Dish: Vanwall Special
Price Tag: $13
Only a handful of years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a decent place to eat two nights in a row in Charleston, SC. Today, however, you could eat at a different restaurant every night for weeks and still be satisfied, stumbling upon a new treasure nearly every block. Charleston is awash in wonderful food, but the best place to eat, lunch or dinner, is Monza.
Step into the glass doors of Monza that proudly decry hours of 5-until and you already know that this is something new, something special. The walls are covered in frosty, terracotta-colored tiles and the burnished metal tables are scattered pleasantly throughout the restaurant. The red light that glows from above the door would have been tacky or misplaced in another space, but here it simply makes everything all that much more inviting and invigorating. The wait staff is friendly and attentive, making sure you are comfortable and that you always have enough water to pour out of the lovely glass decanters that grace every table.
Once you are seated and the waitress has rattled off the list of drool-inducing specials, you reach for the menu. Each of the pizzas, which are named after famous Italian racecar drivers, is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. The Materassi is what simple cheese pizza would be in heaven. The crust is beautifully thin and crusty, and the sauce truly tastes like tomatoes. The Volpini, with fresh tomato sauce, prosciutto, arugula, and pecorino romano; the Ronnie Peterson, with oven roasted chicken breast, artichokes, arugula, ricotta, mozzarella, and garlic; and the P83, with bacon, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and grape tomatoes, are balanced and harmonious, not to mention delicious.
But what is quite possibly my favorite pizza there, if not anywhere, is the Vanwall Special. Pesto, mozzarella, local white shrimp, and seasonal tomatoes. Really, what’s not to love? The pesto is vibrant and full-flavored, punctuated by voluptuous rounds of hand-pulled mozzarella. The shrimp, which is caught that morning only blocks away (the benefit of living on the coast) is fresh and sweet, a lovely counterpoint to the juicy, tart tomatoes.
Everything about Monza is endearing. The atmosphere, the food, the people. You are guaranteed a stellar meal when you step across the threshold of 451 King Street, and you will walk out wanting more. And, when you do decide to return, you will be greeted like family.
Hayley Daen is a sophomore at the University of St Andrews, where she lives in a dinky apartment right across from Tesco, which makes throwing impromptu tea parties a snap.