Tabella's has changed its business plan to include a catering business and self-described farm-to-table pub and pizzeria. This has involved closing down Tabella's and opening the new restaurant in the same space, featuring more fixed price points, cocktails we love and new libations, and similarly sourced ingredients. We went last night to check it out.
The atmosphere: all the Amherst locals are out once the college kids are away. It's quietly raucous, people are enjoying themselves. There are outdoor and indoor seating areas, and the difference is striking. I've always found Tabella's to be a little dark on the inside and this has not since been improved. Evidently, this belief is shared, as the inside had no more than a few couples in it and a full set at the bar, but the outside was choked with people. We were invited to sit at a bench and order some drinks before we got a table. This bench is located inside the seating corral, and is somewhat awkwardly placed, as the two tables parallel to it will inevitably fall prey to some hungry staring from table-less customers. (Like us.) The outer seating area is also privy to some damned weird smells from the cinema as well as Fresh Side and La Veracruzana. We smelled frying oil, buttered popcorn, and roasted meat, the combination of which doesn't make for a very appetizing experience.
After being seated, we checked out the menu. Arise has chosen to include some old classics (chickpea fries, wings, cocktails) from the old Tabella's menu and I'm glad for that, although I still can't quite grok the idea of paying $8.50 for chickpea fries. The wine list is serviceable for the most part, but does include some little-known favorites that I was really jazzed to see. For example, the 2010 Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt, a sparkling German Riesling wine that I've enjoyed on a few occasions. Although for the record, it's "Fitz" Ritter, not "Fritz" Ritter.
Didn't try the cocktails. They're still heavily relying on the usage of full brand names and overly pretentious cocktail names that are uncomfortable to utter in public (Papal Prick!) but are incorporating interesting ingredients just the same. Lavender tequila and Clement creole shrub are new ones for me. We stuck with water and wine and ordered one of their nightly specials, a pizza topped with spicy Italian sausage, grilled onions, parmesan shavings, and Heirloom tomato salsa.
The pizzas are pricy. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Twenty bones is a lot to pay for a 12-inch pizza. Off the top of my head, Bread Euphoria charges $15 and change for a similarly sized pizza, and those are generously covered with toppings and leave plenty of leftovers. This pizza felt kind of skimpy in comparison. While delicious and obviously fresh, there was about an inch and a half of crust at the edge, and the toppings were haphazardly scattered, sparse on some slices, overflowing on others. The flavor was tasty. It was good, and it was filling. It did what it was supposed to. Unfortunately, it just didn't cut it for me. The tomato "salsa" was regrettably just another keyword lure in lieu of the dreadfully banal "chopped tomatoes." No jalapenos were present and the entire pizza had maybe 10-15 pieces of scattered tomato max. I expected this to be a lot more robust and spicy than it was.
The crust was the dominant flavor, a part I'm glad I enjoyed as my Connecticut pizza pedigree compels me to be extremely picky about crust. Arise uses a sourdough crust, easily subbed out for wheat or gluten-free with a small charge, and the flavor is tangy, but prone to overpowering the other toppings, depending on which pizza you get. It's also very dense, despite the thinness. I would have liked to see a little more char and crisp on the bottom.
For $30 (a pizza and one drink) it's not going to break the bank but I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed. The service was great, the servers were helpful and accommodating, and it felt well-paced. Some of the pizzas looked really ingenious (Adam: short ribs, balsamic reduction, caramelized onions, fresh potato chips!) but I can't help but wonder if they suffer from the same topping frugality and strange distribution. I can't say I'd give it another try. I don't live in Amherst, and there's no need for me to travel there when there are plenty of better places in the Northampton/Hadley area. However, it is exponentially better than any of the other Amherst center pizza joints (Antonio's, Alpha, Bruno's, Primo) and provides a good alternative for middle-aged adults who want to eat somewhere nice without rubbing elbows with loud students.
6/10 rating: needs improvement, has potential
Arise Farm to Table Pizzeria