I wasn't sure exactly where Pepperoncini's was located. Looking back on it, I'm sure I've driven by it on the way to coaching the Lady Hawks at Pendery Park hundreds of times and just not noticed it. But it was dark and I was sans Garmin. Heading down the newly repaired route 8 and into Silver Grove, I knew I had to be close.
As it turns out, Robert Brooks' (the owner) directions made it easy enough to find. Right before the Dari Bar, across the street from Lafarge (otherwise known as the big, ugly, green building).
Ben and I got there at the same time and parked in the gravel driveway behind the restaurant. We both thought the same thing: Are we in the right place? Even with the directions, from the parking lot, Pepperoncini's looked like nothing more than an unassuming single family home.
Atmosphere (1-10 scale): 7.5
Don't judge a book by it's cover. Inside is spacious, clean and updated. I didn't ask, but it's seems to be non-smoking. Brooks, 29, who has been in the pizza business since he first started working remodeled the space with his family.
The front bar area, which flows nicely into the dining room area, would be a great place to watch a game. It's not cramped, and has a nice feel to it. I'd describe it as mancave-chic. Cool enough to hang with your buddies, but classy enough for a date night.
Pepperoncini's also boasts a newly renovated second floor, which Brooks is hoping to use for rehearsal dinners, parties, booking bands, comedy acts, etc. Getting up the stairs could prove to be a little tricky, especially after a few libations, but it's definitely a diamond in the rough. The only downside is the location. It's actually not that far from Ft. Thomas, and they do deliver, but this is definitely a destination restaurant, as opposed to a local pizza joint.
Overall Pizza Taste/Selection: 8.2
Don't get me wrong, by calling Pepperoncini's a destination, I'm giving the place a huge compliment. Unless you have a rivercamp off of route 8, perhaps the only reason to head that direction was mentioned in my first paragraph. Pepperoncini's makes the soccer game, ice cream, pizza triumvirate complete.
The deep crust was a welcomed change. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it seemed like the majority of the non-chain pizza places have a thinner crust, which is often stone-oven baked. The thicker crust was buttery, had a nice crunch and seemed to be lightly brushed with a garlic butter.
The standard pepperoni was probably the best that the FTM braintrust had had. With the pepperoni on the outside of the cheese, the taste and quality of the ingredients has nowhere to hide. They were crispy and spicy. Everything you want on a pepperoni pie.
We also had the Meat Lover's Dream and the Sampler Pizza (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, bacon, ham, black olives, tomatoes and banana peppers. Since we have been doing this challenge, one thing I've learned is that it's hard to do a good supreme type pizza. With so many ingredients, it's difficult to put enough toppings on the pizza so it's not too overloaded, but also allows you to get a bunch of different flavors in each bite.
Pepperoncini's did an outstanding job with this. Their balance was almost perfect. Highly recommend this pizza.
Probably my favorite part of this challenge has been this portion. This is what truly makes each restaurant we go to so unique and was the main reason we tried to stay away from chains.
Pepperoncini's has a mug club (which you can see in the second picture in this article). It costs $25 to get your own mug, which gets engraved and displayed at the bar. Whenever you come in and buy a beer, your second one is free. The beer selection is good, too. Only about 5 draft selections, but the bottled beer has a few gems.
We tried some wings and cheese bread as well. I liked the cheese bread at Raniero's a little better (probably because it reminded me on my college days and Mad Mushroom), but the house mix on the wings was really good. It was almost like a tangy, sweet and spicy sauce. The wings were meaty, and not overdone.
There were also specials, which were handwritten at each table that added some charm.
Also, one of the differentiating items was the sheer amount and size of banana peppers that accompany each pie. I had almost forgotten what these were like on a pizza because every time my bride and I get Papa John's (which is the other chain notorious for giving you one measly pepper with each pizza) they seem to just disappear on me. I didn't have to worry about that here. The peppers at Pepperoncini's are plentiful. Hence its namesake.
If you go to Pepperoncini's there is no doubt you'll run into owner, Robert Brooks. The restaurant is his life and passion. You can tell by talking to him that he takes pride in every detail at his pizzeria... and it shows.
Total Score: 8.03
1) Buona Vita - 8.15
2) Pepperoncini's Pizza 8.03
3) Newport Pizza Company - 8
4) Raniero's Pizzeria - 7.8
5) Dewey's Pizza - 6.15
6) 915 Pub and Grill - 5.75
7) Fort Thomas Pizza - 5.375