A line outside of Coltivare Pizza & Garden had already formed by 4:45 p.m.
Once I was in line, the sixth or seventh party from the front door, groups continuously lined up behind me, waiting for the restaurant’s 5 p.m. opening. I already knew about Coltivare’s notorious wait time and that it doesn’t take reservations, so I went early with the hope of having a 15-minute wait rather than an hour.
My position in line and the position of the sun matched up a little too well. As the rays of the sun heated my face and I suspected I might walk into the restaurant with a new tan, I hoped the food inside the building was worth the heat outside of it.
I was not disappointed.
By the time I was sat the tables were almost full, and the outside seating in the garden was filling as well. Within minutes, the inside of Cotlivare went from quiet murmurs of guests getting comfortable in their seats to a constant rumble of conversation.
The server was soon at the table and walked me through the menu, pointing out which items were the most popular and which he thought were the best. With his direction I ordered the N’Duja, which is a spread that comes on bruschetta with honey from the “snacks” menu.
With pizza and pasta being what Coltivare is most known for, I had to try both. For my pizza option I ordered the chicken, which came with la quercia prosciutto, fresh tomato, sage and saba. For pasta I was close to getting the spaghetti, but the waiter convinced me to get the rigatoni, which came with charred tomatoes, eggplant, pickled fresno peppers and Texas goat cheese.
On the cocktail menu I noticed a “zero-proof” section of alcohol-free drinks. I chose the Roaring Waters, a beverage of watermelon, mint, lime, coconut water and ginger beer.
My mocktail was soon on the table. In a tall glass, mint leaves mingled with the pink drink, and a slice of lime rested on the rim. The first sip left a burning sensation on the back of my tongue from the ginger beer, but the watermelon gave it a refreshing twist. With each sip my taste buds grew used to the ginger beer, but it continued to give a zing.
N’Duja is a spreadable pork salami that usually has a spicy kick. On bruschetta with fresh spinach on top, I found the spread to have only a little spice with certain bites. The bread tended to turn mushy in my mouth, almost watery, with the spread and spinach. I liked eating the N’Duja best with the crunchiest parts of the bruschetta crust.
The aroma of tomato warmed my senses as the cleanest plate of rigatoni was set in front of me. Sauce covered the rigatoni but did not creep out onto the plate. It wasn’t a watery sauce. Garlic came through with the tomato, and as the pickled fresnos burst in my mouth, the dish sweetened. The rigatoni was firm to the bite, but not underdone.
As I picked up a slice of pizza, crumbs from the bottom dusted my fingers and the chicken and prosciutto threatened to topple off. Holding on to my toppings, I took a bite and was met with chicken that had a barbeque quality, crisp prosciutto that was like a better version of bacon, and a sweet hickory I later learned was the saba. The crust was dense without being tough.
The saba, which is an Italian syrup, was my favorite ingredient, as with it I could almost imagine I was eating a dessert pizza.
But since it wasn’t actually dessert, I ordered a chocolate panna cotta with toasted meringue. The thick pudding with the whipped marshmallow tasted like a crust-less chocolate cream pie.
Cotlivare can easily be seen as upscale dining, but it wasn’t pretentious. You don’t have to dress up and kids are welcome. The servers are helpful and my water glass was never empty.
The food made getting in line early well worth it.
Coltivare Pizza & Garden
Address: 3320 White Oak Dr.
Hours: 5–10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday–Thursday, 5–11 p.m. Friday–Saturday, 5–9 p.m. Sunday
Healthy options: Yes
Star of the show: Pizza