Harmony’s Della Terra takes its name to heart
Some of the best restaurants in this city aren’t in the city proper at all, but on a drive up north on Interstate 79. There’s Off the Hook in Warrendale, Clifford’s in Evans City and now a newcomer to my list of favorites, Della Terra in Harmony, a little more than 30 minutes from the city.
Della Terra means “of the Earth” in Italian, and that’s the philosophy that chef Fiore Moletz showcases in his restaurant. There are no packaged or canned goods. The pasta is made fresh in-house, and all the meat and produce are sourced locally, even from the garden that’s out front of the restaurant. And, this attention to quality is definitely reflected in the dishes.
The menu consists of Italian starters, pasta and thin, Neapolitan-style pizzas. A great way to sample everything is to choose the five-course dinner for two ($55 or $110 with wine pairings) that will have you sharing a salad, appetizer, pizza, pasta and dessert.
Or, you can choose your own path.
Must-try starters include the meatballs made with beef and pork served three per order on a bed of creamy and coarse polenta and topped with a chunky tomato sauce. These meatballs are better than your mama’s and have just the right amount of heat with a touch of chile pepper. For non-meat eaters, the arancini cacio e pepe — fried risotto balls stuffed with creamy mozzarella and served with tomato sauce — is equally as delicious.
A starter that will surprise your taste buds is the bucket of fried chickpeas. Chickpeas are fried to a crisp along with aromatics, including rosemary and chile peppers, and seasoned to perfection. If you order a cocktail or beer, these make a great accompaniment as you decide what to order from the rest of the menu.
The heirloom tomatoes served in the Caprese salad are picked from the garden each day and, when they arrive at your table, they are still warm from the sun. Slices of orange and red tomatoes are layered between fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper; the dish tastes as good as summer feels.
The pizzas here are special. The dough is naturally leavened from a starter, which is fed every day, producing a sourdough-type dough that is safe for those with a gluten sensitivity. There’s the quattro formaggi: mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta and fontina cheeses; braised pork: fontina, arugula and grana padano cheese; pizza con carne: mozzarella, soppressata, prosciutto, sausage and tomato sauce; and a handful of others.
I ordered the pizza special of the night: thin, crisp and perfectly charred dough topped with fontina cheese, pickled banana peppers, crisp onions and sausage, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Every bite was packed with layers of flavor: brininess from the pickled peppers, saltiness from the fontina, savory from the extra virgin olive oil, and the remarkable flavors from the spices in the sausage. I’m a huge fan of pizza without sauce, and this is a pizza I could eat over and over again. Any pizza can be made into a calzone at your request.
Pro tip: If you dine here on the weekend, be sure to order the housemade bread and olive oil for $2. Leftover dough from the week is turned into focaccia that’s served toasty and warm with the delicious extra virgin olive oil for dipping. You’ll want to order this not for how good the bread is, but for dipping into the pasta sauces throughout your meal.
The pastas are as flavorful as all of the other dishes on the menu. Everything on the menu is perfectly seasoned, so there isn’t any need for additional salt and pepper. A special take on pesto is the cheese ravioli: six plump ravioli stuffed with kale and cheese and served in a walnut pesto. If lasagna is your comfort food, get prepared to loosen a belt buckle and dive into Della Terra’s version of lasagna Bolognese. Although the serving is for one, it can easily be shared by two.
A dish I was told that I must try is the bucatini all’Amatriciana. This thin, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole through the middle is tossed in a spicy (and oily) tomato sauce with onion, guanciale (an Italian cured meat made with pork jowl or cheek) and locatelli cheese. Although it was a bit greasy for my liking, it definitely was packed with flavor. If you are looking to try something other than traditional red sauce and pasta, give this one a try. Gluten-free pasta is available as a substitute to the pasta dishes.
Although I was trying to avoid eating dessert because I was completely stuffed, I had to try all three. There’s tiramisu, vanilla chocolate-chip-stuffed cannoli, and a light and sweet green tea panna cotta topped with Thai basil. Although this combination might seem strange at first, forgo the traditional desserts and order it. It’s a light and refreshing end to an amazing meal at Della Terra.