Saturday, Mar. 9
By Kathy Kirkpatrick
Special to the Times-Democrat
Todd and Liz Eisenhauer, owners of the Black Bear Bistro & Cellar, 32 Main St., Warrenton, have always prided themselves on using the best farm-fresh, local and organic ingredients to prepare made-to-order delicacies.
Meals at the Bistro are complemented by a variety of Virginia wines and a rotating selection of Virginia-brewed beers on tap.
The Eisenhauers wanted to expand upon that fresh-and-local vision and offer diners more late-night options. So they teamed up with Bob Moore, owner of Shelf Life Functional Furnishings, as a partner in The Brick to bring a new dining experience to Old Town.
The Brick is described by Eisenhauer as a wood-fired Neapolitan pizza bar.
While there are many different types of pizza, and everyone has a personal favorite, the Neapolitan-style pie is not your average American pizza.
Authentic Neapolitan pizza is characterized by doughs made only with flour, water, sea salt and yeast, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh mozzarella and cooked in dome-shaped, wood-fired ovens.
The artisanal food movement in America has made Neapolitan-style the pizza of choice for chefs and serious home cooks interested in using traditional recipes and quality ingredients.
There are three basic Neapolitan pizzas.
The Margherita features modest amounts of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
The Marinara is simply garnished with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil.
The Bianca, or white pizza, uses garlic, olive oil and fresh rosemary.
Traditionally, these pizzas are served unsliced, then either eaten with a knife and fork or torn by the hands and folded over to eat.
The crust is opened and stretched entirely by hand, and, as a result is thin on the inside and thick and airy on the ends.
The pizza is brought to life in a domed, wood-fired, 905-degree oven with a stone cooking surface. The pizza is cooked on the stone, not in a pan.
The intense heat blackens the air bubbles, peppering the flavor of the pizza, creating a crisp, but not cracker-like crust.
Another characteristic of Neapolitan pizza is its 12-inch size. The emphasis is on quality, not quantity. It's fun to share, but is usually a meal for one.
The vision for The Brick also incorporates a bit of the European style of communal eating. Patrons will have their choice of seating around the pizza bar (watching your pizza being made), at one of many private tables, or at a large, shared table designed to encourage interaction and enhance the community atmosphere the owners are striving to achieve.
The Brick is not replacing or changing the Bistro. A building expansion will provide plenty of room for The Brick, which will be adjacent to the Bistro with its own entrance, but the two establishments will have a uniquely integrated design.
Dining areas will be commingled to a degree such that some will offer Bistro-only fare, some will be committed to Brick items, and others will offer patrons a choice of both.
Initially, The Brick will serve dinner on weeknights until about 10, but will be open for both lunch and dinner on weekends, with food service continuing until about 11 p.m. These hours are expected to evolve and will be adjusted to meet customer demand.
The ultimate goal is for The Brick to fill the late-night food gap in Old Town, giving patrons a place to enjoy after-hours relaxation supplemented by fine food and beverage options.
The Bistro has always been a restaurant that serves drinks, not a bar that also has food. The Brick hopes to continue that tradition.
Eisenhauer intends to offer a standard selection of pizzas that will be based on one of five sauces. There will also be daily and/or weekly specials, along with seasonal offerings and a build-your-own pizza option.
The Brick will have an interesting reward program, too, where regular diners will earn discounts based upon their number of visits and/or pizzas consumed.
Interested customers will be assigned a personalized wooden peel, the wide flat “shovel" traditionally used for sliding pizzas onto and off of the baking stone in an extremely hot oven.
These peels, which will be displayed in the restaurant, and will not only be used to prepare and serve pizzas, but will also record customer preferences, number of visits, etc.
The timing of the grand opening is weather-dependent as some key construction processes still need to be completed.
As mid-March nears, keep an eye on the Bistro's website www.blackbearbistro.com
or The Brick's facebook page (search "The Brick at Black Bear Bistro") for more information on the opening date.