This post is mostly about a cool new pizza restaurant and a tiny little bit about change. Here we go – – An older, well established neighborhood I once traveled through every school day for four years is experiencing a revitalization of sorts. It’s one of those communities where many well-seasoned homes and businesses are lived in, loved, well cared for or forsaken, then restored – repeat. I remember Plaza Pharmacy on the corner of Ponce and N Highland. My dad would go there for whatever and I tagged along. It was cool because the drug store interior felt and looked old school. There was even a retro soda fountain. The lunch counter spanned almost the entire front of the store and even had throwback mixers and such.
Right across the street was and still stands an old high rise that really creeped me out. Well, it was just the top floor that did. Whatever existed behind those windows was never illuminated when I saw it. My imagination took me everywhere and, to this day, I still don’t feel comfortable gazing up at those windows.
Just around the corner from the old Plaza Pharmacy (which, by the way, is now a clothing store) are more familiar buildings with new residents, retailers and restaurants neighboring newly constructed structures serving similar purposes. The most recent of these is the 675 N. Highland building. It’s a fairly large, mixed use development with the cool little restaurant I mentioned earlier occupying a space on the street level. I had an opportunity to dine there with an intimate group of food bloggers and found it to be a nice place to grab a bite and connect.
I don’t know the complete history of the Poncey Highland Community, but I’m familiar with it enough to understand what long time residents and visitors love about the area. I appreciate the character of the past but I also welcome change. It can be a good thing, which is why I was excited to visit Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads. I expected to find familiar items (aka pizza) on their menu and some new ones as well. I wasn’t disappointed.
The open concept industrial dining room offers views to the kitchen where diners can watch their pizzas get topped before they’re slipped into a brag-worthy New York Style Pizza Oven. That’s where the crisp crust happens folks.
While waiting for our pies and other menu samplings, there were beverages to be sipped. We tried Rize’s Hand Crafted Sangrias. The Marbella Red (bold red wine infused with orange, blueberry, strawberry) and Analucia White (crisp white wine infused with pear, lemon, ginger) were both delicious, however, I leaned more toward the white. It felt light and somehow energizing. I’m just going to attribute that to this thing I have going on with ginger right now.
As the plates arrived we learned about the inspiration behind the chef-driven menu. There are no freezers, fryers or microwaves in the restaurant. Rize believes in preparing fresh food so those items aren’t really needed. It’s also notable that many of the same ingredients are used conspicuously in some dishes and not so much so in others ( as broths & drizzles) which helps to minimize waste.
We started our experience with Small Plates. Here is what we sampled:
Old World Hummus | spiced walnuts, watermelon radish, tri-color carrot, peppadew peppers, olive oil, toasted lavash. Hummus in general is wonderful. This one is light and simple and made with chickpeas that have had the skins washed off so there’s no gritty flavor.
Stuffed Peppadew Peppers | whipped feta & crumbled fennel sausage, spiced walnuts, calabrese oil, parsley. This one was my FAVORITE dish of the night. There is a bit of a kick but I’m game for this any day. Loved it!!
Charbroiled Wings | spiced herb rub, ginger-honey sauce, cilantro. So good.
Charred Cauliflower | cauliflower florets, maple sesame dressing, spiced walnuts, pomegranate seed. This dish is prepared by getting a cast iron skillet super hot, then adding in the cauliflower and searing it dry. Bonus, it’s gluten free. What a cool take on a vegetable I intentionally ignore at the grocery store. I’d order it at Rize though. It’s good.
Grilled Pork Meatballs | fire roasted tomato, shaved grana Padano. These meatballs almost transported me to a backyard barbecue. They had a wonderful grilled flavor infused throughout.
Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini | torn flatbread crostini, pear chutney, pistachio chili crumble, balsamic reduction. Tasty.
After the appetizers we sampled four pizzas. We tried the Waverly, topped with prosciutto, gorgonzola, shredded mozzarella, asiago, fig jam, balsamic reduction and Grana Padano. This one was my favorite of the four. They kinda had me at prosciutto and fig jam.
There was also an Asian BBQ Chicken pizza with sliced bbq chicken, shredded mozzarella, charred red onion, green chili sauce, sesame seed, scallion and lime zest, the Delphi with roasted artichoke, Kalamata olives, fire roasted tomato, charred red onion, shredded mozzarella, feta, roasted garlic puree, baby kale and the Bianca made with roasted garlic puree, fresh and shredded mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, basil and oregano. The pizza options are diverse enough that even my family, with its mixed bag of appetites, will find something appealing on the menu.
Lighter fare at Rize includes a good selection of salads. Think Spice Road Chicken with sliced chicken breast, baby spinach, goat cheese, chickpeas, sweet peppers, fennel, basil, mint, cilantro, scallion and golden spice vinaigrette – or – Superfood with seared shrimp, quinoa, mixed lettuce, feta cheese, zucchini, cucumber, spiced walnuts and honey lemon vinaigrette – and even – Pear & Walnut with baby kale & spinach, sliced pear, spiced walnuts, smoked bleu cheese, charred red onion, fennel, pomegranate seeds and honey lemon vinaigrette. Ok, that last one though was like EVERYTHING!
For dessert there was Gelato & Sorbet. We sampled a few mini spoonfuls and then settled on something to fill a cup with. Gelato flavors included salted caramel, pistachio, tiramisu, cookies & cream, chocolate, Tahitian vanilla, bourbon brown butter pecan and mixed berry. The Sorbet choices were strawberry, lemon, mango and blood orange. In my cup… a scoop each of Salted Caramel and Bourbon Brown Butter Pecan. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Remember that little something about change I was rambling on about before? Had it not been for something as little as a big building being dropped in the middle of the Poncey Highlands, Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads would not have a chance to woo us with their refreshing Sangrias, savory Appetizers, Artisan Pizzas, light-hearted Salads and tempting Gelato. I’m glad they’re here. Now go give them a try. Welcome to the neighborhood Rize and Thank You!
For more information about Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads
Disclosure: The meal I enjoyed at Rize was complimentary. I received no monetary compensation for this post. All opinions are based on my own personal experience. You can view my full Disclosure Policy here.