For regulars of King’s Pizza in Martinsburg, it is probably unfathomable that someone hasn’t seen the renovation and expansion of the shop which occurred in 2011, but it’s been five years since I’ve been there as I no longer live nearby. In attendance at a holiday lunch, I expected an expanded facility but didn’t realize that it had been re-decorated. In addition to the abundance of festive holiday decorations, King’s was packed with a spirited lunch crowd. Our gracious and professional server, Carrie Rivera, was unfailingly accommodating and so pleasant.
Let’s get straight to the food. To my right, a co-worker ate pepperoni pizza. Was it rude to ask for a sliver in the name of research? He didn’t seem to mind. The slice, by the way, was so large. “How large was it?” It was so large, it would easily be the equivalent of a small pizza at other places. If you want excellent New York-style pizza in West Virginia, go to King’s. There are only two things that would make it more authenticate–importing water for the dough from New York or going to New York. It’s authentic cheesy, gooey goodness.
It’s all about New York style pizza, isn’t it? In the early 1900’s, the first pizzeria was founded in New York City. The high gluten dough recipe allows it to be hand tossed, spread thin and wide, and once it is baked, it folds easily yet still has a slightly crisp form and bite. As a kid, I remember thinking that if I ate an apple with pizza , it was a complete meal with fruit, meat, dairy, vegetable, and carbohydrates. The website “visual.ly” reports that 94% of Americans eat pizza regularly and over 3 billion whole pizzas are sold annually. That’s about 100 acres of pizza consumed every day.
Across from me, an antipasto salad was served. Billed as King’s signature house salad topped with ham, Genova salami and provolone cheese, it is a gorgeous salad. It’s so beautiful, the salad would make a lovely presentation on a buffet at a private party; I won’t tell if you re-plate it. The salad is astonishing large and deliciously piquant. The meat and cheese was julienned and rolled and the salad contained lovely marinated cauliflower, celery, and carrots plus green and black olives all on a bed of romaine with slivers of onion. It also includes an anchovy option. The house vinaigrette is the recommended dressing.
To the left, my dining partner ordered a large cheesesteak sub with a side order of fries. The footlong sandwich was as it should be–fresh, toasted, crusty Italian bread stuffed with chopped steak with melted cheese, a smear of mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and sautéed onions. I didn’t taste it, but the fact that it was polished off and the consumer had a satisfied look tells me all I need to know.
My entree? I think eggplant parmigiana is similar to a layered lasagna but instead of noodles, slices of breaded eggplant are used. Eggplant parm is a classic Italian entree. I don’t know how many home cooks tackle eggplant on a regular basis, but it is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s still a treat to have a beautiful eggplant parm made for me, instead of by me, such as this one. It’s really something I haven’t mastered to this level of perfection. Eggplant is salted to draw out the moisture, but it is also very absorbent so too much olive oil can leave it mushy and bleh.
Aside from being an amazingly generous portion, King’s eggplant parm is deliciously decadent with perfectly browned breading, King’s proprietary sauce, and mounds of melted cheese. Served with a large portion of spaghetti and sauce, a garden salad, and bread, this would easily feed two solid appetites.
As for the “is it a fruit or vegetable” debate, I’m going with a vegetable for the chef’s purpose even though it is technically a botanical, edible, flowering fruit. How to describe the taste of eggplant? Some say it tastes like squash, but I think it has a unique taste and texture unto its own.
For dessert, I shared a slice of chocolate chip cheesecake. It was a swirl of traditional cheesecake and chocolate with a chocolate chip crust. It was a cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie dough-lovers dream. Other cheesecake offerings on this day included raspberry lemon layer and sweet potato maple. They make their own pizza and spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, dough, and more. Spaghetti with meat sauce and lasagna are the the most popular dishes at King’s.
Sal and Rosa Scotto own the Martinsburg King’s Pizza. Rosa’s maiden name is Colandrea and is the twin to Dominick. Their brothers Andrea and Pasquale also live in the Eastern Panhandle. So how did this Italian-American family end up in the Eastern Panhandle? They re-count their family lore in their marketing material.
Their father, Vincenzo worked as a chef on a ship. After surviving three sinkings, he chose another career and moved his family from Naples, Italy to New Jersey where he opened an Italian restaurant called Brother’s Restaurant. The children grew up in the restaurant business often helping in the kitchen after school. Vincenzo and his wife, Maria, retired and returned to Italy in 1995. Vincenzo had a friend who ran the King’s Pizza in Kearneysville and also wanted to retire. Dominick and Pasquale came to see the restaurant and were sold on the business and the area. About a year later, Andrea, Rosa and Sal also moved here to expand the business.
Although it was busy, I asked Rosa a few questions about being the owner of a bustling restaurant. She says they’ve been in Martinsburg for 15 years and calls them the best years of her life. “This is really my first house. I’m always here,” she laughs. “I love my customers from the bottom of my heart, and I thank them for their patronage.” Rosa also proudly mentions she is the mother of Lexi, 16, and Tanya, 23.
All King’s locations are open seven days a week, except for the Martinsburg location, which is closed on Sundays. The King’s empire includes shops in Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Falling Waters, Inwood, Kearneysville, Shepherdstown, and Hagerstown plus King’s Chicken in Martinsburg. The Martinsburg King’s Pizza is located at 313 Rock Cliff Drive, seats 64, employs 16 workers, and offers on and off site catering and carry out.