If you like ambient music, fancy gilded pizza ovens, old Italian subtitled movies streamed over your table and indoor trees, MidiCi the Neapolitan Pizza Company is for you.
If you like your pizza well done (both in temperature and description), and for your food to be served in the order in which one typically eats, you might want to look elsewhere.
At least for the time being.
MidiCi, a Los Angeles-based Neapolitan pizza chain in its infancy in Left Bank off West Seventh Street, needs some time to take root, much like the odd pre-lit tree standing tall inside its dining room.
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The food: A recent weeknight dinner proved the space is gleamingly attractive, and it was teeming with employees, but that didn’t stop our Nutella calzone ($6.50) from arriving first to the table.
Dessert first? YES, screamed the four kids seated at the high-top table, which was more suited for a conference room than for our convivial post-basketball-practice crowd.
The calzone, drizzled with Nutella, dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, was terrific. The doughy pocket in the middle of the plate contained even more Nutella and berries — or at least I think it did. The kids nearly decimated the plate before an adult could “taste some because that is my job.”
But if eating is work, a few other items we ordered qualified, and oddly, they were of the pizza genre.
From the chicken pesto ($11.95) to the double pepperoni ($10.95) to the concoction my kids split — half Margherita minus the basil but with chicken, and half pepperoni — the 12-inch pies were conducive to sharing. But aside from the tiny point guards at the table, who ate nearly every bite between mysteriously disappearing to check out an odd feature outside the restroom — more on that later — the adults were underwhelmed.
The chicken pesto, dotted with ricotta, was stingy with the green sauce, and the chicken was dry. A handful of halved grape tomatoes added nothing. Overall, it was weirdly flavorless, and was dying for a shake or two of salt.
The truffle and prosciutto ($14.25) was a virtual salad atop the pizza crust, an overload of arugula that threatened to annihilate any good that could have come from the mushrooms, prosciutto and truffle cream. I couldn’t help but think the pizzas were undercooked — there was little char on the crusts, which lacked any sort of bite, and the ingredients were barely melted.
However, non-pizza items excelled. The garlic bread appetizer ($3.95), which arrived after the Nutella calzone but before the house cheese board, was thick with shards of Parmesan and heavy on the garlic. (The fast-casual restaurant is working on its ordering system so that appetizers/salads come out before entrees and entrees come out before desserts.)
A purple kale and ricotta salad ($8.95) was a generous bowl, and a good marriage of potentially disparate ingredients, with its large leaves of kale tempered by a mustard vinaigrette. But a handful of sliced dates ended up at the bottom of the bowl, nearly forgotten.
With the garlic bread having disappeared from the table quickly, it was a good thing that the house cheese board ($9.95) came with a few slices of toasted bread. Cubes of blue cheese, goat cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano were mounded around a small ramekin of honey. A miserly three walnuts and apricots were there, too. I couldn’t help but miss the advertised black-truffle cheese and fresh mozzarella. Where were they?
The vibe: This brings us to a wall hanging, just outside the restrooms, which encourages patrons to place their hands on the wall and “remove them when no longer strangers.”
Say what? My son Gabe and his friend Jake are already tight, so that makes little sense — kind of like a lot of the mumbo jumbo espoused by the chain.
About that live tree in the middle of the dining room: “Here at MidiCi, we value tradition and cherish the stories behind them. Our tree is a Black Olive who is here to take in new times and new stories,” says the restaurant’s website.
And the new age-y speak continues. On the back of the menu, there’s a little ditty titled “Dreamers & Makers” that starts off: “We dream of food coming only from nature (Most of our products are non-gmo),” and includes the line: “We dream of memorable meals with friends (We created a place that is extraordinary)."
The verdict: Ahem. Dial it back a bit, Signor. Our meal with people who were already our good friends was pleasant. The Nutella calzone was tasty. And the Peroni on tap was killer. But extraordinary? Maybe it’s just emblematic of a time when things are called “amazing” and “outstanding” and “huge” at the bat of an eye. Hyperbole may reign, but I’d just like to eat a slice of decent pizza and call it a day.
MidiCi the Neapolitan Pizza Company
629 Stayton St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Satuday