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Vino’s looks like it’s been around forever. Suffice to say, the words “rustic” and “charming” come to mind when gently describing the iconic venue. The place reeks of a wonderful combination of beer and freshly baked pizza, and while those two things, along with music, have made Vino’s such a beloved spot for all of these years, it’s the calzone that might be the most cherished menu item of all.
Ah, the glorious calzone, the folded pizza crust stuffed with an assortment of ingredients. For whatever reason, in Central Arkansas, you do not see the calzone on a lot of menus. At Vino’s, however, it is front and center on the big board above the register and comes loaded with mozzarella and ricotta as the base. You then have the option of ordering it with sausage, spinach, pepperoni and mushrooms, or broccoli. There is also the Vegetarian (with an assortment of vegetables) and the Vino’s Special (pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions, meatballs, and green and black olives). These all sound great, and they are, but, for me, I love keeping it simple with the plain cheese calzone.
Let the cheese shine, I say!
And boy, does it.
Cut it right down the middle and watch the ricotta and mozzarella ooze out. It is a sight to behold. Quickly spoon the cheese back inside the doughy pocket and transfer your piece into the accompanying tub of thick marinara for a delicious dip. Be careful; if you are eating the calzone at the restaurant or on the hood of your car right after walking out of Vino’s (ahem), just know it will be piping hot. The peppery marinara helps cool things down just a bit while also adding a pop of acidity to the mellow cheeses. Overall, this calzone is simple and brilliant, a masterful construction of hand-tossed, stone-baked dough filled with two of my absolute favorite cheeses. And if you must, add the pepperoni and mushroom, but I still think the plain cheese is the way to go.
I tend to view Vino’s calzone as more of an appetizer best shared among friends and family rather than an entire meal. Truth be told, a few bites are all you need, as it tends to be a little rich and heavy. That is exactly what I want from this calzone, an item that awakens my palette and gives me a blast of cheese but saves a little room for the pizza, salad, and a Six Bridges, house-brewed beer.
But maybe you disagree. Maybe Vino’s calzone is all you need. From the looks of things, you are not alone in your way of thinking, making it one of the more classic dishes in all of Little Rock.
Did You Know?
Vino’s is Little Rock’s original brewpub, and you can still get pizza by-the-slice for as little as $1.85 (cheese).
923 W 7th Street (Little Rock)
Phone: (501) 375-8466
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight
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