Pitfire: So Much More Than Pizza

Friday, December 5, 2014 | 12:57 am

This story has been well over a year in the making.  Some may remember seeing our early announcement about Pitfire Pizza taking over Sizzler’s old space on Arroyo Parkway (if not, here’s a refresher) and then…well, that was about it.  We drove by occasionally, looking for progress, but never found enough to report about.

Until early November.  We caught wind of a potential announcement of a grand opening and immediately hunted down the answer.  And our research was extremely fruitful– in that, we got answers and food.

Officially opening their doors today, December 4th, Pitfire Pizza is donating 100% of their proceeds to the Pasadena Education Foundation between the hours of 11am and 10pm.  Pasadena Now was lucky enough to get a preview of their new digs and what their menu has to offer before the doors officially opened.

Having visited the old Sizzler, it was clear the new occupants had a lot of work to do.  Let me say right now– they did a good job.  There are no traces of those old maroon booths, tired wall paper, or outdated pine wainscoting left.  And good riddance!  The clean, intentionally unfinished wooden bar looks great against the vintage-looking teal tiles.  The space is lofty and quite large.

mushpasta.jpgA unique aspect of this restaurant is that it has a full bar that is very well stocked.  Only one other location has a full bar, but that doesn’t mean mixology isn’t their forte.  With an impressive list of unique drinks (including a habanero pineapple margarita!), sangria, and some great beers on tap, we feel a bit sad for all the Pitfires that haven’t been blessed with a full liquor license.

Another misconception about the chain might be the idea that they only do pizza.  From pastas to salads, even vegetable dishes, Pitfire’s range spans more than pies.  We were lucky enough to see a demonstration of just what their kitchen can do.

Seated with a group of excited diners, we started with some small dishes.  First, their roasted cauliflower with mint and chili flakes, hand-crafted chicken meatballs, and some roasted broccolini.  Their meatballs, I’m told, are always one of their best sellers and are much lighter than the average beef meatball.  My personal favorite was the broccolini.  It was cooked just enough to stay crunchy and had a crispy topping that worked quite well.

saladsNext, the salads.  The kitchen was kind enough to make a vegetarian version of their chopped salad, which made me extremely happy.  I love chopped salads, but they rarely have enough exciting toppings other than meat so there’d be no point in ordering it sans salami.  The dressing was my favorite part– sweet and tangy, but not so vinegary it burns your lips.

Their kale salad was also a hit.  Originally the salad came with honey soaked dates and was only a seasonal item.  But customers loved it so much, they decided to tweak the recipe a bit (replacing the dates with apple cider vinegar soaked golden raisins) and keep it on the menu for good.  It’s a good thing they did because I think it’s delicious!

Now we got to the real heart of the meal: pasta!  I was delighted to see a very real looking macaroni and cheese with lots of panko breadcrumbs on top.  It’s made with 7 cheeses and is quite delicious.  If I had ordered a bowl for myself, I would have doused it in hot sauce and been very happy.  Also served was a seasonal kale pesto pasta with sausage and their chicken & mushroom cavatappi, which looked and smelled amazing.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying the pizza!  We were served four varieties: a standard margherita, Field Mushroom, Burrata Pie, and their creation called the Sausage Party.  We’ll let you guess what that pie has on it.  The Field Mushroom was covered in a previously un-seen amount of mushrooms and a creamy garlic sauce.  It’s not your standard pizza, so if you’re feeling cheesy you might look toward their margherita instead (which I assure you has plenty of cheese).

burratapieThe Burrata Pie was the most unique of the combinations presented to us, with caramelized onions layered over their tomato sauce, topped with wild arugula, burrata cheese, kale pesto, and finally chopped hazelnuts.  Anything with arugula gets my attention; the same can be said for this pizza!

What I wasn’t expecting was the dessert.  Called a smothered cookie, it’s a freshly baked cookie with a tall mound of soft-serve frozen custard.  Frozen custard is the key item in this dish.  Common in the mid-west, the custard is made with more egg yolks than your average ice cream giving it a thicker, richer consistency and flavor.  It was a great flash back from my years living in Texas and is something I look forward to trying again.

All in all, I think Pitfire is going to make a great addition to a part of town that needs a little more action.  They’ve got more exciting things in the works, too, like a Superba Coffee+Snacks opening in the coming weeks in the adjoining lot.  So visit and visit often– there’s a lot going on you don’t want to miss!

Pitfire Pizza is located at 730 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena.  For more information, please call (626) 376-9005 or visit http://www.pitfirepizza.com

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