A guy came to my house to fix a broken window. As he was self-evidently from New York, we got to talking --moaning, really -- about the difficulty of finding decent bagles and pizzas in our sunny new home state. He recommended, though not with overwhelming enthusiasm, that I try Assagio's Italian Bistro in Raleigh (3501 W. Millbrook Drive). Last night my wife and I made the long journey from Chapel Hill. Nobody can say we're not dedicated to the cause of the local pizza.
Unfortunately, our half tank of gas went for nought. The place looks the part, a deli and restaurant with a display of imported Italian foodstuffs and the walls decorated with pictures of New York, but the pizza was only so-so, not much better than the local average. We had a sausage and onion, which I grade this way:
I would say that Assaggio's pizza is better than Sal's, about the same as Randy's, worse than Alfredo's, if this means anything to anyone. None of these pizzas, of course, are particularly good.
I've been called a snob for pointing out the scandalous reality that our local restaurants are serving food not as good as what can easily be prepared at home, but I cannot refrain from once again making this point. I really don't understand how a pizza joint can so completely fail in the elemental business of making a decent crust or sauce. When it comes to crust, the problem, I'm guessing, is threefold: mediocre flour, insufficient proof (Jeffrey Steingarten sagely recommends an overnight rise in the fridge), insufficient oven heat.
In addition to pizza, Assaggio's serves pasta dishes out of the Little Italy playbook -- various parms, rollatini, lasagna, etc. I will not return to try these, however, as the pizza sauce was so little confidence inspiring.
For dessert we had a sfogliatelle, the crispy clam-shaped pastry that I regard as one of the world's great treats. These are shipped frozen from New York and baked on premises. Sfogliatelle, as it turns out, travel surprisingly well, and we were able to scratch a perennial itch. The thing to do is to have dinner at nearby Waraji and then decamp to Assagio's for pastry and coffee.