Here’s a tip if driving out of town for a meal: Call ahead and make sure they’re open. My first attempt to visit Verdi Grill & Pizzeria was a bust, arriving to find a handwritten notice stating, “Closed on Mondays.” However, the lure of burgers with skirts was too strong for me to write them off. After waiting a couple of weeks, my wife and I called to ensure an open door and headed back to the semi-rural bedroom community by the river.
The decor is “Old West mining camp,” with antique ore-processing equipment outside, various mining and farm implements on the walls, wagon wheel chandeliers, and rustic “log cabin” furniture in the dining room. The parking lot entrance is a bit like descending into a mine, with a hallway leading to a sign indicating food is ordered at the bar adjacent to the dining area. Service was informal but friendly. The co-owner acted as bartender and server.
We ordered a pitcher of beer and a large, single topping pizza (on special together for $15—normally $14.50 for the pie and $11.50 for the beer). My wife ordered a side salad ($6.99) comprised of mixed greens, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garbanzo beans, carrots, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cucumber, sunflower seeds, cranberries, olives, croutons, jack and cheddar cheeses, served with choice of housemade dressing. Only complaints were the plate should be a little larger to hold all that stuff, and the ranch dressing—although possessing good flavor—was a little thin.
Intending to take most of the pizza home, I added a small order of hot wings to share ($6.99) and the item that drew me here: the steamer burger ($9.50). The wings were medium sized and tossed in a sauce unlike any I’ve had before. Original Buffalo wing sauce is a simple thing, a mix of vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter. This sauce included black pepper and some kind of herbal element my wife and I couldn’t quite pin down (oregano?).
When asked, the proprietress stated her husband makes all the sauces, and she doesn’t know what’s in them. Further, every batch is a little different because the man is working from memory and likes to tinker—a man after my own sauce-making heart. The batch we tasted was unique, spicy and super tasty. The pizza crust was crispy on bottom with a good, bready border, but the sauce was a bit bland. Surprising, given that original take on hot wing sauce. Overall, an average, middle-of-the-road pie.
Substituting onion rings for french fries with the burger ($1) was a great choice. The rings were battered, crunchy, and exactly what I was hoping for. As for the burger, it suffered from some engineering issues. The one-third pound patty was above par, well-seasoned, juicy, and cooked just a tad over medium rare. Its skirt of jack and cheddar cheeses was crunchy, chewy, artery-clogging and delicious (you “skirt” a burger patty by piling on way too much shredded cheese after it has been flipped, allowed the cheese to melt and partially fry on the grill surface). But the tomatoes, onion, pickles and jalapeños conspired with a soft, ruffled lettuce to produce a wet landslide of toppings. A firmer lettuce with some crunch would work better with all the other moisture-laden ingredients.
Sadly, all that deliciousness was let down by a meager bun that was too small and too soft to bear its burden. I could barely find the bottom half and was never able to actually pick the thing up, even after cutting the sandwich in half with the huge steak knife that had been used to hold everything together. Seeing me struggle, the owner brought me a fork to finish it off.