First impression: The open floor plan, fabulously designed menus and signage (there's even a logo on the wrought-iron panel above the brick oven), and easy-to-watch cooking process at Vesuvius Wood-Fired Pizza made us ask if the spot just off the interstate was a chain. Turns out it's not (at least not yet), but the mom-and-pop restaurant benefits from owner Scott Coldiron's years in the sustainable food scene in Minneapolis, and from his wife, Deb's, experience as a designer. We grabbed seats near the window, under large screen-printed posters Scott made from photos shot around Ames.
The diners: We arrived early-bird, just as the place was opening up for lunch. After ordering, a few other professionals stopped in, too. I ended up chatting a bit with one of the employees I'm connected to on Twitter. The restaurant is social media savvy - follow twitter.com/VWFP before you stop in to keep up on special offers.
The food: We were hoping the taste matched the look of the place, and weren't disappointed. A Caprese salad arrived just after sitting. My dining partner and I split the plate of layered fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes that was drizzled in balsamic and olive oil. We dug in to our Neapolitan-style (which uses special wheat flour, fresh mozzarella and plum tomatoes) pizza - the No. 7, which features La Quercia prosciutto, caramelized onions and basil over a roasted garlic cream sauce, instead of a tomato sauce. We probably each could have polished off a 10-inch pie on our own, but splitting one with the salad made for a light, flavorful lunch. Everything seemed super fresh. I loved that the edges came sprinkled with a coarse salt that set these slices apart from what I've had elsewhere. My only complaint was that I probably would have left it in the oven for a minute longer, to really crunch up the crust.
The last bite: Great for a lunch (there was a $6.50 special for a Margherita pizza and a drink when we stopped in) or a hip spot for dinner (Vesuvius sells beer and wine), I'm hoping this Ames spot branches out so I don't have to wait for a trek out to see the Cyclones to have a second taste.
Vesuvius Wood-Fired Pizza, 1620 S. Kellogg Ave., Ames