Kicks! Quicks | Make pizza for lunch from Benito’s a part of your routine

For The Sun NewsApril 30, 2014 

  • If you eat

    What | Benito’s Brick Oven Pizza

    Where | 1596 U.S. 17 S., North Myrtle Beach

    Information | 272-1414 or www.benitosnmb.com

    Hours | Lunch: 11 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday; dinner: 4:30 p.m. daily

Benito’s Brick Oven Pizza is a place where the hospitality is as warm as the super hot brick oven that churns out delicious pizzas.

I recently realized that this long-time North Myrtle Beach eatery offers great lunches as well as dinners of pizza and a full range of Italian specialties.

Benito’s brought its signature brick oven to Myrtle Beach in 1993. About three years ago the restaurant expanded and that is when they started serving lunch.

“I’ve been with Benito’s 15 years or so, when we expanded we kept the same brick oven, using the old bricks to remake the oven in the new kitchen, piece by piece,” said manager Joe Guevara. “This is important because those old bricks have flavor embedded in them from all of the pizzas made over the years, flavors that enrich each pizza that is made.”

Known for its pizzas, Benito’s actually has an extensive menu of delicious things, most available at lunch as well as in the evening. They offer Italian standards including veal and chicken, lasagna, and light fare such as salads with or without chicken or shrimp on top.

In addition, they have their own creations, such as Romanissimo, shrimp and chicken sautéed together in olive oil and served over angel hair pasta or penne. Joe says his favorite way to have it is over the penne pasta.

Two of the more popular appetizers are the caprese salad, (tomatoes and mozzarella with a bit of basil, olive oil and vinegar drizzle) and the white pizza, a heavenly pie – no sauce, just cheese, garlic, olive oil and a little fresh basil.

The restaurant also has an extensive children’s menu with items like chicken tenders with fries, pizzas, mac and cheese, ravioli, and more.

The special lunch menu offers a wide range of items that are budget-friendly as well as tasty, starting as low as $6 and going up to about $10.

Loyal locals and out-of-town annual vacation visitors often greet Joe by name when they enter, a testimony to the hospitality he and the wait staff provide. They make every effort to make diners feel at home, filing special requests and simply greeting and smiling with sincerity

According to Joe, one of the reasons people return time after time for lunch and dinner is the quality of the food. In true Italian style, the restaurant pays a lot of attention to the prima materia, or the prime material, the basic food used in the recipes.

“We buy the best. I am the one in charge of buying and I only purchase the best cheese, tomatoes for sauces, meats and vegetables. We get everything fresh. Also, we make a lot of the base things, like sauce, ourselves. We cut our own sausage we cook our own sauce for 3.5 hours – we use top quality we want to make sure people are happy,” Joe said.

He added, “If my trusted suppliers are out of something, I don’t serve it until they get it in. For example, veal from my suppliers is top quality, so I will not compromise the dish by running out to get something from a local store. I would rather tell a customer the truth that we ran out or could not get it in that day.”

My friend Sally DeBartolo recently arranged a lunch for the ladies in our Carolina Italian American Organization. There were 20 of us, and although Benito’s doesn’t usually take reservations they did appreciate the advance notice for our large group so they could have enough staff on hand and so we could sit as close together as possible. They placed us at two adjacent tables of 10, so that in true Italian style we could get up and greet each other with a hug and a kiss.

Orders among this crowd varied from salads to lunch special mini-pizza with salad, to several of the other lunch specials, with orders of iced tea and water predominating as drinks.

I wasn’t in the mood for a salad so I ordered from the appetizer menu. In the end, I chose the personal white pizza with thin crust, larger than the pizza that came with the salad, but was still small enough to be called “personal.” For me it was definitely perfect; I ate two slices and took two home to my husband.

The pizza was perfect in more than size. The crust was crisp on the bottom and chewy at the edges. Cheese was spread out evenly across the surface with garlic and oregano, fresh basil and just the right amount of olive oil. A bit of a bite when I added red pepper flakes and fulsome but not heavy.

No calorie counts were given but I felt virtuous after this lunch. Why not? The pizza was so light it almost floated across the table.

Ann Sirianna ordered the chicken Marsala and proclaimed the accompanying side order of pasta “delicious” and the chicken Marsala so good that she boxed up most of the chicken and the veggies that also came with it to eat for supper that night.

One of the nicest aspects of the attentive service was that we were all served at one time. Joe says the secret to being able to serve the pizzas quickly and at the same time as the other entrees is one of the advantages of a brick oven.

“This oven is so hot, it only takes five minutes to cook a pizza and our oven is so larger we can cook a lot at once. We start the oven about two hours in advance.”

Of course, with 20 women, individual checks were the order of the day, which wasn’t problem and was cheerfully done.

Thanks to their brick oven and heartfelt service, I am now a firm believer in pizza for lunch! Whether Joe Guevara is on duty to greet you or General Manager Jay Langeneck, you can be sure that a meal at Benito’s will be delicious and delightfully served.

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