When White Wolf Cafe owner Michael Hennessey decided to repurpose an underutilized space a few doors down from the popular eatery, he chose to make it a pizza restaurant for a very specific reason. Parking spaces along that stretch of Orange Avenue in Ivanhoe Village have always been at a premium. People who populate the restaurants, bars and shops often find themselves cruising through the adjoining neighborhoods hunting for a spot. With pizza, Hennessey surmised, he could focus on the delivery aspect of the business, so he could take the food to the customers rather than having the customers come to the restaurant.
But he made one mistake: he made Wolfie’s Pizzamia such a charming and pleasant place to sit and dine that people are sure to want to eat in rather than have the pizza delivered.
Either way, the pizza is worth having. It’s rustic, with a thin crust that blisters on the edges, just enough to provide the perfect handle. The one I sampled, the Diavolo, had a minimum amount of sauce but was covered with tomatoes, hot salami and spicy sausage and just the right amount of mozzarella -- enough to know it’s there but not too much that it becomes a stringy mess. Delicious pizza.
My companion had the lasagna, and that, too, was nicely done. It was more reminiscent of the type of lasagna found in Rome -- not a dense brick but rather delicate layers of freshly made sheets of pasta and pulpy tomatoes, baked in an individual dish with bechamel and ricotta. About as good a lasagna as I’ve had in some time.
We had started with an appetizer of malfatti, the misshapen ricotta dumplings. The name means badly made, but in appearance only. These were soft and mouth-melting, and served in a brown butter that had us begging our server for some bread to sop it up. (Our waiter happily complied, and service overall was first rate.)
The restaurant, which was previously Harrison Graham’s, an events space used for private parties and banquets, has a rustic urban appeal that immediately had me thinking of the eateries one would find on the streets in Manhattan’s West Village (though the width of Orange Avenue, visible through the window, is considerably wider than Bleecker or Grove Streets in New York). It’s small, with a few booths along the front and in the corner, and a small service bar at the back of the dining room, just in front of the window to the kitchen, past the hanging salume, where chef Jason Schofield works his magic. By the way, just as with much of the pasta, the chef makes the sausages and other charcuterie from scratch, even going so far as to break down a whole hog.
It’s an atmosphere you likely don’t have at home, unless you have an apartment nearby in Antiques Row, in which case you can walk to Wolfie’s. The rest of us will be circling the block looking for a place to park. Save us a seat.
Wolfie’s Pizzamia is at 1905 N Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for dinner, from 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and beginning at noon on Sunday. Prices are reasonable. The lasagna was $14 and my pizza, a 14-incher, was $15. Here’s a link to wolfiespizzamia.com. The phone number is 407-237-0921, just in case you want one delivered.