“Do one thing well,” the late Steve Jobs said, and then he showed the world how. It was good advice. Those who pour their energy into the one thing about which they are the most passionate stand to capture lightning in a bottle.
Joe Bordogna, owner of Lookout Winery, couldn’t pick just one thing, though, so he settled on two: wine and pizza. Fortunately, he had enough passion to do both equally well.
When I say Bordogna settled on two products, I mean precisely that. If you ask for an appetizer or a salad, you’re going to find yourself on the receiving end of a friendly lecture.
I learned this during my first visit to Lookout Winery. “This isn’t a restaurant,” Bordogna said when I asked if he served salads, “it’s a winery that serves great pizza.”
In other words, no. However, my mild disappointment over the lack of greens disappeared soon after my meatball and sausage pizza arrived. As Bordogna placed it on its stand, I could see it was no garden variety pie; it was the kind of pie you stop chewing after a few seconds so you tell everyone within earshot how awesome it is.
The homemade sausage is leaner than most pizzerias use, and when baked releases a mouth-watering sage and fennel seed flavor into the cheese. And Bordogna has selected the perfect mozzarella for his gourmet pies: it has a slight tanginess (similar to a blue cheese), a creamy texture, and just enough salt to maximize the taste of the pizza. Although he uses less cheese than other pizzerias, there’s enough there to create a bed of gooey, stringy decadence. The sauce is also perfection: it’s not spicy, so it doesn’t detract from the other ingredients, but it is hearty. The crust is good, too, with the edges tasting more like a warm, deliciously doughy breadstick than the typical pizza crust.
While Bordogna is to be commended for the quality of his individual ingredients, the most remarkable thing about his pizza is his thoughtful balance of those ingredients. No ingredient overwhelms the others, but instead, the ingredients complement each other, and work together to create an extraordinary pie.
While you can build your own pizza using a combination of veggies, meats, and shrimp, Bordogna prefers people order his gourmet pies, which he spent months perfecting. The house special is the Shrimp Scampi, which comes topped
with jumbo shrimp seared in the wood oven in his homemade white
wine, butter, and garlic sauce.
Other gourmet pizzas include the Napoli (a cheese pizza with fresh basil), the Milanese Meatball (lean ground beef and pork mixed with herbs and cheeses), the Florencia (black olives, fresh mushrooms, and prosciutto), the Tuscany (a meat lovers pizza), and the Roma Roasted Peppers Pizza (fire roasted red peppers, sausage, and mushrooms). Bordogna also offers a vegetarian and a low-fat pepperoni pizza.
Lookout Winery’s 16-inch pizzas are created from scratch using flour imported from Italy. Bordogna also imports his Napoli Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, which tops every pie, from Italy. The same goes for the San Marzano Plum tomatoes that go into his sauce.
About the only thing Bordogna didn’t import from Italy was himself. He originally hails from Pittsburgh, Penn., and he has the accent to prove it.
Bordogna has not only gone to the trouble of building several perfect pizzas, he makes a specific wine for each one. For example, he suggests pairing the Shrimp Scampi with an oaky or buttery Chardonnay. The Napolia is best matched with the Gewurztraminer, while his Merlot goes great with the Milanese Meatball.
Bordogna makes his wine on the Lookout Winery premises using techniques that have been in his family for generations, and that he learned in his Italian-born grandfather’s basement. While he crafted each wine to enhance a certain pizza, you can select your own wine without being scolded.
His white wines include the Carlo Chardonnay (has an oaky flavor that enhances the woody taste of his pizza), the Red Cap Chardonnay (this is the buttery chard Bordogna says goes well with his Shrimp Scampi), the Michele Moscato (has a light melon flavor), the Gaetano Gewurztraminer (has a crisp pear flavor), and the Antonio Reisling (a nice white wine with a green apple finish).
Red wine connoisseurs have several selections from which to choose, including the Rudolph Red Zinfande (a light berry, fruit forward wine), the Newah Merlot (has a ripe cherry and plum richness Bordogna says will crush your taste buds into submission), the Carmen Antonio Cabernet (a subtle red wine that matches well to all foods desiring a red influence), and the Vincente Petite Syrah (has the deep, rich overtones of complex fruit intertwined with bold, velvety layers strong enough to handle any meat dish).
Red and white blends are also on the menu.
Before purchasing any glass or bottle of wine, either to complement your meal or to take home, you can sample it at the bar. You can also enjoy tastings with your friends. During my visit, a group of six friends took seats at the bar and sampled a variety of Bordogna’s wines.
Speaking of which, Bordogna has chosen a prime location for his winery: along the side of a mountain overlooking Nickajack Lake. The interior is simple but pleasing to the eye, while his patio offers a view of the lake and several surrounding hills. On a pleasant day, I can’t imagine a more tranquil place in the Greater Chattanooga area to eat pizza and sip wine.
Lookout Winery is located at 11848 Highway 41 in Guild, Tenn. You can take one of three exits off I-24 West to reach the winery, so use a GPS or visit www.lookoutwinery.com and see which directions best suit you. Lookout Winery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to dusk.
Whichever route you take, Lookout Winery is well worth the drive. With handcrafted, wood oven pizzas using carefully selected local and imported ingredients, and wines made with the kind of passion you can taste, it’s a journey you won’t soon forget.
To see more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.