Virtuoso isn’t the same old Benson pizza joint you know.
The restaurant, which opened this spring, might not have the funky, eclectic atmosphere of the former Pizza Shoppe. But what it does have — incredible pizza — more than makes up for it.
I’ll wager without worry that owner David Losole is creating some of the city’s best New York-style slices. There’s more on the menu worth trying than the pizza, though a slice is where you should start.
Losole, whose parents run South Omaha’s Lo Sole Mio, where he also has worked for years, is keeping the menu at his first solo project succinct. It features just three basic slices: meatball, pepperoni and cheese, along with a rotating daily selection of toppings.
Virtuoso is a slice house; the menu doesn’t feature any whole pies.
Slices are large and just the right price — around $6 — and the crust is great, super thin but never soggy, with an end that’s chewy and airy, light but substantial. I never needed more than one slice; and especially with the heartier toppings, it’s filling.
I appreciate Losole’s restraint — each slice had just the right amount of acidic, house-made red sauce, a perfect sprinkling of cheese and, in every case, plenty of toppings, but not so much that the svelte crust became weighed down.
We tried two of three standard slices. The super crisp pepperoni curls into little bowls, each holding a burst of spice and flavor. Meatballs are homemade, and instead of serving them whole, Losole slices them into thin rounds and covers the slice in flavorful meat.
The specialty slices we tried all pleased.
An olive oil slice came loaded with green, black and Kalamata olives; we’d have liked a few more of the latter, though it was still good, with a briny finish.
A “sweet and sour” slice came loaded with spicy raw jalapeños and big hunks of sweet pineapple, a surprisingly pleasant combination. My friend especially liked how spicy it was; jalapeños on pizza don’t often carry this kind of zing.
If the sausage and onion slice is available during your visit, run, don’t walk, to get it.
Losole makes the sausage in-house, and ours had the right amount of spice and plenty of fennel. Mixed with red onions, it’s a classic combination done with care.
Sausage appeared again on the Jimbo, one of a few sandwiches on the menu. A sausage with lovely texture and loaded with flavor comes topped with sautéed onions and homemade giardiniera, one of my favorite condiments.
But the real star of the sandwich menu is the Italian beef. It’s the best version of this Chicago staple I’ve had in Omaha. Slow-roasted beef comes on a soft bun with giardiniera; we got ours dipped in flavorful au jus; the entire sandwich gets a quick dunk. It’s legit.