Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria
From the homemade bread to the range of imaginative pizzas, and every point in between, this Wayne BYOB is hitting all the right notes
by Brian Freedman

Last summer I spent the month of June in Italy with my family. Since then, I have found myself in a deep, seemingly bottomless mozzarella funk. Few of the examples I’ve tasted at restaurants since I’ve returned home have come close to the soulful orbs that I tucked into on a nearly daily basis over there. It had gotten to the point recently that my wife instituted a ban on my whining about it whenever an otherwise accomplished restaurant served tired, sad or vague riffs on a proper piece of mozzarella.

Then I went to Ardé in Wayne and tucked into the burrata brought in from a farm in Campania, a region in southern Italy. I nearly leapt from the table in order to seek out the team behind this phenomenal osteria and pizzeria. The outer skin of the burrata was pliant, the center melted but not watery. The overall flavor, like that of the classic mozzarella—also brought in from that farm—was deeply lactic and possessed that perfectly pitched background sour note I hadn’t tasted since we abandoned our Fiat 500 at the Rome airport and winged our way across the Atlantic to our own shores.

This was mozzarella with soul to spare, burrata with heart.

The food is like that at Ardé, the much anticipated BYOB from co-owners Pino DiMeo, Antimo DiMeo (Pino’s son) and Scott Stein. (Disclosure: Stein and I went to the same high school, though we traveled in different circles and graduated in different years. We know each other now through mutual friends and associates, but we don’t get together socially, and at no point during either of my two visits did I receive special treatment.)

What’s so thrilling about Ardé is not that the wheel is, as the old cliché goes, being recreated here but, rather, that the fidelity to the culinary culture that inspired it is so accurate. It’s no coincidence that the mural on the wall—the same that forms the wallpaper of Ardé’s website—is of the very same farm in Campania that gave life to that burrata I tasted.

Here, pizzas are built on thin, Neapolitan-style crusts that bubble and crack from their time in the wood-fired Stefano Ferrara oven—“the Ferrari of wood-fired ovens,” Stein told me during a follow-up phone interview. The much-desired leopard spots of the heat speckled across the crusts evenly and generously, which served to amplify the already profound two-day-fermented dough. The Margherita, with its complex San Marzano tomatoes and melted pools of mozzarella, the occasional curl-edged leaf of basil there to brighten it all up, was delicious and elemental. From there, the pizzas grow more baroque yet remain balanced, from the cured pork-jowl beauty of the guancia, sweetened up with onion marmalade and given further heft with smoked buffalo mozzarella, to a truffle pie replete with a taleggio fondue. (Bring a bottle of Champagne or Franciacorta sparkling wine for that one.)

Two of the pastas—the squid-ink tagliolini and the pappardelle— are made in house, and the rest are brought in from Gragnano, Italy, which is not far from Mount Vesuvius, and dressed with care not to unnecessarily overwhelm the noodles with sauce. Buccatini all’ amatriciana wore its tomato-based condiment like a robe as opposed to swimming in it, and the generous pieces of guanciale lent each bite an earthy and slightly peppery character. Pappardelle with duck ragu was rich enough with its added porcini mushrooms and prosciutto that it could easily serve as an entrée as opposed to more traditional Italian primo.

Speck-wrapped scallops with broccoli rabe, shaved asparagus and carrot puree could have done with a bit less time on the heat, the better to preserve their tenderness and maintain a moist center, but the flavors were excellent, the intentional range of temperatures on the plate riveting. A halibut special was cooked beautifully—wonderfully tender flesh beneath a crackling crown of seared skin.

Familiar preparations such as fried calamari are available here in unexpected clothes. In addition to a more classic version with a garlic aioli, the agrodolce version provides a bit of excitement, the sweet sundried tomatoes dancing alongside sweet and hot peppers and the salty hit of Gaeta olives, as well as a gentle anointment of Bees Knees chili-infused honey. Mussels luxuriated in a hearty tomato broth given added thickness with the addition of borlotti beans. The bread program is excellent, the result of Antimo DiMeo’s ongoing fascination with different flours, leavening, ancient grains and more. The results are clearly worth his considerable effort.

The restaurant itself is jovial and elegant, with exposed brick walls and a clean, elegant urban feel, including big picture windows and plenty of natural light streaming in. Ardé is the restaurant that the area has needed: fun, authentic and cool, without any sense of pretentiousness.

During a recent visit with my kids and in-laws, we wrapped up the meal with an excellent cannolo—filled with ricotta crème, thankfully not too sweet, and dusted with grated biscotti—and a few remaining sips of our wine. It’s a place we just didn’t want to leave. From the homemade bread to the excellent pizzas, and all points in between, Ardé is hitting all the right notes. And it has thankfully managed to cure me of my mozzarella sadness. Now that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria
133 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne
484-580-6786 |

Photograph by Rob Hall