249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City ; 801-364-1368
Thin-crust pizza and pastas share the menu with entrees and dining tables share the room with pool tables in this hip pizza place.
Cuisine: American, Pizza
Hours: M-S, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Su, 5-9 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: All-you-can-eat pizza on Sin Sunday, polenta appetizer, house salad.
June 28, 2006
More to Stoneground than pizza
By Mary Brown Malouf
At least since the new downtown library opened in 2003, Salt Lake City has had two distinct downtown cultures, both of them tourist must-sees, neither of them in the largely shuttered central business district. At one end of town is the city's ecclesiastical center, Temple Square. At the other end is the emphatically secular library, which, with the City-County Building, has become the natural gathering place for peace protests, jazz festivals and, a few weeks ago, the Gay Pride Parade.
The first night I planned to eat at Stoneground Pizza, right across from the library, I called first -- always a prudent move if you want to eat out in Salt Lake City on a Sunday evening. There was clearly a party going on in the background. The person who answered the phone advised me to come another night. "It's crazy here and we're only serving 'Sin Sunday, all the pizza you can endure.' " Evidently, parade-goers had gotten hungry and gone to the pizza buffet.
When there is no parade, Stoneground tends to be a comfortably quiet place to nosh, chat, play a little pool, sip a little beer or wine and watch whatever game is on TV. Enter Stoneground from the rear parking lot by Trent Call's graffiti masterpiece or from the streetside, through the door by Caffe d'Bolla (a good place for bubble tea, if you're into that). Either way, there's something appealingly private about the speakeasylike second-floor location. The row of windows looking toward a piece of the mountains keeps the space from being claustrophobic. The Barney Rubble-style minimalist decor -- faux stone tables, raw walls, bare floors -- invites you to be casual. A couple of pool tables remind you which end of downtown you're in.
Service is breezy: Expect a certain amount of banter from the young servers, but not by any means careless. And the kitchen seems to take itself seriously.
Expecting pizza and pasta from the name, I was surprised at the list of full-on main dishes on the menu: not just pasta, but pork tenderloin, shrimp, chicken, even the on-the-verge-of-ubiquitous flatiron steak, as well as salads and appetizers that are more like heavy bar food.
We ordered bruschetta ($7) to accompany a couple of glasses of 2004 Smoking Loon merlot ($6 a glass, $25 a bottle): six toasted bread slices smeared with tomato sauce, topped with garlic, cheese and some greens. They were a little more like French bread pizza than classic bruschetta, but unfortunately are what some people have come to expect from this word. More interesting is the polenta appetizer ($7); the fried cornmeal cakes are given a Southwest twist with green chilies and cheese.
The best meal I ate at Stoneground was the simplest. A house salad ($8) was marvelous. Greens were tossed in a honey-balsamic vinaigrette studded with white dollops of tart goat cheese, crunchy candied walnuts and caramelized grapes. I don't know how this salad was saved from sweetness overkill, but it was, at the same time eliciting the kind of bowl-scraping response that one usually sees only with ice cream sundaes.
Following this, a thin-crusted 12-inch pizza ($13; a 16-inch large is $17), spread with basil pesto and topped with more goat cheese and plump mushrooms, made a perfect warm-weather supper. But we were disappointed in the margherita pie ($11). Instead of the clean fresh tomato, sharp basil and milky mozzarella we anticipated, this was more like a basic pizza with sauce and a blanket of cheese.
The Leonardo ($15) -- the name of the flatiron plate -- featured a slightly soft (read: off) piece of meat with sautéed vegetables and a runny risotto. Though the reasonable price of the newly popular cut makes a steak entree possible in a pizza place, beef is still probably not your best choice here. The kitchen is more successful with dishes such as the meatball sandwich ($8), a gorgeously messy yet manageable double fistful of ground pork and beef meatballs in tomato sauce topped with melted cheese on well-toasted (but light enough to be bite-able) bread. The menu lists this sandwich as open-face, and I guess it would be for the more fastidious, but I just popped on the top bread slice and rolled up my sleeves.
I expected more from baked ziti ($11). The casserole pasta seemed like just the kind of comfort food this kitchen could master, but it turned out to be uncomfortably bland, with an overly unified soft taste and texture. "Grandma's" pasta ($9), a simple toss of angel hair in olive oil, butter, herbs and garlic with a sprinkling of asiago cheese, was better, each ingredient discernible but complementary. Shrimp al diavolo ($13) also had character; the predictable tomato sauce over the linguine and shellfish were given a lift with smoky chipotle.
In contrast to the long list of main dishes, Stoneground offers one dessert: the inevitable tiramisu ($5). I have to admit I am not a fan. Along with molten chocolate cake, tiramisu is the trendiest of desserts, following in the wake of past sweet fads crème brûlée and flourless chocolate cake. No matter where I have tried it, someone has told me it's "the best" and yet not only does there seem to be no standard recipe for tiramisu -- I've never had it presented the same way twice -- the only common quality among all the ones I've eaten is the consistency, which is mush. This one was that, and sweet. My companions liked it.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.