Restaurant review: Natalie’s pizza fires up a wonderful new brunch

By Columbus Alive
From the October 3, 2013 edition

If you’re reading my column now, then you likely know about the lovely and sophisticated pizzas baked in Natalie’s coal-fired oven — they’re among the best pies in town. But are you aware that Natalie’s has recently added a Sunday brunch? If not, then I’m happy to report it’s pretty damn wonderful. Monster-Bargain Teaser: This brunch features a drinks-n-entree-bundled, NYC-style super-deal I’ll soon describe.

First things first, you gotta slake that thirst. The start-the-day-right beverage list is well-versed in the expected classics: bottomless cups of Luck Brothers coffee ($2); a rich and spicy Bloody Mary creatively concocted with the housemade pizza sauce (all hooch-fortified quaffs are a reasonable $7); fresh-o.j.-loaded mimosas; prosecco-fizzy bellinis; and punchy red sangria that’s fresh, potent and uber-pulpy. These all go down beautifully with Natalie’s perfect-for-a-crusty-Sunday hushed lighting and its urbane mood fueled by a relaxed vibe and free live music (which might be jazz, a string quartet or tasteful pickin’).

OK, killer deal time. One beloved Big Apple standard is single-price brunching in which drinks are included. Since this practice is rare-to-nonexistent in Columbus (Why, oh why?), Natalie’s is yet again functioning as a local trailblazer a la its oven/pizzas and its equal commitment to food and music. Anyway, your bottom line “brunch special” cost here for coffee, a cocktail and an entree is $15. Even without factoring in Natalie’s cool ambiance, that price is hard to beat — especially with shareable-large entrees.

Like, for instance, those fantastic, homemade-mozzarella-topped pizzas (a three item beauty — with free organic egg if desired — is otherwise $12 a la carte). Probably because this brunch is still relatively new, pre-designed brunch pies aren’t yet on Natalie’s menu — but my bacon, egg, peppers and onions combo was definitely a brunch-fest of champions.

Ditto for a hugely impressive — and huge — Quiche wedge entree ($10 a la carte). Displaying a light and attractive oven-browned sheath, it was rich and custardy, appropriately lush with gruyere cheese and strewn with leavening spinach and tomatoes. Now tack on a crispy, stout, buttery and flaky crust and you’ve got yourself another A+ brunch. But wait, there’s more! Two sides — a neat grated sweet potato hash with lots of flavor from sauteed peppers and onions plus a pert little salad — complete the generous meal-deal.

Eye-catching Eggs Benedict ($10 a la carte) also scored high. Anointed by a velvety and properly lemon-kissed Hollandaise sauce, my good free-range poachers sequentially rested above thick slabs of ham-steak-like seared Canadian bacon and then excellent and tangy (if hard to slice with the provided butter knife) housemade sourdough toast rounds. On the side: more of that fine hash.

Mostly naked arugula made the bed for two hulking and unusual — in an interesting way — fried risotto balls (Arancini, $10 a la carte). Spinning an Italian classic, these were stuffed with Welsh cheddar, sweet butternut squash and al dente black beans, then swathed in a mild “goat cheese cream sauce.”

Got a sweet tooth? Then don’t leave without a homemade Maple Cinnamon Roll ($5). Though not particularly maple-y, mine was crusty in the right places and gooey where it should be, and it had a super-smooth and addictive icing. But there’s also garlicky and cheesy Baked Macaroni ($6) and Caprese Salads ($6) and fresh Fruit ($3) and … oh hell, just meet me at Natalie’s next Sunday for brunch.