Sal’s Neighborhood  Pizzeria

However you slice it, pizza is the answer to many mealtime dilemmas. Almost universally loved, the pizza pie can be prepared in so many ways that even the pickiest of eaters can be satisfied. And now, during the holidays, ordering a pizza can take a load of work off the family cook and provide families with some much-desired variety. I mean, how many leftover recipes are there for turkey and ham?

We decided to drop in on a few island pizzerias and attempt to unearth their most classified secrets, but sadly, we were unsuccessful. However, we did return with just enough intel to whet your appetite, and make ordering a pizza a priority.

When patrons enter Sal’s, at Plantation Place, 3415 Frederica Road, the first thing they notice is the cozy, neighborhood feel, like the pizzerias found in New York and New Jersey. That was founder Sal Cenicola’s vision when he established the restaurant 12 years ago. The New Jersey native worked tirelessly to craft a homemade sauce, based on a family recipe. He spent years trying it out on friends and family before opening the restaurant, which pays tribute to his heritage and years as a championship boxer. Sal sold the restaurant to Holly and Ameet Shetty in May, and they plan to continue his mission of serving traditional familiar Italian comfort food.

When patrons enter Sal’s, at Plantation Place, 3415 Frederica Road, the first thing they notice is the cozy, neighborhood feel, like the pizzerias found in New York and New Jersey. That was founder Sal Cenicola’s vision when he established the restaurant 12 years ago. The New Jersey native worked tirelessly to craft a homemade sauce, based on a family recipe. He spent years trying it out on friends and family before opening the restaurant, which pays tribute to his heritage and years as a championship boxer. Sal sold the restaurant to Holly and Ameet Shetty in May, and they plan to continue his mission of serving traditional familiar Italian comfort food. (continued on next page)

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? “Everything is fresh; everything is prepared from scratch daily,” Holly said. “It would be easy to use cheaper ingredients, but we have stood fast and are keeping with the original, winning recipe.”

Everything, from the hand-tossed pizzas to the numerous entrees, is cooked in a gas-fired brick oven that reaches temperatures of 700 degrees F.

Which is the most popular menu item? Holly said several of Sal’s specialty pizzas are very popular, but the Margherita is the overall favorite. Margherita pizza uses Sal’s house-made sauce as its base, and is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, to represent the national colors of Italy (red, white and green).

The Marshal, dedicated to the men and women who serve at FLETC, is also popular. It’s a white sauce pizza finished with garlic butter, olive oil, ricotta cheese, mushrooms and onions, with Margherita seasoning and an olive oil drizzle.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? Gluten-free crust is available, and Holly added that some recipes can be modified for a customer’s dietary requirements or personal tastes.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? “Linguini and clams,” Holly said. “Most people get it time and time again.” Other popular items include their homemade lasagna and eggplant parmesan, both of which use Sal’s delicious red sauce.

Contact: Call (912) 268-2328, visit the Sal’s Neighborhood Pizzeria Facebook page or the website at salsneighborhoodpizzeria.com. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Hours are 4 am - 9:30 pm Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 11:30 am - 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Hildy’s Pizza

When Hildy’s, 511 Ocean Blvd., opened on Oct. 31, 2019, owners Jef Hildebrand and Alison Stowe envisioned a rocky start, but, like everyone else, had no idea that their first year in business would include adjusting for the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, they have persevered, and are one of three pizza places to stake their claim near the Pier Village.

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? Homemade, hand-rolled crusts made from dough made fresh daily. The crust, which can be made crispy or thick, is seasoned with garlic butter before baking.

Which is the most popular menu item? Hildy’s Special, which is topped with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, green pepper, onions and mushrooms, is the crowd favorite. “It’s our ‘supreme,’” said Stowe.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? Hildy’s offers a gluten-free cauliflower crust.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? A number of pasta dishes, including lasagna and spinach manicotti are also featured, but Hildy’s Italian sub has a lot of followers.

Contact: Call 912-434-9995, visit the Hildy’s Pizza Facebook page or their website at hildyspizza.com. Hours are from 4 - 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, with expanded hours in the summer months.

Mellow Mushroom

Mellow Mushroom is tucked back in the trees at 440 Kings Way, just before it intersects with Mallery Street. Since opening in January 2014, “Mellow” has become a popular stop. Mellow Mushroom is owned by local resident Bo Chambliss, who also owns four other Mellow Mushroom locations in South Georgia. (continued on next page)

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? Mellow Mushroom’s pizza dough is made in Atlanta. “We’ve used the same spring water since 1974,” said Jessica Snyder, operations manager for Chambliss’ restaurant group, Coastal Mellow. “It’s all natural, with no additives or preservatives, and it’s sweetened with molasses.”

