On a recent Saturday afternoon, Ms. Pie and I found ourselves on the west side of Nashville. After finishing our business and trying to find the I-40 entrance ramp, we stumbled upon Coco’s Italian Market. Neither of us had ever been there before, but I had seen their bathroom adverts around town. I was intrigued since they made reference to an upstate New York pizza-making family heritage. We decided to check out the market and grab an early dinner.
The DiCoco family operates Coco’s from a long and narrow, single-story building on 51st between Charlotte Ave. and the Interstate. We parked in front and were excited to see the outdoor bocce court. On a warmer day we would have surely embraced both it and their spacious outdoor patio seating. A sign overhead proudly boasted “Owned and Operated by Italians,” and on the inside it was certainly everything Italian. On the right side was the Italian market–a combination of a take-out deli and a grocery store. At the market you can make yourself a salad, take home prepared frozen items including pizza, and shop through a fine selection of imported specialty groceries and fresh pastas.
On the other side was a dining room offering a full Italian menu. We ordered some salads to start. From a selection of several traditional pizza options, we chose our customary plain cheese. The pie, which the menu noted was made with imported flour in a brick oven, lists for only $10 and wound up being a 10-incher cut into eight slices.
From an old ad on the wall, we learned that the family at one time operated three pizza joints in the Schenectady, NY area. Dating back almost 50 years, they were called Kris-P-Pizza and one still operates today under different ownership. Our waitress confirmed that their pies were made from the original family recipe.
Our salads were good and tasty, topped with a delicious Italian dressing. The pizza looked unique and enticing—notably thin with a charred crisp crust, much like a New Jersey bar pie. It was, however, awkwardly constructed with unevenly cut slices and varying widths to its end crust. In a strange way these minor flaws tended to give the pie a certain charm and character. It looked like a crispy, crunchy delight. Unfortunately, it seemed that the ends on top cooked much better than did the bottom. As often happens, this made the slices top heavy and hard to eat when you picked them up. It was somewhat manageable, but with toppings things may have gotten out-of-control. On top, the mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and olive oil were all fresh and tasty. These traditional ingredients all blended together just right to create a delicious tasting pizza. However, there were problems down below: The crust fell apart. In addition, the crust had a dry cracker-like taste and was not at all chewy. The good taste of what was on top did not make up for the problematic crust underneath. This very promising-looking pie turned out to be a little disappointing.
Nonetheless, Coco’s sure is a fun place to shop and eat. I am sure that on a nicer day you will see me and Ms. Pie out on the bocce court. That and the lure of gelato will surely get us back there again, and we’ll probably give the pizza a second try.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***1/2 Working on a Good Thing
Coco’s Italian Market
411 51st Ave N.
Nashville, TN 37209