I do not normally write about restaurants in this blog, but today I am going to break with that tradition just a bit. The reason for this break is that the restaurant also boasts nearly 50 beer taps and 100 bottles of beer. Which restaurant am I writing about? Pele’s Wood Fire in the old Rexall Drug store building at the corner of Park and King Streets in Riverside.
For those who have been to the Riverside Arts Market and sampled the fantastic pizzas from Pele’s Wood Fire Pizza there, you are going to love this new restaurant. Matt Tierney and his partner have put together a beautiful restaurant that is full of stylish and classy touches like a rolling library-style ladder on a rail behind the bar and a glass-enclosed show kitchen. Behind the glass are two brick-clad, wood-fueled ovens that emit a soft orange glow and are laden with pizzas and other specialties of the house. In the dining room the walls are painted in pleasing, muted tones that complement the warm orange seats and rich wood tables.
We began our visit sitting at the bar for a couple of cold beers. My companion left it to me to order her something she would like and I opted for the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. One sip and she exclaimed it to be her new favorite beer. I noticed that they had Oscar Blues’ Ten-Fiddy on tap and hastily ordered one for myself.
As we perused the menu, our waiter brought us fresh bread and olive oil with Italian spices sprinkled in it for dipping. Since I was there with my companion during their first week of soft-opening, the menu was a bit spare. But, the items that were on the menu looked fantastic. We chose an appetizer of Lemoncello wings that came out a golden-yellow with shaved parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. The wings were delicious with a slight spiciness and lemony zing that truly set them apart. A pasta dish that stood out on the menu was house-made black pepper spaghetti carbonara – I plan on trying it on our next visit. The entrees included a variety of dishes, many cooked in the wood oven along with the pizzas. I ended up ordering the ribeye steak and was not disappointed. My companion had the cheese and mushroom wood-fired pizza that was absolutely wonderful.
After dinner we decided on two desserts, the white chocolate cheesecake, topped with an amarena cherry glaze and the zeppoles. The cheesecake was sweet, firm and creamy and was served alongside chocolate espresso pot de creme. The flavor was outrageously decadent and I can see it becoming quite addictive. The zeppoles – fried doughnut holes-like pastries — were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and served with hazelnut- chocolate ganash, orange sea-salt caramel sauce, and lemon curd for dipping.
Service during the test-run week was good and should only get better as the restaurant gets its feet under it and comes on-line full-steam. I look forward to more evenings enjoying the beer and atmosphere of this great new dining addition to Jacksonville.