Eating our way through Cleveland one bite at a time

Il Rione

Il Rione

The first stop of this year’s tour was at Il Rione. A small pizzeria with exposed brick, wood beams and lots of charm. It’s decor is eclectic, from the Wu-Tang Clan Ice Cream poster in the bathroom to the framed pictures hanging on the crumbling plaster and brick walls. My favorite may have to be the picture next to the large table on the corner of the restaurant where we sat. It was an old-timey photo of a man wearing a snake around his neck like a scarf (I’ll take a picture of it next time). Next to him, a little girl in a white dress with her face blurred out. This was a main topic of conversation at dinner and we all fell in a love with this place a little bit more as we continue to find little gems like this.

Photo from Il Rione

We’ve been to Il Rione many times and if you haven’t read my first post, it was also last year’s Pizza Tour winner. Don’t come if you’re looking for a quick in-and-out bite to eat because it is definitely not that type of place. We had a party of 8 on a Friday night and waited nearly 2 hours for a table. Luckily, we spent those hours at nearby bars XYZ Tavern and Stone Mad Pub where we ordered some apps to subside are hanger and had a few rounds of drinks. They don’t take reservations and the place is always packed, but I suggest putting your name down and walking across the street to Stone Mad Pub where you can sit at the bar and stare at the patrons at Il Rione, hoping to intimidate them into eating their pizzas faster. I’ve only done this twice and it’s never worked, but hey it’s worth a shot.

While the wait is long, the host, servers and owners are always friendly and we’ve always had an excellent experience. The place is family-owned and they go above and beyond to make sure you keep coming back (I got a free pizza last time because they ran out of a topping from the original pizza I ordered – how nice)!

Between the 8 of us, we ordered 3 large and 3 small pizzas. The tables are small and it was like playing a game of Tetris trying to fit all of the pies on the table. They serve NY/NJ style thin crust pizza.

  • Three were customized margherita pies with red sauce, mozzarella and basil.
  • Two were speck pies, which was a white pie with speck, lemon ricotta and honey.
  • One was a green pie with red sauce, mozzarella, arugula pesto, fried sage leaves and basil.

I ordered the speck pie and for me, it was love at first bite – truly specktacular. It was savory, sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy, all in one perfect mouthful and speckceeded my especktations. Ok, ok, I’ll stop. I couldn’t help it. If you haven’t tried honey on your pizza (or at least the crust), do it, trust me – it’s life-changing (more on this later when we go to Edison’s). I’m a big fan of trying signature pizzas since the restaurant has picked the toppings and know what goes well together. For me, the speck pie will be hard to beat and set a high bar for the rest of the tour. Not gonna lie, I had leftovers and immediately ate a slice when we got home – it was so damn good.

The rest of the group also enjoyed their pizzas, but there was some debate on the crust. Mine was nicely cooked, but another needed a few more minutes in the oven, while one was a little too brown and crispy. Value also scored lower because the pizzas are pricey. A small signature pie is around $17 and a large is about $22, but the ingredients were fresh and high-quality. Overall, Il Rione received high scores and I’m sure will make it into the top rankings.

  • Crust – 8.29
  • Sauce – 8.29
  • Toppings – 8.71
  • Atmosphere – 8.86
  • Variety – 7.86
  • Value – 6.71
  • X Factor – 8.43
  • Overall – 57.14/70

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