Golden brown melted mozzarella covers a pizza that spans the entire width of the tiny, two-person table in Dazzo's Pizzeria.
Elevated on a tray, the food sits almost at eye level, encouraging an appetite. Even before grabbing a slice, the aroma wafts into your face, creating an idea of just how delicious the slices will taste.
"Grandma's Pizza," a thin crust topped with five ingredients, needs nothing else. With roasted garlic and olive oil complementing the simple tomato sauce and cheese, this pizza is the house special.
Mary Boggs, the owner of Dazzo's Pizzeria, as well as The Bistro at the Bijou Theatre, both on South Gay Street, even added a personal comment to the menu: "This pizza is why I bought this restaurant, I love it!"
Her endorsement is only enforced by the suggestion of waitress Joanna Bajandes.
"People get the Grandma's Pizza a lot," Bajandes said. "They really like it."
Stretched to a 12-by-18 inch rectangle, Grandma's special recipe has customers feeling nostalgic.
"It reminded me of a school lunch pizza, like in elementary school when it was pizza-and-fries-day," Tori Caplenor, junior in speech audiology and pathology, said. "Everyone loved those lunches, and this pizza makes me happy like those rectangles did back in the day.
"I think the pizza would have been great even if it had been a circle."
The smoked baked mozzarella appetizer came to the table in a piping hot clay circular dish before the pizza ever arrived. A blob of melted cheese smothered in tomato sauce sent steam upwards.
"Careful, it's hot," Bajandes advised.
With little reservation, the molten mozzarella was scooped up onto slices of baguette and shoved into mouths. Burned tongues aside, the flavors in the dish evoked images of classic Italy.
"Oh, this is delicious," Caplenor commented. "The smoky flavor in this is fantastic."
"Smoky" seems to be a trend of Dazzo's Pizzeria. The little restaurant, with its exposed kitchen and ovens, sits amid a faint haze of cooking crust. Yet, the smoke does little to detract from the experience. It merely adds ambience to the red paint, dim lights and music posters covering most of the walls.
"It was interesting to look at the posters of musicians on the walls," Caplenor said. "There were a lot of different artists, and the music theme was neat. I liked what they were playing in the background. The jazzy vibe was very fitting."
Julia Hardey, a Knoxville resident, also appreciated the decoration.
"It's a cool space," Hardey said. "It's a great place for celebrations."
In a city where pizza isn't hard to find, Dazzo's Pizzeria holds its own. The menu extends beyond simple pies into the world of pasta and calzones, as any Italian restaurant would. They don't stop with obvious extensions; the menu includes five brunch options, offered only on Sundays. Add eggs to a pizza, and voila: breakfast is served.
"We make almost everything in house," Bojandes said. "It's just a great place to grab a slice of pizza."