A wood-fired pizza treat with endless possibilities
By Paula Johnson
Photo: The build-your-own-pizza option at Figlio provides over 3 trillion different possible topping combinations
It’s an axiom in the industry that nothing fails faster than a restaurant started by a bunch of lawyers or doctors. These businesses almost always tank, due to the lack of commitment to the restaurant as the primary business. Total commitment is why lawyers Peter and Laurie Danis have succeeded with Figlio. The Danises decided to abandon their law careers in favor of their two culinary passions: pasta and pizza. Opened in 2003, the Dayton Figlio is the couple’s third restaurant, with two other sites located in the Columbus area.
Joined by the estimable Mr. and Mrs. Jinx, PIP (Palate In Progress) and I ventured out to discover the secret to Figlio’s success. Located in the
Town and Country shopping plaza, the Figlio sign is somewhat misleading. While the sign can be seen facing Stroop Road, the entrance is actually located along the side of the building. Figlio has its own parking lot, but there is certainly ample parking for any overflow in the plaza.
Once inside, it’s easy to see why Figlio is a popular spot for Kettering locals with its casual bistro feel. The decor is comfortable-modern rustic, pleasantly lit and inviting. A spacious bar area with several high-top tables is ideal for gathering and snacking. The adjoining main dining room features an open wood fired pizza oven as its centerpiece
After being greeted by the hostess, we were led to a table in the pleasant enclosed patio. Our server promptly greeted us as we perused the beer and wine offerings. Figlio offers a nice selection of wines, several of which are accompanied by helpful taste notes and background descriptions. Mr. Jinx and I settled on the featured Malbec, a 2011 Altos las Hormigas. Promising a blackberry note, at $8.50 per glass we were pleased. Other wines by the glass started at $6.75. While bottles range from $25 to $52, there are a few half bottles available, something more restaurants should offer. Mrs. Jinx went for a seasonal Sam Adams at $4.25, but was unfortunately stranded without a glass to accompany it.
Needing to flag down a server prompts a note about the art of serving. While we had to request a glass, we were asked no less than three times if we were ready to order. We were enjoying a convivial evening among friends and were obviously in no hurry, so it became a source of amusement for us. But had that not been the case, it could have gone beyond annoying. Our server was incredibly friendly and eager to please; she simply lacked proper training regarding observing guests for cues as to when to approach a table. We devalue service with the assumption anyone can wait on tables. Perhaps true, but doing it well requires some skill and attention to detail. When we were finally ready to order, another server – also very friendly – introduced herself, explaining that our previous server’s shift had ended. Maybe that explains the rush to take our order.
We started with salads and soup. PIP and Mr. Jinx chose the Caesar ($5.95) and the spinach/arugula strawberry salad ($7.25) respectively. The Caesar was crisp and redolent with anchovy. What it lacked was a punch of black pepper, something which fortunately could be remedied at the table. Mr. Jinx’s choice was the table favorite, with bacon, red onion and blue cheese tossed in a light vinaigrette. I tried the Peasant Salad ($6.50), attracted by the menu note “It’s back!” It should have stayed wherever it was. Described as lettuce and spinach with bacon, cheddar, peas and peppers, it arrived in a swimming in a cole slaw-like dressing, soggy and overly sweet.
PIP pointed out to me that a few years ago, before I relocated to Dayton, we had been to Figlio. That I didn’t remember the visit is probably because I hadn’t ordered the pizza. Figlio offers pastas and entrees, but pizza is where they excel. The Jinxes and PIP had already claimed their pizzas, so I ordered the pasta, hardly a tragedy as the house-made crab ravioli ($15.25) was very good, cooked al dente and served in a tomato cream sauce with bits of shrimp. While the presence of garlic, basil and shallots in the sauce wasn’t easily detected – being slightly overwhelmed by a bit too much chopped red pepper – I had no trouble finishing all of it.
Fortunately, I had room to sample my favorite dish of the evening – Mrs. Jinx’s Pear and Brie Pizza ($13.25). The addition of blue cheese and prosciutto made for a perfect salty taste to counter the sweet of the Bartlett pears and brie. Topped with fresh citrus-splashed arugula, the flavor combination was perfect. Figlio’s thin crust was chewy, crisp and slightly charred with airy pockets – exactly what you want in a good crust.
Mr. Jinx and PIP exercised the option of designing their own pizzas. For fellow nerds out there, PIP is pleased to report that according to his calculations, there are 3.298534883328 x 10^12 different combinations of pizza available. That’s over 3 trillion for you laymen. (And that doesn’t count if you get double toppings!) Despite the boggling number of options, PIP was able to hone in on anchovies, capers and kalamatas, while Mr. Jinx selected bacon, pepperoni and mozzarella. Both had the house-made tomato sauce and reported it delicious. Two other sauce options are available, pesto and a garlic and olive oil. Crust options include the standard, a honey wheat and a flat bread. Made-to-order pizzas start at $9 with toppings ranging from $1.25 to $2.50. To end the meal we tried two desserts: a French Quarter Ice Cream Torte and a Cherry Pie in a Jar.
At Figlio, if you can’t find a pizza you like, you’re just not trying. I look forward to returning to try my own designer pizza combo: Vermont cheddar, scallions, caramelized onion and pine nuts. Maybe a little bacon on a honey wheat crust. As PIP pointed out, the options are virtually endless.
Figlio is located at 424 E. Stroop Rd. For more information, please call 937.534.0494 or visit figliopizza.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Paula Johnson at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.