Dig This... with Stu Helm
photo by Stu Helm on Instagram @stuhelmfoodfan
Creamy, Tangy, Fresh "Squid Ink" Pizza
Did you know that three generations of Cerratos have been cooking the Italian family recipes for Asheville for over a decade? Anthony Cerrato, the chef and owner of Strada Italiano, originally followed his father Fred’s footsteps from New Jersey to Asheville to cook in his dad’s kitchen at Fiore’s. I knew Fred from my days of booking punk bands at Fred’s Speakeasy, and like many in Asheville I was saddened when he passed and his venues closed down.
Fortunately for us all, Chef Anthony remained here and was able to open Strada, as well as The Social Lounge next door, and has been a pillar of our downtown food scene ever since! Even more fortunate, Anthony’s son Gabe has most recently moved to Asheville from New Jersey to work in his dad’s kitchen at Strada, and he has been adding his own creativity to their menu.
Case in point: The pizza Chef Gabe submitted to the judges’ table at the 2019 Asheville Pizza Fight, which didn’t win, but I thought was excellent and deserving of attention!
I wasn’t a judge, but I was serving the judges their sample slices, and I noticed how different and beautiful this particular pie was the moment I opened the box: The crust was dark, charcoal gray — almost black. My first thought was, "What the...?" My second thought was, "Squid ink?"
My second thought was correct, as this was the debut of Strada Italiano’s “Amalfi” pizza, created by young Chef Gabe Cerrato. This very special pie has spinach, smoked clam crema, paprika, prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh grape tomato halves and, yes, squid ink dough! It was a very cool-looking pizza, that’s undeniable, but the flavor was equally surprising and totally delicious.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: There was no fishy taste. The crust was not flavored like squid ink, only colored by it. The clam crema was smooth, creamy and subtle with no hint of “fishiness.” I bring this up because that’s what people have asked me about this pie already: “Is it fishy?” No, it is not.
I don’t usually go for white sauce pizzas, but I just had to try this one based strictly on the appearance, and now I’m a fan of the flavor as well! The sharp cheese adds plenty of tang to the pie, which contrasts and compliments the smooth crema. And likewise, the fresh tomatoes provide the perfect opposite to the salty, cured prosciutto. The crust is thin and crispy, and I finished eating each crust before starting my next slice, which is the true mark of crust excellence!
I’m not sure if the Amalfi is always available, so when you make your reservations at Strada, ask in advance, or just call ahead and see if it can be requested. I think it’s a very unique and delicious pie, and I recommend it highly!
Find all the food specials, new menu additions, events and more from Strada Italiano by checking out their Dig Local Profile.
Below you will find one locally curated Scoop chosen for each day this week — but make sure to check out all the Scoops this week on our Dig Local Scoop Calendar.
75¢ Wing Night
New Daily Menu
There's a new daily menu at Chop Shop Butchery available Tuesday-Saturday. Order a plate of oysters on the half shell or a tasty sandwich with rotating dishes daily.
Movie Night: "They Shall Not Grow Old"
Watch this documentary about World War I with never-before-seen footage to commemorate the centennial of the end of the war. Free ticket with military ID!
LEAF Festival is "Breaking Ground" this year at the majestic Lake Eden in Black Mountain, NC with +400 performing artists, +80 craft vendors and so much more.
Intro to Chocolate: Mother's Day Event
Students will learn how to make 2 varieties of truffles and will also bake and decorate a flourless chocolate cake and white chocolate key lime tartlet. Grab tickets.
Mother's Day Market
Explore goods from 70+ local vendors, featuring up-cycled clothing, vinyl records, handcrafted jewelry, home decor, beauty products and more.
Drag Ya Mamma to Brunch
Asheville Drag Brunch will host a special sparkly Mother's Day show this year at The Grey Eagle. A fundraiser for Youth OutRight, this event will boast a full-service bar and bountiful brunch. Grab tickets.