Hearth Wood Fired Pizza pleases with a fresh new taste on classic favorites
By Alyssa Hudspeth | As evening falls upon this beautiful coastal town we call home, hunger pains quickly give way to the charming thought of the medley of restaurants lining Bay Street. As the fragrant dance of eclectic fare drifts upon my senses, I decide that it is time to make our way back to where we are parked. My son and I make our way up a sublimely brick-laid pathway as he tells me of his new friends.
As we approach the corner of Bay Street, a singular hanging sign sways in the soft breeze, it’s warm and inviting name grabbing my attention, Hearth Wood Fired Pizza. As we peer in bashfully, it becomes evident that this wasn’t your ordinary pizza joint. As my hunger barks at me, we decide to move inside.
Just as we clear the doorway, we are promptly greeted with several smiling faces, eager to have us for the evening. We are utterly in awe of Hearth’s atmosphere. Lined with elegant seating, Hearth’s decor seems to lull us in beyond the hostess station. She recommends the “oven bar” where my son could experience the preparations of his meal in the making.
Against a gorgeously arranged wall of wooden tree disks, blazes a hefty, gorgeous, red-enameled wood-fired oven. From here, it is affirmed that Hearth’s every square inch was meticulously considered and constructed with care. From the lighting, the seating, the decor and the flow, Hearth has heart pounding appeal. Gorgeous honey-toned hardwoods give way to beautiful, rustic focal pieces that intermittently carry you toward the back of the restaurant. Delightful, matte Moroccan inspired tiles embrace the bar surrounds, invoking a fresh experience to the generic decor that may be found in cookie-cutter restaurants. As we are led closer to the oven bar, my attention is prodded as I catch a refashion in lighting. As I direct my gaze upward, the main dining area houses massive hanging baskets that smoothly segue to a more seductively beautiful lighting. Hearth’s decor is sure to enchant scrutinizing customers and designers alike.
Okay,….I’m impressed, but how’s the food?
Seated at the ever hypnotizing oven bar, our server, Melvin, greets us with one of the best personalities I’ve ever witnessed in any human being – with a bottle of chilled flat water in hand. Melvin is arguably one of the best servers this side of the Mississippi. I digress. He asks for our beverage choices and offers his suggestions of appetizers before he departs.
While waiting, we review Hearth’s menu choices. The menu alone is incredibly refreshing. Let’s get real people, if you don’t know a pizza place offers classics like pepperoni or plain cheese…you need to question life. Hearth’s menu catalogues their specialty pizzas, a few pastas and starters in a smart attempt to keep one from being over stimulated by some 17 page Italian menu – that I’m sure we’ve all experienced.
Do they offer more than specialty pizza? Yes, you may order virtually any pizza your heart desires as well, but I MUST highly recommend their suggestions. I was absolutely a simple, classic pizza kind of gal…before I arrived at Hearth!
As Melvin arrives back with our beverages and basket of fresh dipping bread, I ask for his recommendations of entrees in which he replies, “oh my…everything is so good!” After all was said and done, we place a colossal order of Panzanella for appetizer, “The Veg” pizza (which by Melvin’s recommendation, I add a sprinkle of bacon lardons), their Wood Fired Lasagna, Eggplant Parmesan, The Hawaiian and a kids pepperoni pizza.
We became utterly enthralled by the oven while waiting for our food to arrive. The process reminds me somewhat of coal being fed into the firebox of a train. It was fascinating to be an observer at the oven bar.
As we watch the food being prepared, the chef took time to engage directly with my son, even offering him his own dough to play with and mash out. What a great idea for parents with children! We are intermittently greeted by managers who never left the floor, which in my opinion makes for a much smoother experience for customers and staff alike. I can’t help but detect the level of service offered at Hearth. It was unquestionable that every single employee was there to be on a team and it absolutely showed! I have never been quite so impressed with management or serving staff the way that I am with Hearth’s regard for their customers.
Shortly after placing our order, the Panzanella arrives. Adorning the plate are gorgeously vibrant tomatoes, red onions, capers and cucumbers. After topping this appetizer with divinely jagged ciabatta bread pieces and a rich dashing of red wine vinaigrette, this appetizer was a breath of fresh air against traditional salads that tend to be laced with bore.
When our food arrives, it is organized before us much like that of a feast. My eyes grew fat as I tried to establish my starting point. My son gnashes at the first bite of his pepperoni pizza, and ya’ll….the cheese is breathtaking. As the thick strings of cheesy mercy clung to the crust, my son looked over at me with a twinkle in his eye and exclaimed “WOW! Check this out!”
With eyes bright much like a child on Christmas, I decided to start with “The Veg” pizza, and I must say it was fantastic. I have never liked veggie pizza, or anything closely resembling it. I immediately take back every judgement I made prior to visiting Hearth. Each slice was perfectly congruent with absolutely decadent toppings. “The Veg” is embellished with a savory blend of garlic spiked kale, pesto, roasted red peppers, perfectly caramelized onions, ricotta bechamel and highlighted with roasted tomatoes (and in my case, a sprinkle of bacon lardons). It’s positively some of the best pizza I have ever had. I can’t thank Hearth and Melvin enough for recommending this new favorite.
Then I turned my attention to the perfectly plated and portioned lasagna. Oozing decadence at every corner, this is a dish that will leave anyone completely satisfied from start to finish. The hefty stack features a chunky meat bolognese sauce, a creamy bèchamel, with a hint of fresh basil that smoothly undulated through each bite and layered evenly between house-made, hand rolled lasagna noodles. Upon learning that Hearth’s lasagna is prepared with bèchamel opposed to too heavy ricotta, I was thrilled. Bèchamel is often replaced by ricotta -for reasons that are lost on me-, but lasagna is traditionally prepared featuring bèchamel- just as the good Lord intended. I promptly reminded myself not to gorge as I had two other entrées begging for my attention.
As I dive into the eggplant parmesan, it settles within myself that perhaps I have never known exciting eggplant parm before arriving to Hearth. Rather than drenching every inch of this dish in a pond of red sauce, Hearth has cleverly opted tossing the spaghetti in a brightly flavored pesto sauce that adds such a beautiful depth. Arranged atop the pesto spaghetti is a serving of superbly crispy slices of eggplant that they have lightly dressed with Sunday sauce and thick mozzarella. In a dish that can so easily become overcooked and lifeless, Hearth breathes new life into a traditional favorite.
Looking to my left, I can almost feel the Hawaiian pizza glaring at me, waiting for me to give it a try. I cut my first slice and savor the first bite. Studded with wood fired pineapple, piquant bacon lardons, red onion shavings, deliciously spicy pickled serrano peppers and ham; Hearth hits another home run with their delightfully spicy twist on a fun favorite.
Hearth offers a sophisticated, yet relaxed atmosphere with bounds of attention to interior detail as well as their fare. If you are lucky enough to find yourself wandering down Bay Street or are just looking for a restaurant that hits it out of the park, I highly recommend stopping by Hearth to try the incredible food and the unmatched customer service.
Hearth is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. Check them out at 802 Bay Street in historic downtown Beaufort and find them on Facebook here.