TNT Diner

Hunting for the perfect calzone in the Tacoma area

A calzone at Louie G’s Pizza comes filled with a tidy stack of five kinds of meat and mozzarella cheese.
A calzone at Louie G’s Pizza comes filled with a tidy stack of five kinds of meat and mozzarella cheese. skidd@thenewstribune.com

The best calzones are blistered on the edges with cheese bubbling from seams.

A push of the fork should unleash a molten flow of fillings from a perfectly done calzone. I like mine oozing ricotta, a lava slide of mozzarella and plenty of cured pork products riding that cheesy flow.

I’ve never searched broadly for the best calzone in the Tacoma area, but I’ve encountered a few I like.

That’s where you come in. I’m going on a calzone hunt when the weather becomes reasonable again. You should tell me about your favorite.

From a wood-fired oven, convection or blistering hot pizza oven — I don’t care. What I do care about is what kind of fillings are tucked inside. How much cheese is crammed in there? And the quintessential question: to pepperoni or to sausage?

Send me your calzone suggestions at 253-597-8270 or sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com.

Cafe Vincero

714 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, 253-503-6141, cafevincero.com.

Live yeast is key to the crust of Cafe Vincero’s calzone.

That, and a smear of sauce on top before the calzone goes into the oven.

“Adding (sauce) to the exterior gives it a nice tomatolike char, which for some people is the best part, adding yet more flavor to the crust or edges,” said owner Kevin Cornwell, who runs the restaurant with general manager Paolo Mottola, formerly of Tacoma’s Bella Nina. His family operates the regionally famous Vince’s restaurants.

A fresh yeast starter and an artisan baker’s favorite flour, 00 flour, create the crispy calzone with a light chewy resistance.

I’ve had two calzones there in the last year. Both carried hefty steam vents, which Cornwell said are imperative to release the moisture over high heat in his kitchen’s Marra Forni wood-fired oven, usually kept around 700 degrees with cherry wood as the fuel. It can cook a calzone in just a few minutes.

It cooks so hot, it heat blasts the edges and turns the insides into a molten mass of meaty-cheesy goo. The house calzone comes standard with a smear of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and prosciutto.

The lightest smear of marinara both in and outside Cafe Vincero’s calzone renders a side of dipping marinara unnecessary, but the restaurant has a sharp house marinara — made with San Marzano tomatoes — if you’re a dipper.

The calzones here are well-priced considering San Marzano tomatoes and 00 flour are high-priced ingredients. The base calzone is $9.99 at lunch, $12 at dinner. Extra toppings are $1.50 each, and calzones can be built with any ingredient on the restaurant’s topping list.

Louie G’s Pizza

5219 Pacific Highway E., Fife; 253-926-9700, louiegspizza.com.

It’s a two-stage process to make the calzones at Louie G’s, a pizza parlor in Fife.

“We usually warn the customers who order calzones that they take a little longer than most of the other items on our menu. The reason is that we pack our calzones full of ingredients,” said Peter Kesling, who operates the restaurant with wife Kate McDonough.

The fillings are cooked separately while the calzone dough is rolled and left to rest, which means that it gets a bit of an extra rise that contributes to the fragrant dough. You can smell that waft of yeast before it hits the table.

The calzone is then loaded with meat or vegetable fillings and cheese, hand-pinched into a half-moon and finished in the oven.

The house calzone, called the Louie G, was a steamy crescent with singed edges and a gooey layer of mozzarella clinging to tidily stacked Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef and bacon. Calzones don’t come with ricotta here. Marinara is served on the side for dipping.

The calzones are priced $10.99 and come in six configurations, including a meatball, sausage, all-meat, vegetarian and two chicken versions. Extra toppings are 50 cents each.

Aversano’s Italian Restaurant

6015 Parker Road E., Sumner; 253-863-3618, aversanos.com.

The radiating heat of the 30-plus-year-old brick oven gives the calzone at Aversano’s its characteristic brown-speckled bottom.

The loosely braided edge acts as a steam vent to release the moisture of a calzone that arrived loaded with the most ingredients I’ve had in a local calzone.

When I cut open the house version, out tumbled a copious amount of crumbled meatballs. Some of the meatballs held crispy edges from pan frying, with shredded mozzarella lacing the meaty crumbles together with chopped mushrooms. A smear of red sauce added flavor and softened the texture.

Calzones are $13.99 each and come in a few versions, including sausage, vegetable and chicken. Calzones include one trip through the restaurant’s salad bar.

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