Over the last year Christine Hughes and Bob O’Neil have been making substantial changes to their side by side restaurants on E. State Street in Athens. Solar panels now grace the roof of the Village Bakery & Cafe and work was just completed on a new brick oven and remodeling of the dining room and kitchen for Della Zona.
Last week Christine and Bob invited staff, several of their suppliers, and a few friends to sample their pizzas as they fired up the new oven and tested some recipes.
Della Zona (Italian for from the region) lives up to its name, with a menu fashioned from ingredients produced nearby. Their pizza crusts are made with organic flours, including an Etruscan one made with 100% spelt flour which has fantastic flavor and is a great alternative to wheat. DZ’s marinara sauce marries locally farmed organic Roma tomatoes with onions, garlic and basil. Toppings include fresh mozzarella and ricotta made with milk from Snowville Creamery, naturally and humanely raised meats, and organic vegetables and fresh herbs, as Christine notes, “without bar codes.”
Last week’s crowd devoured dozens of pizzas that will soon be on the menu. Whether a vegetarian, vegan or meat-lover, the choices abound. Guests enjoyed pies loaded with greens and other veggies, mushrooms, cheeses, as well as sausage, ham and other meats. My favorite was topped with King Family Farm chicken sausage, onions, and a tangy barbecue sauce. All had the subtle, but lovely flavor of the wood-fired oven.
Della Zona also offers house made pasta, so tender it melts in your mouth. Eggs from locally pastured chickens are kneaded into freshly ground organic durum and Kamut wheat, stone milled in house. The dough is then rolled, cut and cooked to perfection as part of their daily and seasonally changing menu. Be sure to check out their great wine and beer selections, too.
Della Zona re-opens this Thursday (February 17th). The restaurant will be open Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 to 9 PM.
All three of Hughes and O’Neils’ eateries (the third is the Catalyst Café) hold our highest 30 Mile Meal partner ‘something to crow about’ designation. This uber 30MM status is reserved for those eateries that when given the choice between local and at a distance ingredients, buy local first.