By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News and Journal Editor
Folks in the area now have a new restaurant to visit at Charles Pointe – Mia Margherita! And since it’s opening just three months ago, it’s founder Scott Duarte says he is “flattered” by the response and support that has been received from surrounding communities.
Mia Margherita’s logo promotes it’s coal-fired pizza as a specialty item, but there is lots more than just pizza on the menu! The cuisine features everything from fresh salads featuring local grown greens to stews and soups such as menesha, pastas, beef, chicken, and veal, Panini sandwiches; lots of Italian style finger foods; and several signature sides including delicious pepperoni fried potatoes with hot or sweet peppers. Visitors will also fine an extensive selection of wines from which to choose, along with cocktails and an assortment of approximately 40 beers - both bottled and on tap.
The atmosphere is quite relaxed, catering to all ages and walks of life. Duarte says, "Everyone fits in here!"
Planning the decor (as well as the menu!) was given more than casual thought, all formulated to present an informal environment where guests can enjoy first class peasant style Italian food at any time...for lunch, during the mid-afternoon hours, for dinner, or an evening out. And to enliven your mid-week somewhat, Mia Margherita even offers live entertainment on Wednesday evenings featuring music from a variety of genres - acoustic, folk, rock, jazz and blues.
Duarte is no stranger to the culinary world. A graduate of the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute, he learned the science behind creating appealing flavors, mastering traditional recipes, and attractive presentation. He admits that his grandmothers (one with Italian heritage and one with Spanish heritage) were an influence when he was young.
"But, this was not really a career objective of mine." he noted. "It was not until I enrolled in culinary school that I realized how very interesting it was, and then it became a passion of mine."
Scott's experience includes being a chef at Tamarack, Foodservice Manager at The Greenbrier, and Executive Sous Chef at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. This was all prior to having the opportunity to become Managing Director at CP Hospitality and General Manager at Bridgeport Conference Center for owner Jamie Corton. This brought Duarte closer to 'home', yet kept him involved in doing what he enjoys.
He says that he and Corton tossed around the idea of this new Charles Pointe restaurant for literally several years. During that time, Duarte gave consideration to the name Mia (meaning "my") Margherita, the atmosphere, the menu and all that has now come to pass.
And, believe it or not, there is considerable history behind the scenes at Mia Margherita! "The idea for our coal-fired pizza actually stems from its origin in Italy when it was cooked in ovens heated with wood fires," he elaborated. "Back in 1905, when Italians came to the U.S. via Ellis Island, their pizza recipes came too and began to be cooked with coal. There are still prominent pizzerias in Brooklyn where folks line up around the block for a taste of coal-fired oven pizza!"
He continued, "In 1889, the 'Margherita' pizza was named for Princess Margherita of Savoy, who was the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy during the reign of her husband Umberto I. This pizza was designed to represent the Italian flag. It's colors - red, white and green - were characterized by red tomatoes, white cheese and green basil! Many people may not be aware that pizza is so symbolic in Italian history!"
And what better place to introduce Mia Margherita than in north central West Virginia, where Italian heritage is prominent and where coal has been an abundant industry! However, he did admit that it is anthracite coal, not bituminous, that is used in ovens at Mia Margherita.
"Our coal is packaged in 10-pound packages wrapped in paper and it burns very hot, reaching temperatures of 1,000 degrees in the oven...and with very little smoke," He continued.
When the Mia Margherita idea came to fruition, Duarte met with the designer during Labor Day weekend and actually gave her a tour of Clarksburg and Glen Elk right in the midst of the Italian Heritage Festival - all so that she could "get a feel" for the history that he wanted to bring to life
"The ceiling at Mia Margherita takes on a rustic elegance and lends a rather industrial look to the site," Duarte explained. "And we incorporated a brick wall as well."
Some seating includes high bar tables; other seating offers regular tables and chairs along with booths and banquettes. Comfortable seating capacity is 105; however, that will change when the weather breaks as they plan to add patio seating. A 16' by 40' outdoor area will be covered with an awning that will allow for an additional 40 people to be seated outdoors.
While the history is fascinating and the atmosphere is inviting, it is the taste that truly sell the restaurant! Executive Chef Tim Goots was sent to San Francisco to attend a pizza school where he learned the art of dough and the coal-fired procedure. He learned his lessons well! Not only does the coal firing lend a bubbly, blistery appearance to the pizza crust; it also gives a distinct flavor to the coal-fired chicken wings!
Be sure to drop by Charles Pointe's new Mia Margherita to sample the menu! Mia Margherita is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Who knows? If its success continues, it just could become a franchise!