouth, Ohio, and Fred's in Wheelersburg, Ohio.


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