It’s no surprise that I absolutely love pizza, and pizza’s not hard to find in downtown San Antonio… in fact, it’s pretty abundant as a staple part of the average tourist’s diet while traveling. It is however, difficult to find delicious pizza downtown and very easy to find the watered down versions that are either cakes made of sauce and cheese or oil slicks and a proliferation of toppings. Panzanella seemed to appear out of a dream for me: it’s within walking distance from work, close to a favorite bar and is absolutely tasty. Panzanella is a cozy little eatery right on the river featuring a prominently splendid rotating pizza oven, colorful and writeable wall, and a full view of all the pizza making joy. There is an open pizza creation station and a seated bar that lets you watch the entire journey of your pie from dough ball, to sauce, to toppings, and into the oven’s toasty embrace. There’s nothing quite like dinner and a show.
The menu at Panzanella is pretty straightforward, featuring mostly pizza, and the pizza is great. There are simple pies from the spectacular cheese pizza to “The Mission”, a classic pepperoni pizza loaded with pepperoni and melty cheese. There are more inventive and creative pies with names like “The Alamo”: a spicy sauced pie with spicy chicken sausage and Calabrian peppers with a finishing drizzle of local Texas honey and “The San Antonio” with chicken chorizo, basil and corn. Each Panzanella pie has a fresh tomato sauce that’s perfect and simple: no seasoning in the sauce is overpowering and some feature Panzanella sauce which has cream added to the base tomato sauce. The pies are topped with a blend of mozzarella for melt and asiago for a faint nutty bite. The dough, once it hits that super hot rotating oven, crisps up to a pillow-like doughy and faintly charred base for exceptional pizza.
The menu does also feature two salads, a house Cesar salad and the eatery’s namesake: a panzanella salad. This is a toasted bread based salad that also features tomatoes and Kalamata olives and olive oil. There are soft drinks available for sale but this place is really all about the pizza. The plates are disposable and the décor is bare bones. The most important star of the show is the pizza and the pizza oven. The most interesting aspect of Panzanella is likely its partnership with the bar Swig next door. Pizzas can be delivered from next door to the bar and there’s not quite like a splendid cocktail enjoyed with a delicious pizza. Or, you could just walk next door… as I did my first time finding this place.
I love Panzanella for its dedication to constantly speedy and delicious pizza. Panzanella is open from lunch time to late evening and is very affordable. It is on the list of Bike Waiter eateries as well for those times that the office can’t quite let you go. The staff is hilarious and down to earth. Panzanella’s greatest joy is that it’s a place for all. In my times visiting, I’ve seen law enforcement officers, downtown restaurant workers, tourists and more. There’s something communal about great pizza. Pizza can be shared, and even when it isn’t shared with a close friend or partner, just the act of sitting in an open space over great pizza is an act of community itself; there are conversations to be started and new friends to make. So belly up to the pizza bar and grab a slice at Panzanella, you won’t regret it.