I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 29, 2021
Like many other longtime Nashville residents, my husband and I talk often now about leaving the city for good. The Nashville we knew and loved is dead and gone, God rest its soul, and I’ve cycled through all the stages of grief over this truth, only recently landing on acceptance. Right about now, I feel like all I need is any decent-sized city with fewer cranes, cars, and Californians — but the reality is that three things may well keep me in Nashville forever: the fact that we just paid off our mortgage, the many hiking trails within 30 minutes of our home, and the food.
The food component has been unexpected, because it wasn’t long ago that we complained about our options. Although Nashville was growing more popular, it seemed every new restaurant was still serving up the same old Southern-with-a-twist menu. I mean, I like hot chicken and biscuits as much as the next person, but that shit gets old fast. Over the last five or so years, though, an influx of new residents from across the country and around the world have brought all their favorite interesting and exotic foods with them, resulting in an onslaught of excellent new restaurants and pop-up concepts from chefs eager to make their mark on the Athens of the South. We’ve been happily eating our way across the city ever since, feasting on everything from Hawaiian Saimin and Turkish Osh to Japanese curry sandwiches and authentic birria tacos. I keep a list of new places to try on my phone and it grows longer every week.
And if food is the addiction currently chaining me to this city, I guess you could call sfincione pizza one of my top drugs of choice. You can find it at Hathorne on Sunday nights, when St. Vito Focacciaria takes over the kitchen, serving up a menu all its own that includes Sicilian shared plates and desserts as well as a signature cocktail list created especially for them. We got to try a little bit of everything they served recently and it was all wonderful, especially the fried artichokes and the Italian roast pork.
Known as Carciofi Alla Guida, these crispy fried artichokes are served with a delicious garlic aioli. Everyone at my table greedily wolfed them down.
I was even more impressed by the roast pork, mainly because I’m not much of a pork fan; I was really only trying it to be nice. I’m glad I did. Stuffed with hazelnuts and sunchoke, it was exquisitely tender and delicious. I could have had it as my main course and gone home happy.
Little did I know, the best was yet to come.
This? This is the sfincione pizza, a Sicilian-style pizza traditionally served on special occasions like Christmas and New Years Day. If you love bread and you love pizza, then this is the pizza for you. It’s a perfect pairing, sort of like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez getting back together — It just feels right, and you’re left wondering why those two ever split in the first place and how they both still look exactly the same as they did 20 years ago. Okay, maybe that’s not quite the analogy I was looking for. Moving on.
The crust of sfincione pizza is focaccia… In St. Vito’s case, brilliantly constructed, perfectly baked focaccia that’s chewy and fluffy and satisfying in a way that radiates from your mouth right down into the very core of your being. St. Vito offers three different topping options, which vary according to the season. Pictured above is the mushroom, with locally sourced oyster, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms, along with Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson and Fontina cheeses. Consuming it was absolute heaven. Since I’m crazy about mushrooms, I was sure this particular pizza would be my favorite, but shockingly, it had a rival.
Enter the OTO (olives, tomatoes, and onions), focaccia topped with Castelveltrano olives, chewy tomato, red onion, Fontina, Pecorino, and herbs. Sounds simple, but I’m here to tell you it was amazing and every bit as good as the mushroom pizza.
I had already eaten quite a bit by the time the pizzas arrived and was only planning to have a few bites, but, um…. well…
I was full. I was sated. I thought I’d had enough. But I had thought wrong, because dessert came and it was another Can’t Say No™ production.
Topped with Chantilly cream and sliced plum, this deceptively simple olive oil cake made me want to weep with pleasure. Cakes are my jam, so when I taste one that’s perfectly moist and not too sweet and clearly made with top notch ingredients, I think 1. OMG Yum and 2. How far am I willing to go to get this recipe? It was divinely inspired and perfectly executed and, well, it’s not on the menu right now, but I’ll bet the hazelnut floating island that’s taken it’s place is just as good.
By now, you’re probably wondering who’s responsible for all this edible amazingness. His name is Michael Hanna and he’s lived here in Nashville for six years, working at The Catbird Seat and Rolf and Daughters among other places before starting St. Vito during Pandemic Year One. (That’s what we’re calling it now. I’ve decided.) After a residency at Vandyke Bed & Beverage in East Nashville, he moved to Hathorne over the summer.
If you’re lucky, Michael might come out while you’re eating and tell you lovely stories about where all his ingredients came from. He bases many of his menu decisions on that perfect cheese or mushroom that he was able to source from Farmer Jehudthzephat from Creaksnatch, Kentucky, or something like that (Sorry, I was in a food coma and the details are hazy), and hearing the backstories of his ingredients makes eating the finished product even sweeter.
A few other notes: You can make reservations for St. Vito on the Hathorne website. The parking situation on Sunday nights is fantastic — There’s plenty of street parking and if parallel parking gives you hives, Richland Park is right across the street and you can park in that lot. Easy peasy. Hathorne has heating lamps on its patio and it’s a magical place for an autumn meal, but inside has just as much ambience if the night’s too chilly for you.
The pizzas are $28-$30, but one could easily feed three or four people, and if you get one for two, you will have leftovers for days. I can tell you from experience that if you heat this pizza in aluminum foil in the oven, it as every bit as good as your initial, earth-shattering encounter. I call it sloppy seconds.
We’re planning on a return trip with the kids — I know they’re going to love this pizza as much as I did.
Maybe I’ll see you there.