March 19, 2007
Uncle Vito, Put Your Foot Down

Pulled by a sense of duty, to say nothing of a raging hunger for pizza, we dropped in Saturday night at Uncle Vito's, in its fourth day as an annex to Pronto at 16th and O in midtown Sacramento.

Both Pronto, a fast-food Italian concept, and Uncle Vito's, a casual walkup cafe specializing in pizzas by the slice, are owned by Mark Scribner and Dave Virga, who also own midtown's Paesanos Pizzeria at 18th and Capitol. You can amble directly from Pronto to adjoining Uncle Vito's, though the latter also has its own entrance facing 16th Street, in front of which were parked several fat-tire bicycles and a sign with just the sort of information that would prompt us to park our own bike, had our timing been better and one of our tires not been flat: "Happy hour, 4-6, beer and a slice of pizza $5." This offer also is repeated 11 p.m.-1 a.m., but just Thurday through Saturday.

Uncle Vito's is small, loud and spare, with the decor running to three large-screen TVs and iconic photos of old New York, from the skyline in the 1930s to Joe DiMaggio a little bit later. It's designed to appeal to a clientele eager to get in and out, but several guests lingered leisurely, perhaps drawn by continuing coverage of the NCAA basketball tournaments.

The chalkboard menu listed four kinds of pizza, though at other times a specialty fifth style also is to be available. We were delighted by the substantial size of the slices and their thin, crisp and toasty crust, but we hope eventually they push the selections beyond the predictable pepperoni, sausage and cheese.

Curiously, Scribner and Virga have announced that they probably won't be selling Uncle Vito's favorite pizza, topped with sardines. We think they're underestimating the adventurous midtown palate, especially of the cyclists and skateboarders who looked to be making the joint their second home. Ten beers on tap, a full bar and those big TVs also could have something to do with the cafe's early appeal.

The slices sell for between $3.50 and $3.75 each, and one is enough for dinner, unless you are skateboarding or cycling far.

Uncle Vito, incidentally, is Virga's 103-year-old grand uncle who arrived at Ellis Island aboard the S.S. Sofia from Sicily in 1907.

Uncle Vito's, 1501 16th St., is open 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.-2 .m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays; (916) 444-5250.

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