Review: Pucci’s Pub & Vino

Alison Matas tries the sautéed green peppers, wedge salad, Parmesan potato balls, cheeseburger pizza and buffalo chicken pizza

Alison Matas tries the sautéed green peppers, wedge salad, Parmesan potato balls, cheeseburger pizza and buffalo chicken pizza

I knew basically nothing about Alliance until this winter, when I started spending several hours a day there for rehearsals with Carnation City Players.

Sometimes, I would head to the downtown theater by way of State Street, which is dotted with chain restaurants and hotels, adding to the city’s college-town vibe.

But amid the fast-food joints and sports bars along the city’s main drag is Pucci’s Pub & Vino, a locally owned, reasonably priced, generously portioned restaurant that offers upscale Italian fare, specialty pizzas and sandwiches.

We checked it out before a rehearsal and left stuffed—and still carried out boxes of leftovers.

The restaurant, at 2012 Tanglewood Avenue, is housed in a previously vacant building and opened last year. The operator used to have another restaurant on S. Union Avenue, but it had just a handful of tables and no space for a wine bar. The new location has the capability to seat at least 100 people.

The interior still feels a bit generic, like it quickly could be turned into any restaurant, but a nice fireplace along a wall near the entrance warms up the space and helps transform it into something a little more personalized.

Our meal started with Italian bread dusted with Parmesan that we dipped into a mixture of seasoned olive oil and balsamic vinegar. While we perused the menu, we ordered sautéed green peppers and Parmesan potato balls for appetizers (each $6). The peppers came coated in oil and Parmesan and tasted as if they had been on a grill. All but one was gone when we left the restaurant. The potato balls were fried and delicious when dipped in sour cream.

We followed up our appetizers with a wedge salad ($7.95), which was covered in bacon, crumbled bleu cheese and tomato and served with a thick and creamy bleu-cheese dressing filled with more chunks of cheese. If you like bleu cheese (which I do), the salad will be a hit. Andrew, who orders something with bleu cheese at nearly every restaurant, said it was “out of this world” and the best bleu cheese dressing he’d ever had.

By this point, we both were full enough to quit eating, but we forged on.

We shared two specialty pizzas ($14 a piece) for dinner—a bold feat, since each one was huge and would have been more than enough to feed both of us. The pizzas were piping hot and loaded with melted, stringy cheese and toppings. The crust had a crunch to it but also was thick and soft.

The buffalo chicken pizza had big pieces of chicken tossed in hot sauce and that delicious bleu-cheese dressing, pieces of bleu cheese and a top layer of cheese to hold the mixture together. For me, that’s comfort food. I loved it.

The bacon cheeseburger pizza was bizarrely good. I think we both suffered from some cognitive dissonance because it’s a pizza but tastes exactly like a cheeseburger. If I closed my eyes, I’m not sure I could have told you it was a pizza. It’s piled with ketchup, mustard, ground beef, pickles, onions and American and mozzarella cheeses. It initially sounded gross to me—I don’t even like all the ingredients—but together, it worked.

Some of the restaurant’s other pizza choices include the more traditional margherita pizza and one crafted in honor of college students and named after the University of Mount Union—topped with French fries and chili.

If you’re not a pizza person (Do those people exist?), Pucci’s also serves standard Italian fare, including chicken Parmesan and lasagna.

The service is leisurely. When we went, we were one of only three occupied tables in the restaurant, and our entire meal spanned more than an hour. The slower pace gave us a chance to talk and enjoy each course.

And we showed up early on a Friday evening—we had a rehearsal to get to—but when we drove past again later in the night, nearly every parking space was full.