Downtown has lost a couple of its best places to get pizza over the past decade. Joey’s Pizza, in the 99 Tower building on North Main, was an institution Downtown for years. It had fabulous pizza and a great window to sit in that overlooked the Main Street Mall. However, about six years ago it closed its doors. The Black Diamond, a little dive bar on Beale that stayed open until the wee hours, had unexpectedly good pizza that went well with an ice cold can of PBR. However, it closed so Tater Red’s gift shop could expand. Ferraro’s Pizzeria and Pub opened a few years ago, but it is in the Pinch District, a trolley ride away. For years the Downtown core went without a true pizzeria.
SIDE NOTE: Ferraro’s will likely be the subject of a future PBR Review. However, I will go ahead and mention that during Tuesday trivia, hosted by Kevin Cerrito, at Ferraro’s PBR is only $1. Trivia starts at 8 PM.
On Saturday mornings, I like to hang out at the bar at Bardog Tavern with my “DAWG” John D and whichever other Downtown regulars show up. One Saturday in early 2012, Aldo came over to say hello. At the time Aldo was the proprietor not only of Bardog, but another very successful bar in Midtown called Slider Inn.
SIDE NOTE: Both Bardog and Slider Inn serve PBR and will be the subject of future PBR Reviews.
“Paul, are you going to be around for a minute?” Aldo asked. “I have something I want to tell you that I think you will be very excited about.” I assured Aldo that I would stick around and ordered another PBR from bartender Amanda “Panda” Parks. I knew that the news was likely about Aldo’s third venture, Aldo’s Pizza Pies. He wanted to bring Downtown Memphians something they had never had before, true New York-style pizza like he had growing up in Jersey. Thin, big slices of pizza that you could fold over and eat. He showed me a building just north of City Market the summer before, which he intended to be the location. However, when ground-floor space came available in the new Barboro Flats apartment building, Aldo relocated there before the pizzeria even opened its doors.
“I know you’re a fan of beer, Paul,” Aldo said when he came back. “Now, the new place is going to be a restaurant more than a bar, unlike Bardog and Slider. It’s going to be family-friendly, with less of an emphasis on shots and mixed drinks, other than classic Italian mixed drinks that go with the theme. But we are going to be a restaurant for beer lovers. I plan to put a tap wall in with 20, maybe even 25 beers.”
I asked if one of those beers would be PBR. “I’m not sure we’ll have it on tap, like we do at Bardog,” Aldo said. “But I can promise you we will have it in some form.”
In summer of 2012, Aldo’s Pizza Pies opened its doors in the Barboro Flats location, and Aldo was true to his word. There was a 16 ounce can of PBR waiting for me. Aldo had also gone above and beyond his promise: There were not 20 or 25 beers on the tap wall, but 30. In addition, there are another 30 beers in bottles or cans, for a total of 60. Or as I like to refer to them, “PBR and 59 more.”
As Aldo said, the space is mainly a restaurant, with lots of comfortable booth seating. The booths and tables have elevated stands on which your pizza sits as you eat a slice and sip on your PBR. The bar area and the window seating behind it seat about 20. The bar area is nearly always full, no doubt due to the fact that Aldo’s carries PBR in cans. The windows overlook the Main Street Mall, giving customers an excellent view.
At the front counter Aldo’s has pizza slices to go. The “Grab & Go Lunch” is quite popular. For $5, you can pick any slice from behind the counter and get it with a drink to go on weekdays 11-2. For people who need to get back to their desks, but who don’t want to miss out on lunch altogether, this is a great idea.
SIDE NOTE: If you have the time, though, I recommend that you dine in and have a PBR with lunch. Don’t worry, we won’t tell your boss.
Aldo’s has one of the best patios in Memphis. It’s a large patio that seats about 60, and is a great place to drink a PBR and people-watch as folks walk up and down the Main Street Mall – or, as the night gets late, stumble up and down the Main Street Mall. You also get a view of Local’s patio across the street, which can be unintentionally entertaining at times. This summer Aldo put in considerable effort to cover the patio, shielding guests from unexpected rainfall and the hot summer sun.
Aldo’s sells whole pizzas in 12-inch and 18-inch sizes. There are about a dozen pizzas on the menu to choose from, or you can build your own. Pizzas sell for $14-17 in the 12″ size and $21-25 in the 18″ size.
SIDE NOTE: I’m looking at a menu that is about a year old, so prices could have risen a bit. I suppose I could walk down the street and get a new menu, since I live two blocks away. But I just popped open a PBR and I don’t want to get written a citation for walking down the Main Street Mall with it.
SIDE NOTE: Or I could just look at the menu on the restaurant website. (Hey Aldo, maybe it’s time to get “Coming Soon” off the site landing page now that you’ve been open for over a year?)
If you don’t want a whole pie, Aldo’s sells your choice of a cheese, vodka, pepperoni, sausage or veggie pizza by the slice. They also have a $4 Slice of the Day which changes daily. This is a good way to try all the different pizzas at Aldo’s while still having money left over for PBR.
One pizza that I have not had a chance to try yet, but can recommend anyway, is The Lombardi with tomato sauce, meatballs, and ricotta. How can I recommend something I haven’t had yet? Because it is made with Aldo’s famous meatballs, which are served at Bardog by themselves and atop hoagies and spaghetti. In the past 5 years “Grandma’s Balls” have become famous in Memphis.
