Fort Thomas is not exactly known as a pizza destination, but with the advent of 15 North, which opened last month, that’s changing. Owners Lori and Ed Gossman left their Italian restaurant in Washington D.C., Roscoe’s Pizzeria, in exchange for a quieter life in Northern Kentucky, opening their new restaurant at 15 N. Fort Thomas Ave. (hence the name) in a former Mio’s.
It’s nice to be able to dine at a place where you don’t have to feed the meter and the parking lots are free. With updated landscaping, walking up to the exterior of the stately stone, brick and Tudor building feels like walking up to a comfortable home. (The night we dined, everybody who sauntered in seemed to know each other). After traversing under a pergola, you walk through an enormous patio that’s only a third of the way filled with tables — the remainder is reserved for kids’ chalk drawings.
Since opening, the Gossmans have been slowly rolling things out. Their wood-fired pizzas are the centerpiece of their “limited” menu; they plan on expanding the current salad, pizza and sandwich selection in the future.
Inside, cornflower-blue walls complement the open kitchen and dining room that contains a fireplace, a small bar area and a glass mosaic with a “15” emblazoned on it. We arrived right before the restaurant got slammed and ran out of menus. With any new place there are going to be kinks, but thankfully nothing detrimental occurred during our visit — except it did take a while to receive our first course, a cucumber panzanella salad. (They’re understaffed but hiring.)
The restaurant has a few beers on draft, including a hibiscus beer, which is apparently a new trend. For wine, they have a short list of red, white and rosé by the glass and bottle, including a wine from Lawrenceburg, Ky.’s Lovers Leap Vineyards & Winery. A woman at the bar ordered a vodka drink, but was disappointed when she was told they don’t have hard liquor yet.
To get the night started, we ordered a glass of a fruity Michele Chiarlo Barbera from Piedmont, Italy ($7.50) and we also tried a Country Boy Cougar Bait blonde ale from Lexington, Ky. Once the panzanella salad arrived, it had chunks of torn, lightly grilled ciabatta bread, two kinds of olives and cherry tomatoes, red onions, flakes of Parmesan cheese, parsley and cucumbers sliced into half moons and was mixed with a refreshing herb vinaigrette. Good for sharing, but it did lack the traditional basil.
The Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas are smallish — about six slices per pizza — so it’s best to order one per person. Surprisingly, most of the pizzas are veggie-friendly. Supposedly it only takes them 75 seconds to cook a pizza in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, and the pizzas ($9-$14) come out charred at the edges. We tried the Wild Mushroom, with big and tiny exotic ’shrooms, double-bock mushroom cream, smoked mozzarella, thyme and lemon zest. The contrast of the different-sized mushrooms elevated the pizza beyond a pedestrian mushroom pie.
Our second pizza, the Prosciutto Arugula, came with olive oil, roasted garlic, mozzarella, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto and raw arugula layered on top after the pizza was taken out of the oven, adding a nice freshness.
15 North currently offers about 11 pizzas on the menu, including a Black & Blue (tomato sauce, olive tapenade, blue cheese, pepperoni, roasted onion, Kalamata olives), Harvest (onion and garlic purée, mozzarella, squash, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, basil), Pesto Chicken and a Domesticated Mushroom pizza (no weird mushrooms). The small plates consist of bruschetta, caprese salad and roasted olives, and even three sandwiches: a veggie, an Italian and a prosciutto.
After practically eating two whole pizzas (there were a few slices leftover and we were told to reheat the pizza in the oven at 500 degrees for five minutes), we somehow had enough room in our stomachs for dessert — stuffed dates.
Typically dates come wrapped in bacon and are a savory dish, but 15 North stuffs Medjool dates with melted mascarpone cheese, then caramelizes them, sprinkles them with rock salt and serves them with a scoop of Madisono’s vanilla bean gelato. The flavors are sweet and savory, with a caramelized texture — good, even if you don’t like dates.
Fort Thomas isn’t the most likely place for pizza, but I will drive anywhere for a good pie that’s made with interesting ingredients, which is why 15 North’s worth the trip to the ’burbs.
15 North Pizza
Go: 15 N. Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas, Ky.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday