Setting the Table
Dale Sorto is an experienced New York restaurateur and Harley-Davidson rider who visited the Myrtle Beach area for several years during annual bike rallies, and this year he decided to bring his recipes to Surfside Beach.
After months of remodeling the space at 821 Surfside Dr., he and his brother-in-law, Benito Muto, (they also have Benito's Pizzeria & Restaurant and Silvio's Italian Villa in Warwick, N.Y.) opened Surfside Beach Pizza & Restaurant in mid-August.
The restaurant has a dining room in the front with about 10 tables. Walls are painted a neutral vanilla milkshake beige, and the hardwood floor, tabletops and chair seats have rosy hues. The industrial exposed ceiling is black. Diners can either have a seat at a table and be served, or, for carry-out food, walk along the right-hand side to place or pick up orders at a counter along the back wall.
Down the Hatch
The best food I've tried here is the pizza, and it is excellent. The pizza dough is made on-site, and crusts are thin and crispy but with that classic New York-style foldability.
Personal-size pies are $6, and each topping is another $1. They yield eight small slices and are plenty big enough to share, especially if you also have a salad or appetizer. There are also regular-size pies that start at $11.25 with extra toppings $1.65 apiece, and Sicilian Pizzas starting at $14 with toppings at $1.75 each.
Toppings include extra cheese, mushrooms, peppers, black olives, eggplant, garlic, spinach, anchovy, meatball, bacon, ham, onion, broccoli, sausage and pepperoni. There's also a gluten-free crust option.
So-called "Gourmet" pizzas are $12.50-$19, and they are White Pizza with mozzarella and ricotta; Spinach Pizza; Broccoli Pizza; one with tomatoes, basil and garlic; Chicken Pizza with breaded cutlets and mozzarella; Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and mozzarella; and a Stuffed Pizza filled with ham, salami, provolone, onion, tomato, pepperoni, cheese and mozzarella.
My personal-size Eggplant Pizza was wonderful, and I count it among one of my top five pizzas. The eggplant was diced and sautéed, and was so tender it was fluffy.
I also tried an excellent Scungilli Salad ($7.25) where crispy and cold Romaine was bathed in a delicious mild vinaigrette and tossed with carrot curls, thinly sliced white onion, black olives and tomato chunks. The scungilli, or conch, had been pounded and marinated, and it was the most tender and delicious conch I've ever eaten - even better than some I had fresh out of the Caribbean Sea.
On another day I phoned in a carry-out order and was disappointed. The young woman who answered the phone had no clue what Gnocchi is - I had to spell it for her. After picking the food up and getting it home, I discovered the Gnocchi ($10, comes with Italian bread) was not in Vodka Sauce as I asked - it was in red sauce. Even worse, the little pasta dumplings were mealy, tough and way too chewy. I actually spit them out and threw the food away, which is a drastic step in my budget-minded household.
That day I also had Spinach Lasagna ($8) and was impressed with the generous portion of three small squares. This dish was average: the lasagna part was OK, but the marinara was too sweet for my liking, and I actually prefer red sauce with a bit of sweetness.
The menu is extensive, and other dishes include Calzones ($5.45-$6), hot and cold Heroes ($6-$9) and appetizers ($2.25-$8) such as Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Cold Antipasto, Calamari Marinara, Garlic Knots and Buffalo Wings. Pasta dishes ($7-$10) come with a choice of ziti, spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, ravioli, tortellini or gnocchi, and then you get to pick a sauce: tomato, garlic and oil, marinara, meatballs or sausage, mushrooms, red or white clam sauce, ala vodka, primavera, Alfredo, Parmesan or meat sauce.
Several Italian entrees are offered ($8-$18) such as Chicken Marsala, Chicken Artichoke, Veal Piccata, Sausage and Peppers, Eggplant Rollatini, Shrimp Scampi, Mussels Marinara, Cavatelli Shrimp Broccoli and Manicotti.
Children have four entree choices for $4.25-$6: Ravioli, Stuffed Shells, Pasta with sauce and one meatball or sausage, and Chicken Tenders with fries.
Beer and wine are served, and there is an extensive catering menu with trays that serve 8 to 20. Italian and Vegetarian Heroes are sold for $13 per foot.
Surfside Beach Pizza & Restaurant is at 821 Surfside Dr., Surfside Beach, and the phone number is 839-2512. It's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays. Delivery is available.
Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.