MANCHESTER - There's a new crop of pizzerias out there that have amazing food and a great atmosphere.
With hundreds of pizzerias out there, how do you stand out from the competition? For Priscilla Lane-Rondeau, it takes more than just serving a good slice.
"I didn't want another pizza place that had Formica tables. I wanted some place with an atmosphere. When I go out to eat, I want to have an experience, not just a pizza. This is the whole package. It's great food, great Neapolitan pizza. Plus you get a great atmosphere and it's a lot of fun."
900 Degrees is an upscale, Neapolitan style pizzeria with locations in Manchester and Epping, New Hampshire. That 900 hundred number is a reference to the smoking hot temperature inside of the wood-burning oven.
"Cooking in that oven is a real challenge. It's an art in itself. It's a living, breathing thing. The cooks and the chefs really need to watch the pizza all of the time and spin it around.
"Everything is cooked in the oven. We don't have a microwave. We don't have a fryolator. We cook the peppers in the oven. We cook the bacon, we cook the sausage. Everything is cooked in the oven, so it has the wood fired taste to it."
For the Neopolitan purist, the Margherita pizza is a good place to start. It's made with pure Italian Caputo flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. And if you're into traditional meat toppings, the House Pie is loaded up with ground sausage and crisp pepperoni over a layer of provolone. But gourmet pizzas are what 900 Degrees does best, especially the signature Bella Cosa with Italian ham and caramelized onions.
"The Bella Cossa is one of the all-time favorites," Lane-Rondeau said. "I've actually had someone write me a comment one time and they said 'just bury me with a Bella Cossa and I'll be fine'. People just love it. It's to die for. It's the white garlic cream sauce, it's got prosciutto on it, spinach. People just absolutely love it."
The crowds also come for the Saltimbocca pizza boasting roasted chicken and fontina, and the Basa Nova featuring sausage and jalapenos with fresh lime juice.
For something truly different, check out the sweet, salty, and surprising Granny Smith pizza that was created by the owner's son. It's made with mozzarella, marinated chicken, Applewood smoked bacon, granny smith apples, honey roasted walnuts, then coated with honey and native New Hampshire maple syrup.
Before you even get to the pizza, you can start your meal with a generous antipasto platter, mussels fra diavolo with crusty Italian bread, or an outstanding order of chicken wings.
"Our wings are jumbo wings. They're wood fired in our oven to a char," explained kitchen manager Patrick Holland. "We have two flavors. We have Tuscan which has garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, olive oil. And we also have a Whiskey Wing that's our own home recipe of whiskey sauce."
900 Degree's pastas are a bit heartier. There's a vibrant plate of meatballs served over fresh fettuccini, creamy roasted chicken and broccolini with rosemary ham, and a rustic Sausage Puttanesca made with roasted peppers, sliced olives, and a touch of Pinot Grigio.
Since you're out for the night, you might as well get the full experience and order dessert. There's a dense Peanut Butter Pie, crisp, fresh-filled cannoli stuffed with flavors like Orange Creamsicle, and even a selection of sweet dessert pizzas.
One thing is for sure. You can't find anything like this stuff at your town's typical "house of pizza".
"It's just overall a great place because anybody can come here. Families come here, business people come here. You know it's a great date night place. You can dress up, you can dress down. It's a great place to have a lot of fun. It's a staple here in Manchester. 900 Degrees is the place to be!"
You can find 900 Degrees at 50 Dow Street in Manchester, NH and in Brickyard Square in Epping. Their website is 900degrees.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
MORE FROM PHANTOM GOURMET
for more features.