In what will hopefully one day become downtown Centerville, a new brick oven pizzeria has opened.
Meldino's, which gets its name from combining the names of the two couples who own it, is a welcome breath of fresh air in a growing county overflowing with chain restaurants.
Its co-owners, Mike and Melanie Black, participated in the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas this year, winning $20,000.
The Northside High School graduates and their business partners opened the restaurant, offering New York-style pizza.
The family-owned pizzeria prides itself on serving fresh ingredients daily, using homemade dough for its pizzas, calzones and strombolis. All bread is baked fresh, and pizzas are cooked on solid brick.
There's the usual appetizers of garlic bread, dough knots, fried pickles and cheese sticks. Wings come in all flavors. There's salad, strombolis and calzones to which you can add toppings, spaghetti, paninis, and of course, pizza.
Venturing out into a rainy Middle Georgia day, I was in the mood for a nice, hot calzone, filled with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and topped with fresh marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and parsley.
My order came out very quickly. I noticed a crust that was freshly prepared, crispy yet doughy, with a golden brown finish. My calzone resembled a rather large garlic knot, while from the middle there oozed forth a gooey infusion of cheeses and spinach.
I like my food simple, and not piled with tons of 'stuff,' and in my opinion pizzas these days have a habit of being overprepared. But if, unlike me, you like lots of stuff, there's plenty to choose from at Meldino's.
My idea of a happy pizza is one served with fresh, simple ingredients. I decided to try the Meldino's Margherita Pizza. This style usually includes a pie baked with olive oil, fresh garlic and basil, mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta cheeses, and Roma tomatoes.
When I was in southern Italy a few summers ago, it wasn't called a Margherita, but my thin crust pie, topped only with fresh basil and garlic, was like biting into a slice of pure bliss.
Maybe it was the fact we were sitting along a busy shopping street, a block from the ocean in Sorrento, but in that moment I experienced a moment of clarity.
Food can be an extraordinary experience when enjoyed in the right atmosphere.
I had hoped my Meldino's pie would bring me back to that moment in time. It didn't come as close as I wanted, so alas my search for the perfect pizza continues.
The specialty pizzas like the Margherita come in three sizes. The crust is thin, topped with torn pieces of basil, Roma tomato, mozzarella slices and crumbled garlic, all on a light layer of additional cheeses. It was simple with no overpowering spices. Each ingredient could stand on its own. A very delicious pizza if you like simplicity.
I also love that several menu items pay tribute to local high schools in Houston and Peach counties. Take your pick of a Bear's Pit Stop Salad, State Champ Eagle Salad, State Champs Trojan White Pizza, Panther Caesar Salad or Demon Fire Pizza.
Stop by Meldino's for something familiar, while also supporting a locally-owned business. You too may experience a moment of clarity.
103 Gunn Road, Centerville
Phone number: (478) 953-2200
Price range: $2.95-15.50
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday
Payment: Cash, credit cards
Noise level: Low to moderate
Children's menu: No
Vegetarian selections: Yes
Latest health code rating: 98