The Boot Pizzeria is the first Italian place down in South Huntsville that I can remember.* Despite the name, I was hoping for a few non-pizza dishes as well. Some pasta and breadsticks maybe? We headed in on a Friday night and found the parking lot packed. After some confusion we found and followed the signs around to the overflow parking on the north side of the restaurant. On our walk in, I was annoyed to see that (based on the bumper stickers), staff members had taken some of the close parking.**
We were seated promptly, though once we were seated service came in odd stutters. When our server made it out to take our drink order she asked if we would like appetizers because “it was getting busy” and she didn’t want us to have to wait for our food. We assured her that we were fine and proceeded to study the menu. Pizzas were priced in two sizes which turned out to be 12″ and 16″. We settled on a 16″ Smoked Chicken Pizza and an order of lasagna. We had been in once before, just after they opened, and the lasagna (billed as a “family recipe”) had been disastrously overcooked. I was chalking it up to an opening week hiccup and wanted to give it a second chance. We had some difficultly settling on the pizza though, many of the toppings were intriguing–“Italian blue cheese” or smoked Italian sausage. Chocolate and vanilla gelato were listed on the menu, but our server also rattled off about half a dozen additional flavors.
With our order placed, we settled in to chat. Unfortunately, the entire restaurant was loud. With a long bar near the front, I wasn’t expecting whisper quiet, but even in the back corner of the restaurant the general clatter required yelling across the table. About 10 minutes after our arrival, it got worse with the addition of live music. The guitarist was talented enough but despite being in the next enclave over, it took the general noise level to “ridiculously loud”. It would have been fine for grabbing a beer and listening to music, but for trying to have dinner? Way too much. Our usual coping mechanism in noisy spaces is to sit catty-corner at the table. Unfortunately, we were seated along a back wall where my seat was a bench and there was no good way to move any closer. Instead, we just semi-shouted.
If you were to go at a different time, perhaps lunch or for a mid-week dinner, when the noise levels should be dialed back, the ambiance is upscale family dinner. A long TV screen acts as a flickering faux fireplace along one wall, a suit of armor allows for campy group selfies, and rich red walls are set off with framed paintings. The space is made up of smaller “rooms”, the one we were in could be partioned off with curtains for a semi-private party room. Laminate tables with various “Italian” photos (the leaning tower of pisa, cafes, oil….a random jewelry model) are colorful conversation sparkers.
Given the intermittent service and the warning from our server, I was surprised to see our food out in a sprightly 25 minutes or so. We spent a few silent moments gaping at the heaping pile of onion rings topping our pizza (as shown at the top of this post). I’d seen them listed in the pizza’s description but not paid overly much attention, the hubby had read over them entirely. Once we regained our composure, we served up the pizza.
The onion strings were clearly housemade, greasy with a subtle flavor and barely there breading. The onions lent their sweetness to the pizza as a whole. Nestled under them was strong feta and small diced pieces of smoked, dry white meat. The chicken’s smokiness permeated the entire pizza even though the individual pieces were hard to spot. The crust was thin, with a nice flavor. The entire dish had a smokey sweet profile–even the feta was not enough to sway it into salty sweet territory. My biggest complaint was that the onion rings and feta, added after baking, were loose and prone to sliding off the pizza.
Our lasagna was an improvement from our last visit. The pasta was still slightly overcooked and the dish was topped with the powdered parmesean you find in the green can. But it was also thickly cheesy, featuring fresh tomatoes and well cooked squares of onion. Small bits of sausage were hidden in the sweet smelling sauce. The overall impression was favorable, though a bit salty. It was interesting to note that the pasta came out unaccompanied by any bread.
The Boot offers a wide variety of beers, from local brews to global–Japanese, Mexican, German, Canadian and more. We found the Friday night crowd too loud for our taste but others may enjoy the hubbub. We saw several families dining together, thankful that the giggling, not quite “indoor voices” of their youngest members were lost in the bustle. Those looking for a spot to watch a game and grab a beer will enjoy the easy going atmosphere. Our pizza was tasty and I’ll skip pasta in favor of pizza on any future visits. The Boot isn’t the Italian place I keep dreaming of, but it’s a nice addition to the South Huntsville scene.
Total for the meal: $41.21 (Includes one lasagna, one 16″ pizza, and two soft drinks)
*Native Huntsvillians, feel free to chime in. Has Huntsville always been an Italian wasteland?
**This is a hangover from my retail days. We were trained to park in the back of the lot to leave room for guests to have the close spots. When you don’t have a dedicated back lot for staff, it’s the next best thing.
View Larger Map