Overall Experience - 5.5
Summary : A family friendly pizzeria with dozens of options in the heart of Portugal's Duoro Valley.
“This reminds me of the pizza at Yankee Stadium,” my wife proclaimed, as she took her first bite of pizza at Pizzeria Limonete (R. da Ferreirinha, 5050).
“Is that a good thing?” I replied.
Located in the town of Peso da Régua — about 90 minutes west of Porto along the banks of the Douro River — Pizzeria Limonete is not exactly a “destination” pizza place. Nobody is going out of their way to try the pies there. But my wife and I were six days into a week long Portugal trip. And we’d had our fill of Pasteis de Nata and Francesinha sandwiches. So it was time to see what Portuguese pizza tasted like.
Our journey began in Lisbon on Christmas. And although there were a handful of notable pizza places I came across in preparation for the trip, nearly all of them were closed for the holidays. From VPN certified pizza places such as Mercantina and Forno D’Oro to other highly regarded spots like Pizzeria Lisboa, Pizzeria Casanova, La Puttana, and Zero Zero — there is no shortage of pizza spots to try in Lisbon. But that’s for next time.
Pizzeria Limonete is more of a “local” spot. It’s just off the main drag of shops in Peso da Régua — the kind of place that a tourist passing through probably wouldn’t seek out. Unless, that is, they were looking for pizza. On a Friday evening in late December it was packed with families and I could only make out Portuguese being spoken from the tables around us.
The menu is expansive. A dozen pages are filled with salads, appetizers, hamburgers, pasta, meats and more. There is even a kids menu. And photos of some select items. It kind of reminds me of the menu at Friday’s (not that I’ve been there in two decades…). If “pizzeria” wasn’t in the name of Pizzeria Limonete, you might not know they specialize in pizza. But, alas, towards the back of the menu you will find a double truck spread of 24 pizzas. “Mini” pies range from about $5 USD to $10 USD. And their full size “Medium” pies range from about $9 USD to $12 USD, once you do the conversion.
None of the pies are too out of the ordinary. There is a four cheese pie, a Hawaiian pie (with ham, pineapple and shrimp), a seafood pie, and many more than wouldn’t seem out of place in the US. The most ambitious pie on the menu is the first one: Pizza Della Mama featuring tomatoes, cheese, ham, sausage, tuna, peppers, shrimp, mushrooms, and olives. No thanks!
My wife and I ordered two “Medium” pies: a margherita (tomato, cheese, oregano) and a pizza romana (tomato, cheese, buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, parma ham, mushrooms and arugula). But first… the bread course.
It’s uncommon for a pizza place in the US to serve bread before pizza. But Pizzeria Limonete isn’t your typical pizza place (heck, given the menu, it might not be a pizza place at all). So every table received a plate of this non-vegetarian friendly panini-type bread upon ordering. It was pretty good. Maybe even better than the pizza itself.
Our pies showed up about 15 minutes later. Perhaps what reminded my wife of the pizza at Yankee stadium was the loads of low quality cheese that the margheria pie was topped with. It wasn’t bad — and probably met my expectations for what I expected once we sat down. But it did more closely resemble ballpark pizza than any type of upscale pie you might find in a small town pizza place here in the US.
Our second pie – the pizza romano – was notable in that more of the ingredients seem to have been put on the pie post-oven than before it was cooked. As a result, it felt like we were eating a salad on pizza crust. The fresh mozzarella wasn’t melted. And the arugula — the most dominant topping– was aplenty. Had I been in the mood for a salad, I would have enjoyed this pie more.
I’m glad we went to Pizzeria Limonete, as we got to experience what one might expect from a local Portuguese pizzeria, even though it was very standard. There wasn’t much that stood out about Pizzeria Limonete. But maybe that’s the point. It gets the job done. And when you need somewhere convenient to get some food on a Friday night that won’t break the bank, that’s where you go. So it makes sense that it was packed. And better to be grabbing dinner there than at some pizza chain. So I hope Pizzeria Limonete continues to crank out pies. And hamburgers. And pastas. And all of the other dishes you might normally order at Friday’s.