What began as a night of drinks became an evening of thin- crust pizza, chickpea fries and good beer. In the fading heat of a Saturday afternoon, my friends and I met at the Lord Jeff for drinks and appetizers. We had planned a cozy start to our evening of sitting at one of the outdoor fire pits and tasting some small dishes. Unfortunately, the Lord Jeff was incredibly busy hosting a beautiful wedding. After sitting outside for a few moments, enjoying the cooling fall air and warm glow of the fire, we decided we could wait no longer and headed further into town. As we crunched through the leaves on the town square, we debated where else to go for delectable drinks and food. I immediately suggested Chez Albert, one of my favorite restaurants ever, but our desire for a slightly cheaper meal soon deterred us from trekking down past Bruegger’s Bagels. I then mentioned Arise: a pizzeria tucked next to Amherst Cinema. While this pub and pizzeria sits conveniently close to campus, I find that I do not visit Arise nearly as much as I would like; it seems that most students only know this restaurant as the random establishment behind Fresh Side with the outdoor seating by GoBerry and Amherst Coffee.
Having agreed upon Arise, we bustled into the warm, dim restaurant. As we surveyed the rustic setting of the room with small candles glowing at each table, the hostess offered us one of the highboy tables. We quickly clambered onto the chairs and opened our menus to find a small and manageable selection of seasonal dishes. After a quick perusal of the food, I moved on to the alcohol list in search of a drink to match the pizza I planned to order. While I generally enjoy tasting new cocktails, I did not find myself drawn to any of the fall 2014 cocktails ($13 each) and decided to avoid such drinks as the “Headless Horseman” (organic pumpkin vodka, Galliano, espresso, cream) and the “Slippery Reef” (white rum, aged grappa, smoked onion heart). Although some of the drinks looked more appealing, such as “Sal’s Night Out” (gin, blueberries, lemonade, soda water), “Remember When” (bourbon with an apple and vanilla puree), and the simple sangria ($9), I decided to go with a glass of the Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon ($7) before ordering a bottle of the DAB premium lager ($3.50), a German beer that never fails to please. Unfortunately, our waitress informed me that the bar had recently run out of the DAB, so I enjoyed the Victory Braumeister Pilsner ($6), another quality selection that is brewed near my home outside of Philadelphia.
Content with my final decision on drinks, I shifted back to the food menu. After skimming the salads and appetizers — mulling over the wild mushroom ravioli ($12) and the classic and unbeatable chickpea fries with house aioli ($8) — I turned to the pizzas. Below the offering of gluten-free crust for an added $5, the menu noted a build-your-own pizza option and a wide selection of house pizzas. While Arise can certainly build a more traditional pizza with whatever flavors please your palate, they also offer distinctive and tasty combinations. I will admit that I built a less idiosyncratic pizza of roasted tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, olives, caramelized onions and basil ($12 to start plus $1.50 per vegetable item and $3 per meat and specialty cheese), but I agonized over “The Good Shiitake” (mozzarella, shiitake mushrooms, gouda, and caramelized onions for $19.50) and “The Classic” (pepperoni, mozzarella, roasted tomato sauce, and Romano cheese for $16.50). Other enticing options included the “Twice Baked” (fried Yukon potato, mozzarella, scallion crème fresh, and bacon for $18) and the “Cow After Midnight” (mozzarella, roasted tomato sauce, red wine sautéed beef meatballs, and heirloom sweet potatoes for $18), but ultimately I decided to order a less complicated pizza with the exact flavors I wanted, which is a wonderful luxury.
Of course, I have not even mentioned the kitchen specials list, an added menu with changing specials and single slices. For $10, you can choose the “sip and slice” deal and order one slice with a glass of red or white wine or a pint of beer, a solid option if you ask me. One slice, which is about a quarter of the twelve-inch pizza for $5, had pepperoni, olives, feta, fresh herbs, balsamic reduction, and mozzarella. Luckily, if the slice sounds absolutely amazing and you think you would love an entire pizza with those delectable toppings, you can always ask for the full pizza. Other specials included a Maine bay scallop risotto ($21) and grilled butternut squash ($4.50), as well as a “Sour Puss Martini.”
Thankfully, our food arrived promptly, my pizza still steaming and the cheese fairly dripping. I rushed to bite into the first slice and immediately burnt the roof of my mouth but still savored the salty olives as they blended with the sweetness of the roasted tomato sauce and caramelized onions. Quickly finishing the first slice, I turned to a second and paused just enough to enjoy my beer along with this delicious thin-crust pizza. Soon, my friends and I began to slow and sipped our drinks as we exclaimed over the meal. Seeing as I could not finish the full pizza, our waitress offered to box up the rest, which I found incredibly satisfying later on that evening.
As we sat there, enjoying the last of our drinks and discussing the night ahead, I told my friends about the second to last page on the Arise menu, where the restaurant lists the farms and producers that Arise sources from for the dishes we had each ordered. Not only does this farm-to-table restaurant serve flavorful, wholesome food, but it does so with cheese, meat and produce from farms in the area, even from our own Book and Plow Farm! Thus, I love eating at Arise because I not only enjoy my meal every time, but I also know that the food comes from good, local sources within the community. If ever you find yourself craving thin-crust pizza, amazing chickpea fries, and a good selection of drinks, all at an affordable price, definitely consider Arise.