While the smell of melting mozzarella toyed with our senses, the man with the expert hands presented us with delicate field greens topped with avocado, grapefruit, green apple slices, walnuts, red onions, dried cranberries, and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The light starter amped up the motor in our bellies for the impending pizza, which subsequently arrived at the table hot from the oven mere moments after our salad plates were cleared.
So rapt with pleasure, we scarcely heard him when he told us there were two more pizzas coming. My mom marvelled at the crispness of the crust, I appreciated the lack of grease, my sister-in-law mooned over the toasted cheese and my father lunged for the last piece -- unable to heed the warnings of our server and personal chef.
Up next was the heartiest of our three pies of the evening -- a chicken asparagus version of the spinach pizza that was also topped with the decadent Bechamel sauce and an ample blanket of mozzarella and Parmesan. The grilled chicken and tender bits of asparagus were a welcome contrast to our first pie, and as I tore through my second slice, I could see why it is the house favorite.
Despite already devouring two-three slices each, no one at the table could resist the allure of basic Margherita pizza. The tangy homemade arriabiatta sauce, shreds of fresh basil, and pock-marks of crusted cheese is always a winning combination, and I immediately lambasted myself for my inability to leave the last slice of the chicken asparagus pie on the platter. Undeterred by my nonverbal (nonexistent) protests, our server opened a third bottle of wine and poured into my glass with a leaden hand. With alcohol by my side, I knew I could fool my stomach into thinking there was room for one more piece. I proceeded on, content to end the evening with a slice of the simple, rustic pizza.
We topped off our over expanded bellies with freshly baked peanut butter paisley brownies, and then bid each other adieu as we stole into the brisk Orange County "winter" air.
"Thanks for coming!" He said from the door of Trattoria 174. He leaned in to place an arm around my sister-in-law, who stood shivering beside him.
"We'll see you tomorrow!" I responded to my brother and waved at them from the car.
As we exited their complex to head home, I mused to my parents. "It was just like eating at a restaurant."
"Nah," My mother said. "It was even better than a restaurant."