BECKLEY, W.Va. -- If you are going to be in the Beckley area, try to arrange to be there for a meal at Calacino's Pizzeria on Robert C. Byrd Drive.
It's a well-established (1934) dining spot popular with the locals. The wait staff is friendly and attentive, the owner solicitous.
I was there last month for lunch (for the third time, but who's counting?). This go-round with daughter-in-law Aimee and grandtots Annabella and Jake.
As luck would have it, Aimee and I were made pizza critics by the owner. She didn't know me and still doesn't, so it wasn't a situation of Calacino's catering to someone who might possibly write about them.
The restaurant was debuting a spinach pizza pie that day and wanted our opinion because we were the first paying customers to give it a whirl. It had received a thumbs up from the staff, but the owner was anxious for our everyday-public viewpoint.
All the ingredients were fresh and wholesome in the tomato, onion, red bell pepper and feta pie with a finishing flourish of fresh baby spinach across the top, all on one of the best pizza crusts ever. The thin crust was crisp and crunchy with each bite.
If you don't go with the spinach pie, which passed our palates with flying colors, you can assemble your own fresh vegetable pizza to go with another must-try -- their heaping-plate Greek salad with homemade dressing. The not-too-tart light dressing originated with the co-owner's Greek grandmother.
If you skip the pizza, their house-made thin flatbread is a good substitute. One is topped with hummus, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives and feta. The other is spread with Mediterranean spices, roasted garlic oil, basil pesto and Parmesan cheese.
Another veggie-packed entrée is their Greek "Z" Veggie Stacker, a sandwich on flatbread with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, mixed peppers, onions, basil pesto, mushrooms, green and black olives, feta and house dressing.
With the meatless choices available, Calacino's is a vegetarian stronghold without meaning to be. However, they still have plenty of meat-centered items as well.
The pepperoni rolls aren't to be missed. The rolls are prepared from scratch and upon order. The pepperoni slices are encased in the house-made pizza crust, baked and served hot from the oven, soft and crisp at the same time from a crusting of Parmesan cheese. They are partnered with warm marinara sauce from the homemade meatballs for dipping.
If you're a fan of hot and spicy (heavy emphasis on the spicy) don't overlook Dominick Kick'n Chicken Stacker, highly recommended by me.
Calacino's Pizzeria is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and is closed on Sunday. For a complete menu, visit www.calacinos.com.
I know it doesn't feel like soup weather, but Calacino's offerings reminded me of a flavorful and easy minestrone recipe Aimee discovered and shared.
It calls for refrigerated cheese tortellini, but that's generally made with white pasta. I elected to substitute it with the refrigerated whole-wheat cheese ravioli.