Riverton • The words roll off my tongue, intended to be somewhat of a confession but sounding more like a warning: “Just so you know, I’m originally from Massachusetts.”
It’s not the first time I’ve given a restaurant owner a heads-up about my New England upbringing — and an indication of where my pizza loyalties lie. New York style, if it isn’t already clear. (Sorry, folks, but Chicago deep dish isn’t pizza. But it is a great pie/casserole.)
So my expectations for Wicked Peel Pizza Kitchen — its name influenced by Boston slang and its pizzas by New York and Neapolitan styles — were quite high.
And it did not disappoint.
The Riverton restaurant not only serves solid slices, it also surprises with its appetizers, desserts and drinks — yes, drinks. In fact, the entire menu highlights fresh, quality ingredients and a lot of hard work by the owners, Charlie and Marylee Wallwork, and their staff.
Consider the lemonade ($3.89) and Italian cream soda ($3.95), beverages readily available from vendors, yet items that are made in-house. Both get praise for their handcrafted, fruit-infused flavors.
The cheese bread ($6.95) and mozzarella sticks ($7.95) also earned high marks, although the triangular fried cheese was the clear favorite with its lightly coated, yet crisp, exterior and gooey interior. Only the buffalo wings appetizer ($8.95), coated in a mild sauce, fell somewhat flat.
The pasta and pizza put everything back on track.
I couldn’t resist the spaghetti and meatballs ($10.95), a snapshot of better things to come. Some diners, Wallwork said, have questioned the thickness of the sauce, but I found the thinner marinara better coated the noodles while complementing the savory, herb-packed gluten-free meatballs.
Those flavors take time to build, said Wallwork, who starts his day making all the time-consuming sauces. He also takes credit for the pizza dough, the foundation of his New York-Neapolitan-style pies.
Although New York style evolved from the Neapolitan pizza, they now often differ in crust and cook. Wicked Peel serves a middle ground — the thin crust isn’t as airy or charred on the edges as a Neapolitan pizza, but it cooks more quickly than most New York pies in the combination gas and wood-fired oven that heats up to 1,000 degrees. The hybrid base produces thin, foldable slices, although I do wish Wicked Peel offered larger rounds, which now measure 11 inches and 16 inches.
Cheese lovers will appreciate the quattro formaggi ($9.95/$18.95) and garlic formaggi ($9.95/$18.95), both of which feature fresh mozzarella, provolone, asiago and pecorino-romano. The quattro has a tomato sauce that, at times, can seem a bit runny when paired with fresh mozzarella, yet the crust holds up. The garlic is more formidable, with its pungent sauce, salty aftertaste and drips of excess oil, which I enjoyed but others might find off-putting.
I have a similar “more is better” feeling about the sausage atop the Salsiccia Primo ($10.95/$20.95) and The Brooklyn ($11.95/$20.95). The dark red crumbles tasted of fennel and other herbs and spices, building flavor with each bite. On the Salsiccia, the sausage pairs with roasted red and green peppers, and on The Brooklyn, it stars with thinly sliced pepperoni and briney green olives, as well as ham and mushrooms.
The Brooklyn is the house specialty and the pizza Wallwork said he makes at home. Many of the dishes at Wicked Peel draw from similar inspiration. The vodka cream sauce on the Wicked vodka pizza ($10.95/$20.95) came about years ago after the Wallworks discovered it was the only way their son would eat chicken, and the rigatoni with sausage and peppers ($11.95) and cheese sticks became crowd favorites when the couple cooked for racers and their crews.
Two desserts — the tiramisu and Biscotto ($5.95) — stood out. Marylee Wallwork, who oversees the dessert menu, makes the espresso-infused tiramisu ($5.95), light and creamy. And she claims to have searched for a year and a half for the centerpiece of the Biscotto, a freshly baked, decadent salted caramel cookie topped with ice cream.
The freezer-burned pistachio gelato was less pleasing, and the Nuts Italia was good but not memorable. Wicked Peel has replaced the Nuts Italia with a mud pie while strawberries are out of season. Other changes to the recently updated menu include the addition of an alfredo-based pizza.
The Wallworks said there is more to come, from a larger selection of pastas to additions to the mural depicting the New York City skyline — a tribute to not only the victims and survivors of 9/11 but the pizza the couple love so much.
Wicked Peel Pizza Kitchen • (★★★ (out of ★★★★) Named for Boston slang and the baking tool, it serves thin, foldable slices inspired by New York- and Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Food • ★★★
Mood • ★★★
Service • ★★★
Location • 3956 W. Innovation Drive, Riverton, UT 84065; 801-810-2811
Online • wickedpeel.com
Hours • 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Children’s menu • Yes
Prices • $$
Liquor • Yes
Reservations • Parties of eight or more on Fridays and Saturdays
Takeout • Yes, call; online ordering coming soon
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • Yes