The Food Guy: Mamma mia, this is good pizza (and more) in Bridgeport

Every time a reader calls or writes, stops me in the grocery store or comes up in a restaurant to share a dining out recommendation they think I should try, I always put it on my “hit list” of places to check out.

Always.

My recent “Tastiest Town” adventures in particular prompted lots of reader requests, so my bulging-at-the-seams culinary dance card now includes even more places in the cities featured (Lewisburg, Shepherdstown, Charleston, Morgantown, Fayetteville, Parkersburg and Huntington) along with hot spots in Wheeling, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Buckhannon, Beckley, Bluefield, Charles Town, even Alta, Capon Bridge and Gassaway, for goodness sake.

I may not be able to visit the place that week or month, maybe not even that year, but I can promise they all stay on my list until I do. Here’s proof of that.

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Back in March, Scott Depot reader Kathy Griffith wrote: “I have to tell you about my new favorite restaurant, Mia Margherita in Bridgeport. Today was my second visit there and I think they have the best caprese salad ever — and they have Moretti on draft! Next time you are up that way, please try it.”

I tucked that little tip away, not knowing when it might come in handy. Six months later, it did. We were returning from a midweek road trip to Pittsburgh and Morgantown with friends, looking for a nice place to stop for lunch.

“Have you been to Mia Margherita in Bridgeport?” they asked. “It’s really yummy.”

Sounds good to me, I said, and it wasn’t until we were almost there that I remembered Kathy’s message from before. “Holy (perhaps a curse word followed)”, I shrieked. I’m seriously psyched now!

And let me tell you, this little coal-fired pizzeria just off I-79 is seriously delicious.

Tucked at the end of a nondescript shopping plaza, Mia Margherita looks fairly unassuming from the outside. But walk in those doors and the sights, sounds and smells of a gourmet Italian bistro demand to be noticed.

A tastefully decorated bar, dining room and outdoor patio were all filled with happy customers. We grabbed a table outside and soon became four more.

The menu features a selection of soups, salads, appetizers, paninis, hoagies, burgers, pizzas, pasta, risottos, stews and more. Mouthwatering options include dishes like calamari fritti with lemon, roasted chile and oregano aioli; a smoked turkey & pancetta panini served with sea salt-Parmesan fries; and penne and grilled chicken Gorgonzola with creamy Alfredo and Gorgonzola sauce, coal-fired limoncello chicken, roasted red peppers and shiitake mushrooms.

There’s also grilled Atlantic salmon with rich vodka tomato cream, basil pesto and Swiss chard; sweet pea chicken & mushroom risotto; plus traditional spaghetti and meatballs, oven-baked lasagna and more.

And a variety of coal-fired artisan pizzas are built on house-made, hand-formed dough brushed with garlic olive oil to create a crisp, slightly charred crust and chewy center. Choices include many you would expect (margherita, American, Hawaiian, chicken pesto); plus carne diavolo (calabrese sausage, capicolla ham, hot soppressata, pepper rings, sweet onion, mozzarella, provolone); Florentino (pine nuts, baby spinach, grape tomatoes, mozzarella, feta); piemonte (seasonal wild mushrooms, mozzarella, Fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, arugula, white truffle oil); and the Spaniard (chorizo, kale, mozzarella, provolone, Manchego cheese, grape tomatoes).

Or you can build your own from a lengthy list of gourmet meats, veggies, cheeses, herbs, sauces, finishing oils and the like.

Tempting desserts range from traditional gelato, cannoli, tiramisu and panna cotta to the more swanky s’mores torte rustica, Nutella cheesecake and warm gallettes Napolean. A full bar also serves a nice selection of fine beer, wines and cocktails.

Between the four of us that afternoon — and I’m not kidding here — we ordered 10 different dishes to taste.

I devoured a kale salad with soft-cooked egg, grape tomatoes, garlic bread crumbs, crisp fried pepperoni and anchovy vinaigrette, then dug into my Il Fico (“The Fig Tree”) pizza featuring mozzarella, provolone and Fontina topped with shaved prosciutto, arugula, plump figs, fig puree, balsamic syrup and Gorgonzola. Washed it down with a pint of Kathy’s recommended Moretti, an Italian beer.

Others made short work of meatballs served with ricotta, fresh basil and Parmesan-Reggiano; chunks of fennel sausage fried with a blend of sweet and spicy peppers bathed in Romesco; coal-roasted chicken wings in a limoncello and Italian herb marinade with charred tomato aioli; a bacon, grape and blue cheese pizza with provolone and chianti syrup; and Italian wedding soup — the only disappointment of the day. (Not much flavor, not the consistency we expected.)

But everything else was so good that I’m already looking for a reason to head back. Even in a city with top-notch pizza and Italian options like Paterno’s, Lola’s and Pies & Pints, I think Mia Margherita would be a big hit in Charleston.

Hint-hint.

IF YOU GO: Mia Margherita, 139 Conference Center Way in Bridgeport, is open from 11 am to 10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am to 11 pm Friday-Saturday, 11 am to 9 pm Sunday. For more information, call (304) 808-6400 or visit www.miamargherita.com.

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Keeping with this week’s pizza theme, be sure to check back next week when I’ll share two more restaurant reviews rating the new Pepperoni Grill in Kanawha City and Mountain Pie Company in Hurricane.

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And finally, the folks at Stonewall Resort are gearing up for a new first-of-its-kind event with a tasting dinner featuring hard ciders crafted from West Virginia-grown heritage and heirloom apples next Friday, Sept. 23, at the resort south of Weston.

The four-course event, which begins at 7:30 pm, is being held in partnership with Lewisburg’s Hawk Knob Craft Cider & Mead. Resort officials say it’s the first known pairing dinner in the state featuring hard ciders made in the Mountain State.

“For those that haven’t tried Hawk Knob’s hard cider, it doesn’t resemble the mass produced ciders you may have tried,” said Steve Ludwig, Stonewall’s director of sales and marketing. “It’s less sugary, more complex, dry and truly delicious.”

Throughout the evening, the founders of Hawk Knob will discuss the cider-making process, as well as the history of cider and mead.

“What many may not realize is that cider was America’s first real beverage,” said Josh Bennett, co-owner of Hawk Knob. “There was more cider consumed in the 1700 and 1800s per capita than all soda pop now.”

That’s hard to believe!

On the menu that night …

n First course: stuffed baby gold potatoes with ham hock, Swiss chard, smoked trout, pickled shallots, capers, rye crostini, and deviled and deep-fried Powell Farms hen eggs. (Paired with Appalachian Classic Hard Cider, 8 percent ABV)

n Second course: market green salad with parsnip crisps, red spruce cheddar, spice-roasted walnuts, Fuji apple-bacon vinaigrette. (Appalachian Classic Hard Cider, aged in Smooth Ambler bourbon barrels, 11 percent ABV)

n Third course: roasted duck breast with sweet corn and duck leg polenta, cider-white Port reduction, habanero relish and apple chips. (Wild Fermented Traditional Hard Cider, aged in Smooth Ambler bourbon barrels, 11 percent ABV)

n Fourth course: double chocolate silk tart with berry mousse and black forest crumbs. (Elderberry-Infused Hard Cider, aged in Smooth Ambler bourbon barrels, 11 percent ABV)

Stonewall always does such a nice job with their culinary events, so I’m sure this one will be a blast as well.

The West Virginia Craft Cider Dinner Package, which includes the four-course dinner pairing, live music, overnight accommodations on Sept. 23 and two souvenir glasses is $199 per couple. For more information or to reserve you spot, call 304-269-7400 or visit www.stonewallresort.com.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

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