As a child growing up in the northern village of Ponte Lambro, Italy, Alex Assennato would sit at a long table and help his grandmother make pasta every Saturday afternoon.
"We made it for lunch the next day," he said, "when our whole family would eat together."
Assennato, who is half Italian (with Sicilian roots) and half Argentinian, credits these afternoons as a formative experience which led him to train as a chef in Buenos Aires (with a specialty in Italian food) and upon his return gain seven years of chef experience in Como, Italy.
Four years ago, he came to the United States, ready to work hard. "For Italian people, America is the dream," he said.
Now, Assennato is living his dream as the manager and chef of Princeton's Village Pizza, a new restaurant located in the Shoppes at Harbor Village mall.
Open for just a few weeks now, the restaurant is using this time period as a soft opening. "We'll do a grand opening in mid-June," said Joel Janoe, manager of the Shoppes at Harbor Village and the Oceano Hotel.
Assennato says that he emphasized pizza (11 different types are on the menu now) as the featured item because it allows him to use his creativity in coming up with new types of pies.
"It's like an art," he said.
Those seeking twists on traditional fare will not be disappointed at Village Pizza. Whole wheat and gluten-free crusts are available. So is farinata pizza, which has a thin layer of crust baked on top (the farinata) and is made out of garbanzo beans mixed in with flour, olive oil, some parsley, salt and black pepper. "I can make an onion version as well," Assennato says of the farinata.
The fresh roasted vegetable Ortolana pizza is recommended to be ordered farinata-style, as the nuttiness of the latter compliments the taste of the main ingredients in the former.
Diners can also order calzones, lasagne, salad, minestrone soup and bread from the menu designed by Assennato. He says he makes all items by himself in-house.
"Pizza is in his veins, " says Janoe.
Village Pizza (open every day except for Tuesday from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. on weekends) offers home delivery between Montara and Half Moon Bay. To view a menu, click on the PDF document attached to the media box on the right.