The Pizza Snob’s unstated rule has been to not cover places where pizza is merely a sideline. However, in the case of the Florida Panhandle’s 30-A region where good pizza pickings are slim, I made an exception: Christiano’s Ristorante. Undoubtedly, this one now reigns as the best pie the 30-A area has to offer.
For this year’s beach getaway, Mrs. Pie and I stayed on the western end of 30-A in delightful Blue Mountain Beach. With this turf being somewhat familiar, but still fresh and full of adventure, we set our sights on a week of visiting only restaurants new to us. Early on, Mrs. Pie had selected Christiano’s as her top place for us to try. Her choice was on the money, since we had an exquisite fine dining experience that included a surprisingly good pizza.
Christiano’s is seven-years old. It makes its home in one of the many retail strip centers on major Highway 98 that runs parallel to the north of Highway 30-A. Arriving midweek at dinner time, I chuckled when I spotted the unenticing Fat Daddy’s Pizza just a few doors down. Walking over to peek in, I made small talk with a customer who had stepped outside for a smoke. Perhaps fittingly, he spoke not of their pizza, but how he loved the place because their beer was always cheap.
We were seated without a wait in Christiano’s attractive dining room. Our dinner started with the sharing of a 17-inch cheese pizza ($16.95) as our appetizer. Advertised as “not thick and not thin,” they also posted some Snob red flags about their unconventional practices of mixing provolone with the mozzarella and using a brick oven.
Red flags aside, the pie was delivered looking extremely appetizing and colorful! There were traces of fresh green basil floating in the orange-tinted tomato sauce atop the blended cheese and scattering of pizza bubbles popping out of the crust. The pie was also perfectly cut into half slices making it just right for a prelude to dinner. It did however tilt a little towards the thick end as goes the Snob’s personal crust and cheese meter. Make no mistake, this was not a classic NY-style pie in any sense.
There was only a light scattered char on the bottom, and the slices definitely drooped when lifted. But, getting right to it, this was one fabulous-tasting pizza. The crust while not crisp, was pleasantly chewy. But the crust was far from being dry, dull or boring. It deliciously didn’t disappoint.
Mrs. Pie’s expert taste buds even detected a touch of fennel in the tomato sauce. Described in the menu as “zesty,” it was obvious that they took great time and care in creating this concoction. Together with the delicious and thankfully un-shocking untraditional blend of cheeses, the taste came across as something unique and really helped make this pie the winner that it is.
While Christiano’s pie doesn’t scream “New York,” it was nonetheless wonderful. I definitely recommend you try it along with a fine Italian dinner like we did. It will be the highlight of your beach holiday dining.
Be mindful that they are closed on Sundays and do like we did—take some back to your condo for lunch leftovers.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****Near Perfection
4942 Highway 98 West
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459