Which is the most popular menu item? The “House Special” with five meats and five vegetables (covered with cheese, of course) is the customer favorite. “It has hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ham, green pepper, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and black olives,” said Snyder. The second-most popular is the “Backyard Barbecue” and features marinated pork, roasted poblano peppers, mozzarella cheese, a house-made barbecue sauce swirl, Peppadew peppers and chives. A Peppadew pepper, said Snyder, is cherry tomato-shaped pepper originally from South Africa. They are commonly sold in jars, pickled, and have a sweet-hot (but not too hot) flavor profile.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? Mellow Mushroom offers several gluten-free and vegan alternatives.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? The restaurant offers a number of sandwiches and salads, but general manager Mandy Bieda, who’s been at the St. Simons Island Mellow since day one, says their happy hour specials, including drinks, appetizers and slices of cheese pizza, are real people pleasers.

Contact: Call (912) 291-9108, visit the Mellow Mushroom St. Simons Island Facebook page, or drop by the website at mellowmushroom.com. Hours are 11 am - 10 pm seven days a week for food. The bar is open later on Fridays and Saturdays.

CJ’S Italian Restaurant

CJ’s, an island institution established in 1988, occupies a small space at 405 Mallery St., and was purchased by Graham and Ada Owens in 2012.

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? The crust, which is made daily. CJ’s specializes in a deep-dish Detroit-style crust. They also are known for their homemade tomato-based sauces and house-made garlic vinaigrette dressing. CJ’s also raises money for a number of organizations and supports local schools. See their website for details.

Which is the most popular menu item? The Special is the most popular. It’s topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, green peppers, onions and mushrooms. “It’s our ‘deluxe,’” said Ada.

“My favorite, and the reason I bought the place, is the Magic Mushroom,” said Graham. It’s deep-dish, and topped with shiitake mushrooms, pine nuts, red onions, apple-smoked bacon and fresh basil on a pesto sauce and covered with mozzarella cheese.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? CJ’s offers a gluten-free cauliflower crust.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? There is an extensive list of non-pizza items, from breadsticks to entrees such as Chicken Parmesan, but the crowd favorite is the Italian sub.

Contact: Call (912) 634-2711, visit CJ’s Facebook page, or their website at cjsitalianrestaurant.com. CJs is open only for curbside pickup. Hours are 4:30 - 8:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 4:30 - 9 pm Fridays and Saturdays.

V Pizza

V Pizza is the new kid in town. Occupying a corner of the Shops at Sea Island long-time residents will remember as the Blockbuster Video store, the restaurant has a rustic, trattoria-like feel.

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? A number of things set V Pizza apart, according to Ashley Carver, operations manager for the restaurant group. The restaurant opened in June 2020, and Carver says its Neapolitan (Naples) style is only a part of what makes them different.

“We serve true Italian pizza,” she said, adding that the restaurant is using 00 flour, which is naturally low in gluten and bleached by the sun, rather than a chemical process. “We import it from Italy, along with other ingredients.”

The sauce is made in-house from San Marzano tomatoes, which are hand-picked at the base of Mount Vesuvius and imported, the dough is hand-tossed, and the wood-fired ovens are handmade by Stefano Ferrara, who Carver says is the most popular oven-maker in Italy. The ovens contain volcanic ash in their bricks, which enable them to withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees F. (continued on next page)

Which is the most popular menu item? The Carnivora, topped with soprasotta, pancetta, Italian sausage, onions, garlic, basil, shredded mozzarella, fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? V Pizza offers gluten-free and vegan options.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? V Signature Wings, which are baked and marinated with fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, topped with caramelized onions that are marinated in wine and sugar in the oven, and the V Signature sauce with secret ingredients.

Contact: Call (912) 771-1919, visit the V Pizza Facebook page or the website at vpizza.com. Hours are 11 am- 9 pm daily.

Tramici

Not a pizzeria per se, but a full-service restaurant that serves Italian-influenced food family style, Tramici, at 75 Cinema Lane, has been in business for 12 years, and is well-known for its thin-crust pizzas.

What sets your pizza apart from the rest? General Manager Galin Hall says it’s the freshness of the ingredients, combined with the work the high-temperature gas-fired oven does. “Everything is house-made,” he said.

Which is the most popular menu item? “It’s a tie,” Hall said, “between the Salsciccia and the Fungi.”

The Salsciccia is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy, sautéed onions and sweet Italian sausage, and the Fungi is a white pizza, dressed with garlic oil, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, roasted mushrooms, onion, arugula and truffle oil.

Do you offer healthy alternatives? Gluten-free options are available.

What is your most popular non-pizza menu item? Chicken piccata, hands-down, Hall said. Made of thinly sliced chicken breast, artichokes, spinach and capers atop angel hair pasta and topped with a garlic butter sauce, it is a much-loved dish among many customers.

Contact: Call (912) 634-2202, visit Tramici on Facebook or online at tramicirestaurant.com. Hours are 11 am - 2 pm and 5 - 9 pm Mondays through Fridays, and 5 - 9 pm Saturdays and Sundays.