Vero Bistro serves authentic-style pizza

Marc-Aurele Buholzer at the wood-burning oven in Vero Bistro.

When most people think of pizza, they think about the kind of pizza served by the large chains across the U.S. It has a relatively thick crust, with tomato sauce, cheese and maybe sausage or pepperoni. But the pizza at Vero Bistro, located on Cedar Road in the Cedar Fairmount Business District, is quite different. It’s pizza napoletana, or Neapolitan pizza.

Neapolitan pizza is the original style of pizza, first introduced in Naples, Italy, back in the late 18th century. “It was originally street food,” said Marc-Aurele Buholzer, the owner of Vero. “It was basically peasant food.” Neapolitan pizza has a very thin crust, made with super-fine flour. It also features San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown on the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella cheese. It has to be baked in in a wood-burning oven at 900 degrees for 90 seconds.

Buholzer opened Vero Bistro a little more than a year and a half ago, on June 15, 2012. It’s the same location that La Gelateria formerly occupied.

Buholzer, who is 30 years old and was born in Switzerland, worked at La Gelateria on and off for about six years. Prior to working there, he worked at Valerio’s in Little Italy. In fact, it was Valerio Iorio who opened La Gelateria in 2002. After a few years, Iorio decided to install a wood-burning oven, which he acquired in Naples, and began serving pizza.

Eventually, Buholzer became the pizzaiola, or the maker of the pizzas. When La Gelateria closed in 2011, he decided to take over the space. “I put a business plan together, got some money and opened Vero,” he said. He spent about three months remodeling the space, with the idea of focusing on pizza, not gelato. In addition to the pizza, Vero also features small plates, such as marinated olives with crostini, a salami board and a variety of other crostini with cheese and other items. In addition, the menu includes three salads, and the restaurant still offers gelato for dessert.

Buholzer obtained a liquor license this past June, and the restaurant now offers a full menu of Italian wines, as well as various beers.

Buholzer, who lives on Woodmere Drive in Cleveland Heights, focuses on using as many locally grown products as possible. He gets many of his ingredients from Farm Share, an organization that connects him with farmers who are all located within 75 miles of Cleveland. His goat cheese comes from the Lake Erie Creamery, and all of his bread is from On the Rise bakery, on Fairmount Boulevard in Cleveland Heights.

Vero has received strong support from other chefs who live in the area, including Michael Symon, Jonathon Sawyer and Doug Katz. “Doug comes by almost every Sunday,” Buholzer said, “and his restaurant Fire had its staff party here.”

A for the future, Buholzer said the restaurant is “always a work in progress.” He is considering eliminating the gelato from the menu and adding more space for additional seating in the restaurant, which can now accommodate 45 people. Meanwhile, Vero remains a very unique restaurant on the Cleveland scene.

Vero Bistro

216-229-8383

12421 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights

Tuesday – Saturday  4 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Sunday  2 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Closed on Monday

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 2:24 PM, 01.02.2014