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Pizzeria Lauretano

291 Greenwood Ave., Bethel, CT - (203) 792-1500
Posted By Michael Stern on 11/29/2009 8:47:00 AM
A gracious restaurant that also is a gallery for local artists and a Sunday-night venue for jazz musicians, Pizzeria Lauretano has become my favorite place to eat near home. Good as its pizza is, I never can start a meal without tucking into a walnut cranberry salad. There is nothing particularly exotic about it – the walnut-cranberry combo has become commonplace on menus – but this salad is inspired. Its ingredients include crisp romaine and tender red lettuce, a few hoops of ultra-thin-sliced red onion, plenty of dried cranberries, and a generous spill of crumbled gorgonzola cheese. It is dressed with a little olive oil and enough lemon juice to make every bite citrus-bright. The dissimilar sweetness of the cranberries and onion are a fascinating duet, as is the richness of the cheese poised against the tang of lemon. And the one element that puts the whole package into the stratosphere is a scattering of meaty halved toasted walnuts. The depth of their earthy crunch is beguiling contrast to the way the fresh romaine breaks with slight tooth pressure. It all adds up to a fabulous medley of taste and texture … and fine prelude to one of Lauretano's expertly-made brick-oven pizzas.

The single-size, single (large) serving pizzas are elegant and refined, and yet every bit as soulful as those from Connecticut's funkier famous places. They are very thin-crusted, cooked in a dome-top, wood-fired oven that proprietor Michael Lauretano obtained in Naples. The crust's chewy-brittle balance is exquisite, its flavor distinctive. The dough is made with flour also imported from Naples; and when it is baked, it puffs up along the edge so there may be a few spots that taste (quite deliciously) of carbon; but the whole thing is insinuated with fire because just before the pizza is ready to be pulled off the oven's floor, the pizzaiolo slides his peel underneath and holds it directly over the smoldering wood pile for a few moments, giving it a smoky perfume. I love the plain garlic pizza – a less-is-more gilded flatbread; heaven for crust-lovers – as well as the mighty sausage and broccoli rabe white pizza; there are tradition-minded margheritas and puttanescas as well as occasional specials that include a flank steak pizza with chimichurri sauce and a multi-vegetable garden pizza during the fall harvest.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Walnut Cranberry Salad
Panini
Garlic Pizza
Panini
Bread Sticks
Pizza Margherita
Garden Pizza
Pizza Puttanesca
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Do you like crust? Do you like garlic? If you answer 'yes' to both questions, you need to have one of Lauretano's garlic pizzas. It's a crisp, puffy-edged flatbread gilded with oil, minced garlic, a sprinkle of herbs and a dash of grated cheese. Heaven!
"Do you like crust? Do you like garlic? If you answer 'yes' to both questions, you need to have one of Lauretano's garlic pizzas. It's a crisp, puffy-edged flatbread gilded with oil, minced garlic, a sprinkle of herbs and a dash of grated cheese. Heaven!"
Michael Stern





Panini, made on ciabatta bread and grilled until crusty, are available only at lunch. This one is grilled vegetables and goat cheese.
"Panini, made on ciabatta bread and grilled until crusty, are available only at lunch. This one is grilled vegetables and goat cheese."
Michael Stern


Garden pizza, an autumn harvest special, is strewn with fresh vegetables, a few teeny-weeny grapes, and leaves of succulent pancetta.
"Garden pizza, an autumn harvest special, is strewn with fresh vegetables, a few teeny-weeny grapes, and leaves of succulent pancetta."
Michael Stern


A freshly-made pizza, hot from the oven, cannot be beat. Many pizzas are excellent when brought home and reheated. On the other hand, there is strange satisfaction to be found snatching cold slices straight from the box at an open refrigerator in the middle of the night. To accompany my chilled garlic pizza, I enjoyed Kirkland Signature Spring Water straight from the 16.9-ounce plastic bottle.
"A freshly-made pizza, hot from the oven, cannot be beat. Many pizzas are excellent when brought home and reheated. On the other hand, there is strange satisfaction to be found snatching cold slices straight from the box at an open refrigerator in the middle of the night. To accompany my chilled garlic pizza, I enjoyed Kirkland Signature Spring Water straight from the 16.9-ounce plastic bottle."
Michael Stern


Frequently the kitchen passes out little lagniappes to each table to accompany salad or to munch while you wait for your pizza to cook. These are thin breadsticks made with pizza dough. Other times, you'll get flattened dough cut into thin strips. Accompanying the excellent bread is a saucer of rosemary-sprinkled olive oil.
"Frequently the kitchen passes out little lagniappes to each table to accompany salad or to munch while you wait for your pizza to cook. These are thin breadsticks made with pizza dough. Other times, you'll get flattened dough cut into thin strips. Accompanying the excellent bread is a saucer of rosemary-sprinkled olive oil."
Michael Stern


Walnut cranberry salad is an elegant mix of greens, sweet dried cranberries, thin-sliced red onion, a spill of gorgonzola cheese, and earthy toasted walnuts. The dressing is bright and lemony.
"Walnut cranberry salad is an elegant mix of greens, sweet dried cranberries, thin-sliced red onion, a spill of gorgonzola cheese, and earthy toasted walnuts. The dressing is bright and lemony."
Michael Stern


Anchovies, capers, garlic, and olives give pizza puttanesca its pizzazz. Also atop the thin crust are fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce, grated cheese, and a spritz of olive oil. For all its funky flavors, this is a very civilized-tasting puttanesca.
"Anchovies, capers, garlic, and olives give pizza puttanesca its pizzazz. Also atop the thin crust are fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce, grated cheese, and a spritz of olive oil. For all its funky flavors, this is a very civilized-tasting puttanesca."
Michael Stern



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