SIDE NOTE: Every year Bardog has an alley party, and one of the events is a meatball-eating contest. Participants get a T-shirt that reads. “I busted Grandma’s balls.” I’ve never participated but if they add a PBR-drinking contest, I’m in.
Grandma’s balls also come on one of six sandwiches on the menu, The Grand Mother. Other sandwiches include The Sardo, an eggplant hoagie; Uncle Carmen, a sausage & peppers hoagie; The Trenton Makes, a classic Italian sub; The Florentine, a chicken and spinach sandwich on ciabatta; and The Balboa, a steak & cheese hoagie.
One of my favorite appetizers on the menu is goat cheese stuffed peppers. This is pretty much what the name says, peppers stuffed with goat cheese with bread and marinara for dipping. The garlic knots with marinara are another classic Italian appetizer that should not be missed.
The restaurant has salads as well. For some reason I didn’t get a photo the day I tried it, but I have had the antipasto salad and can tell you it’s very good, and about as classic Italian as salads get. The Caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala, tomato, basil and balsamic reduction is another salad that will make you feel like you are in Italy.
All right, it seems like it’s been far too long since I mentioned PBR, so let’s get back to the beer. I mentioned that Aldo’s has 60 beers in bottle and on tap. One thing they started doing fairly recently is a new beer club. If you drink all 60 different beers, you become a member of the club. One of the managers who works there, Findlay, was telling me about it one night. “It’s a really good deal,” he said. “Once you finish your 60 beers and join the club, you get a dollar off any beer for life.”
“Does that include PBR?” I asked, and he replied that it indeed does.
If you’re looking for a place to watch the game, Aldo’s has two TVs with giant 70-inch screens that overlook the bar. I remember being in there one day on a Monday, and they had the Grizzlies on one TV, Monday Night Football on the other, and I had a PBR in my hand. Could it get any more perfect than that?
Speaking of Mondays, it’s Pint Night at Aldo’s. Starting at 5 PM, any pint on the draft wall can be had for the low price of $3, the same price as the regular price of a can of PBR there. Personally, I’d just stick with the PBR on Mondays too, but if you’re looking to get half your 60 beers done for the club as cheaply as possible, that’s the way to go.
As I mentioned earlier, Aldo’s is family-friendly and is a good place to bring kids. Because Aldo’s is an open space, the kids can watch the kitchen staff make the dough and prepare the pizza.
SIDE NOTE: I remember having this experience myself at Shakey’s when I was a little kid. I was too young to drink PBR at the time though. And besides, I don’t think Shakey’s even served PBR.
The kids will appreciate the dessert menu, which includes an Abita root beer float, poured from the tap wall. There are also mini-canellonis, New York cheesecake with strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and lemon sorbet. Just don’t try to buy a PBR for the kids because they card at Aldo’s.
It has been said that beer pairs with food even better than wine does, and in each of these posts I try to spotlight a few of the restaurant’s offerings that go well with PBR. It took me a minute to figure out why the Gina Bellina tastes so good when complemented with a PBR. I tried this pizza on the patio with friends not long after Aldo’s patio first opened. It comes with tomato sauce, goat cheese, mozzarella, spinach, sundried tomato, and black olive. After a few bites and sips, I realized that PBR together with the sundried tomatoes on the pizza made for an excellent dining experience.
Another outstanding PBR pairing is the Bring Out the Gump. This pizza has a poblano cream base, with sundried tomato pesto, grilled shrimp, mozzarella, red onion, and basil. Usually I write how PBR brings out the flavor of a dish. This time, however, it was more that the Bring Out the Gump brought out the rich, full taste of the PBR, with the basil and the PBR performing an intricate dance of flavor.
The poblano cream base, by the way, is a fantastic starter for a build-your-own pizza. Other bases include tomato sauce, vodka cream, and garlic & oil. Toppings include bacon, banana pepper, basil, black olive, broccoli, caramelized onion, extra mozzarella, green pepper, ham, jalapeno, mushroom, pepperoni, pineapple, red onion, roasted red pepper, roasted tomato, sausage, anchovy, artichoke heart, BBQ pork, capicola, eggplant, feta, fontina, goat cheese, gorgonzola, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, jerk chicken, mango chutney, meatballs, mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, spinach, and sundried tomato.
SIDE NOTE: I have thought about trying a pizza topped with anchovies, but I’m worried I’ll turn into one of those food bloggers who is constantly complaining about food being too salty.
Another of Aldo’s offering that is a natural fit with PBR is The Memphis, which is Aldo’s take on BBQ pizza. The pizza has a BBQ sauce base and is topped with mozzarella, red onions, and pulled pork from one of Memphis’ finest BBQ restaurants, Central BBQ. The pizza also comes topped with slaw, for the experience of a pulled pork sandwich on a pizza. No explanation should be necessary why this goes well with PBR. After all, few foods are more American than BBQ, and what beer is more American than PBR?
Since this post is going up the week before Labor Day, I want to mention an event that will be happening right outside Aldo’s on Saturday, August 31, and Sunday, September 1, 2013: The Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. Dozens of bands on multiple stages, cooking demos, dance demos and more make this festival a lot of fun. Beer is sold at the festival, but it’s not PBR, so if you want a PBR Aldo’s will be a convenient place to go. Those window and patio seats will be premium people-watching real estate for the upcoming weekend.
Give Aldo’s a try and pair the best pizza in town with the best beer in the world: PBR. I’m sure you will agree that Aldo’s is one of the best places to drink PBR in Memphis.