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Front Page - Friday, August 19, 2016

A little bit of Italy on North Market

River City Roundabout

- Photograph by David Laprad

Fiamma is serving up delicious pizza, one wood-fired pie at a time

Mamma mia! Questo è una pizza!

Forgive me for opening this article with a little Italian, but I found the food at Fiamma Pizza Company inspiring. Never mind that I don’t know Italian; I had Google Translate at my fingertips. I also don’t know what authentic Italian pizza tastes like, having never been to Italy, but I do know what I like – and I like Fiamma.

Located on North Market Street across from Publix, Fiamma serves wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. What does that mean? As co-owner Brion Voges, 28, explained, Neapolitan pizza has a thin, airy crust and just a few choice toppings. To make his pizzas as authentic as possible, Voges ordered a wood-fire oven from Naples AND took a 12-day class taught by a famous New York City pizza entrepreneur.

Vogel must have learned a thing or two because – wow – his crust tastes great. It’s thin and airy, like it’s supposed to be, and there was just a touch of char on the bottom of mine. Too much char can ruin a wood-fire pizza, but frequent turning and a brief cooking time ensure Fiamma’s pizzas have just right amount.

The toppings are delicious as well. I ordered a make-your-own pizza with kalamata olives and mushrooms, and not only were the olives grade A stuff, but the mushrooms were fresh and cut thick.

It took me a few minutes to settle on my choice of toppings because of the wealth of possibilities Fiamma offers. Your base can consist of either tomato sauce, olive oil, or pesto, and from there, you can add a variety of meats, cheeses, and veggies. The selection swings from the ordinary (mozzarella, pepperoni, and tomatoes), to the intriguing (Smoked Provolone, Pancetta, and Peppadew Peppers), to the exotic (Parmesan Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Arugula).

The trick with Neapolitan pizza, Vogel said, is to not overload them with toppings. Getting the crust just right is a science, and too many ingredients will result in a soggy bottom.

If you can’t choose, Fiamma has already done the heavy lifting for you by concocting nearly a dozen specialty pizzas. For example, the No. 4 comes with tomato sauce, house-made meatballs, mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and olive oil. Or you could choose a No. 11, which comes with a pesto base, fire roasted chicken, mozzarella, feta, red onion, cherry tomato, basil, and olive oil. Just typing those out made me hungry.

Fiamma also offers appetizers (fresh-baked bread and meatballs), salads (Caesar, Spinach, and Arugula), and sandwiches (Meatball, Spicy Italian, and Italian Sausage). I ordered a Caesar side salad, and was impressed with the portion. Even better, the hearts of romaine were crisp and the dressing was tasty. The house-made croutons were too crunchy for me, but someone else might think they’re perfect.

While Fiamma doesn’t offer pizza by the slice, it does offer a lunch special consisting of either a sandwich or a two-topping personal-size pizza for $6.99 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. You can add a side salad for $1.99 and an ice cold, non-alcoholic drink for $.99. Since it takes Fiamma about 90 seconds to bake a pizza, you could be sitting down and eating in just a few minutes, depending on the size of the crowd.

At night, you’ll want to bring a few dinner companions with you, as only the full-sized pizzas are available. Fiamma is the kind of restaurant you want to share with others, though, and take the credit for discovering.

Speaking of alcohol, Fiamma offers about 50 craft beers, served at your table in the main dining space or in the spacious bar area, located in a separate room. While Fiamma doesn’t serve wine, the restaurant does allow patrons to bring their own.

Located on the north side of town, Fiamma provides a relaxing getaway in the middle of a busy business district. Parking is plentiful and free, and if the weather is nice, one can choose to sit on the patio, where one can sip beer in the shade of a covered table and work off a few calories playing bocce.

While Fiamma doesn’t have much in the way of décor, it’s polished and clean. I did think the stack of cut oak under the wood-fire mural in the main dining space was a nice touch. Finally, the service was fast, friendly, and helpful. (I should add patient, as I took more than a few minutes to choose my toppings.)

Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Fiamma is a great addition to the downtown Chattanooga food scene. I’m looking forward to going back, and I hope to see you there.

Until then, arrivederci! 


To see more photos, pick up a copy of this week's Hamilton County Herald.