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Back Bay Pizza opens in the old Wild Garlic Pizza in downtown Reno – Reno Gazette-Journal

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The crisp crunch of thin-crust pies as they yield to the blade of the pizza wheel at the new Back Bay Pizza & Cocktails in downtown Reno. Provided to RGJ Media, Reno Gazette Journal

In an age of restaurant delivery, of meals arriving on wheels, Sabri Arslankara wants folks to drop by.

That’s why there won’t be delivery, he said, from his new Back Bay Pizza & Cocktails that recently opened in the former Wild Garlic Pizza space across from Pioneer Center in downtown Reno. (Third-party delivery, if ever adopted, will be limited to pizzas.)

“I want people to see the restaurant and eat fresh pizza and give them an experience,” he said.

That’s a different focus than Pizzava, the Midtown Reno pizzeria he owns that does big business in take-out and in delivery by its in-house couriers or third-party services.

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BACK BAY PIZZA & COCKTAILS

Address: 170 S. Virginia St., across from Pioneer Center

Phone: 775-657-9009

On the web: This way to the pies

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Mixing old and new

Back Bay Pizza takes its name from the Back Bay area of Arslankara’s native Boston, a neighborhood that mixes 19th-century brownstones with some of the city’s signature skyscrapers.

Arslankara said he wanted to celebrate that mix of tradition and modernity in the look and on the menu of the pizzeria.

Back Bay Pizza retains the long knotted wooden bar from the days of Fuego for Tapas & Vino, the first restaurant to occupy the space. The bar joins reclaimed wood panels, soaring open ceilings in black, and metal “fencing” partitioning the service area from the dining room to create a mingling of rustic and industrial.

Slices, build-your-own and specialty pies

The menu offers Northeast-inspired thin-crust pies, with Back Bay’s crust having a crisp crunchy crackle that sounds when the pies are sliced by the pizza wheel fresh from the oven.

There are 12-inch and 14-inch build-your-own pies ($13, $15) with nearly two dozen toppings on offer ($2-5), including spinach and ricotta (very Northeast), roasted red peppers and grilled chicken, and meatballs and prosciutto.

Slices ($4-5) come in basic cheese, pepperoni, vegetarian (including caramelized mushrooms), and combo (sausage and pepperoni).

The Chef’s Selection of the menu, created with the assistance of Alex Downing, a talented young Reno chef, offers a classic like pizza Margherita, a newer but familiar pie like the Big Papi (grilled chicken, garlic sauce, bacon), and a pie like the North End (named for a Boston neighborhood) that explores beyond traditional pizza making.

The North End combines prosciutto, melty mozzarella, a rich seam of Gorgonzola, a flurry of arugula, and sweet pops of honey, aged balsamic and dried fig.

The sizzle of cast-iron starters

Elsewhere, the menu sizzles — as in five starters served in cast iron, like Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat or an oozy communion of Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone and jabby Gouda served with Truckee Sourdough for dredging. 

“I love that sizzling,” Arslankara said. “I love how cast iron cooks, how it comes out of the oven. Pizza is a shareable culture. You can share the (starters) with a pizza or eat it by itself as a meal.”

Also on the food side of the menu (or soon to be added): housemade crostini, salads and ciabatta sandwiches.

Let’s add a bit of turmeric milk

Craft cocktails, Arslankara hopes, will play their part in making Back Bay a gathering place, not simply a pizzeria. (For one, you can’t deliver a craft cocktail.)

The tightly edited list of seven drinks includes an intriguing Back Bay pour that features black tea rum, turmeric milk and cardamom bitters.

Back Bay seats about 75 across the bar, dining room and terrace. Arslankara said his lease allows him to add outdoor seating about halfway into a rock garden that fronts the terrace. When the weather warms next year, Arslankara said he’s going to expand.

Which means more space for people to drop by.

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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Read or Share this story: https://www.rgj.com/story/life/food/2019/09/12/back-bay-pizza-cocktails-opens-downtown-reno-wild-garlic-pizza/2283190001/