ADVERTISEMENT

NIAGARA FALLS – As soon as you walk into the Pizza Bistro – sister restaurant of the directly adjacent Wine on Third – you realize this is not your father’s pizza joint.

There are no video games, for starters. No counter. No handwritten signs detailing slice prices.

Sure, they have pizza ... but that’s really where the comparisons end.

We’re talking 500-degree brick oven pizza, for starters. And not just cheese and pepperoni. How about Margarita style, with fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs? Or Arugula and Mozzarella, featuring crushed tomatoes and balsamic dressing? Or maybe Bourbon Glaze, with a bourbon white sauce and rendered pork belly?

Hoity-toity pizza not your cup of tea? You may want to consider building your own 12-incher. They’re all the same price ($12). So do it BK-style, and have it your way.

Either way, don’t get the idea that the Bistro is just about pizza. There’s pizza, and pasta and paninis. All perfectly palatable, pleasing and popular. Add an order of piping hot Buffalo wings (recently added to the menu) to the mix, and the options are abundant.

For a fancy-schmancy place (picture industrial/steam punk), the Bistro isn’t all that pricey. We fed four people, and had a decent amount to take home, for less than $60. Daily specials and luncheon specials add to the affordability. And you can enjoy it all amid shaded hanging art lamps and dueling flat-screen televisions. For good measure, they pipe in some contemporary pop tunes. It’s a real “hipster’’ feel.

And where else are you going to find a Caprese salad (with fresh mozzarella), a Mediterranean salad (artichokes and olives) or even a berries and goat cheese salad? Or Johnny Ryan on tap? I could go on and on.

But let’s get to our dining experience. We ordered the pizza and wings special, with a 12-inch cheese and pepperoni pie and 20 wings for $27. We also sampled the Farafelle Alfredo (with grilled vegetables, or you can get it with chicken, $12) and the chicken pesto panini ($8). We added a small order for fries for $3.

Since it’s called Pizza Bistro, we’ll analyze the pizza first. Hot and fresh, it featured a light, thin crust that didn’t yield beneath a goodly amount of mozzarella and pepperoni. You could easily fold it – if so desired – or simply stuff it in. The sauce was slightly sweet-tasting, the pepperoni very tasty. Nicely seasoned, it was genuinely good. My only complaint was that the “crust’’ portion was too big; I would have liked the toppings to spread closer to the edge. It isn’t a huge pie to begin with, and leaving the toppings short of the edge cuts it down even more.

The wings were steaming hot, crispy (as we ordered) and nicely spiced. It’s hard to get it wrong with wings, but you’d be surprised – or maybe not – at how often it happens, nonetheless. These were perfect, and oh, the perfume from that hot sauce.

My daughter just loved the fries. Crispy and seasoned, they held up well under a heavy assault of ketchup. Again, it’s difficult not to do fries right, but “right’’ varies distinctly from place to place. These were well received.

The panini wasn’t quite up to that standard. For starters, the bread didn’t seem quite right for a panini – too crusty to be toasted effectively. It was almost like a ciabatta bread. The chicken itself didn’t have quite the “oomph’’ it needed, either. Not vigorously seasoned, it was also a little on the dry side. It wasn’t terrible, by a long shot, but it wasn’t great, either, like most of our other selections were.

The Farafelle Alfredo offered bowtie pasta in a creamy, Asiago Alfredo sauce. The overriding flavor was of garlic, however – a little too strongly seasoned. The cheesy sauce was of a nice consistency, the grilled vegetables adding a nice flavor variation. Meagan’s only complaint was that she would have liked more of the veggies, especially the grilled yellow squash and zucchini.

To top our evening off, we decided to share an order of the chocolate blueberry bread pudding ($6). It was a healthy portion of a chocolate-y looking concoction, topped with chocolate drizzle and a chocolate lace. That’s right: triple chocolate. It was warm and gooey, and the chocolate flavor came through much more than the blueberries. Excellent, nonetheless. In fact, all of the dessert selections sounded wonderful.

Featuring a handful of booths and tables, Pizza Bistro isn’t the biggest place around, but it is more than comfortable, and if it gets too crowded, there’s a street-side patio. They offer grated Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes on the tables, which is just the way I like it. The service is very attentive, leading to a truly enjoyable experience.

Monday is family night, Tuesday is date night, and, of course, every night is pizza night. Oh, there’s also a kid’s menu for those little ones who aren’t satisfied with a slice of the hot stuff.

It’s good to see someone offering something a little non-traditional downtown. Hopefully, it goes over like a barrel over the brink.