Casanova Pizzaria 

The face of Boise's pizza scene has changed dramatically since I moved here from Los Angeles 14 years ago. Back then, Boise's choices boiled down to the gourmet pizza with fluttering wings, the thick crust connection from Chicago, a handful of Papas, and the big franchise hut. Today, it seems like you can't drive more than a mile without passing another new pizza joint. Frankly, the infusion of fresh tomato sauce into Boise's gastronomic veins has been a very good thing.

Casanova Pizzeria placed third in this year's Best of Boise reader's poll--a mighty feat for a restaurant that has only been open 10 months. The owner hails from Connecticut, so as you enter the corner storefront, you might be greeted with a thick, East Coast inflected, "How you doin'," that sounds more like a statement than a question. Casanova's menu features 23 specialty pizzas fired in a brick oven heated by a wood fire. The result is a thin crust that is both crispy and chewy. There are also nine sandwiches, three salads, and 39 toppings with which to build a custom pie.

While at a table for five to celebrate my father-in-law's 87th birthday, it didn't take long for our waiter to deliver a round of beer, wine and sodas. As we looked over the menu on this Tuesday night, I noticed that the small dining room was full. While my family chanted, "Pizza! Pizza!", I considered the sandwich options and reasoned I could split one with my husband and still mooch a slice from the family without doing too much damage to my waistline. A tempting Italian hoagie ($6.75) made with salami, ham, capocollo, mortadella and provolone cheese almost caused me to sacrifice my body to the restaurant review gods. But instead I selected the oh-so carbilicious roasted veggie sandwich ($5.25) made with hot eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, onions and melted provolone cheese. The birthday grandpa wanted his custom pizza quartered, with a different topping on each quadrant. His request for scallops, clams, anchovies and eggplant was gladly fulfilled. Birthday Grandpa shared his pizza with me and I could feel the knife of the review gods plunging into my heart as I lay down on the altar of savory seafood-topped pizza. It was so good. Grandmother and grandson split a small pie with pepperoni ($6.50), which they both agreed was really good.

Our waiter was friendly and prompt, but lousy at taking empty plates whenever he came by to deliver food or check on us. I remember from my waitressing days: never leave a table with empty hands. We had to ask him more than once to remove our used tableware. Tabletop clutter aside, the food was good and we'll go back again.

--Jennifer Hernandez stays young by sleeping in a hyperbaric pizza oven.

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