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Jun 30, 2012 06:55 AM

Review: Arise Farm to Table Pizzeria and Pub in Amherst, MA (Formerly known as Tabella's)

Tabella's has changed its business plan to include a catering business and self-described farm-to-table pub and pizzeria. This has involved closing down Tabella's and opening the new restaurant in the same space, featuring more fixed price points, cocktails we love and new libations, and similarly sourced ingredients. We went last night to check it out.

The atmosphere: all the Amherst locals are out once the college kids are away. It's quietly raucous, people are enjoying themselves. There are outdoor and indoor seating areas, and the difference is striking. I've always found Tabella's to be a little dark on the inside and this has not since been improved. Evidently, this belief is shared, as the inside had no more than a few couples in it and a full set at the bar, but the outside was choked with people. We were invited to sit at a bench and order some drinks before we got a table. This bench is located inside the seating corral, and is somewhat awkwardly placed, as the two tables parallel to it will inevitably fall prey to some hungry staring from table-less customers. (Like us.) The outer seating area is also privy to some damned weird smells from the cinema as well as Fresh Side and La Veracruzana. We smelled frying oil, buttered popcorn, and roasted meat, the combination of which doesn't make for a very appetizing experience.

After being seated, we checked out the menu. Arise has chosen to include some old classics (chickpea fries, wings, cocktails) from the old Tabella's menu and I'm glad for that, although I still can't quite grok the idea of paying $8.50 for chickpea fries. The wine list is serviceable for the most part, but does include some little-known favorites that I was really jazzed to see. For example, the 2010 Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt, a sparkling German Riesling wine that I've enjoyed on a few occasions. Although for the record, it's "Fitz" Ritter, not "Fritz" Ritter.

Didn't try the cocktails. They're still heavily relying on the usage of full brand names and overly pretentious cocktail names that are uncomfortable to utter in public (Papal Prick!) but are incorporating interesting ingredients just the same. Lavender tequila and Clement creole shrub are new ones for me. We stuck with water and wine and ordered one of their nightly specials, a pizza topped with spicy Italian sausage, grilled onions, parmesan shavings, and Heirloom tomato salsa.

The pizzas are pricy. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Twenty bones is a lot to pay for a 12-inch pizza. Off the top of my head, Bread Euphoria charges $15 and change for a similarly sized pizza, and those are generously covered with toppings and leave plenty of leftovers. This pizza felt kind of skimpy in comparison. While delicious and obviously fresh, there was about an inch and a half of crust at the edge, and the toppings were haphazardly scattered, sparse on some slices, overflowing on others. The flavor was tasty. It was good, and it was filling. It did what it was supposed to. Unfortunately, it just didn't cut it for me. The tomato "salsa" was regrettably just another keyword lure in lieu of the dreadfully banal "chopped tomatoes." No jalapenos were present and the entire pizza had maybe 10-15 pieces of scattered tomato max. I expected this to be a lot more robust and spicy than it was.

The crust was the dominant flavor, a part I'm glad I enjoyed as my Connecticut pizza pedigree compels me to be extremely picky about crust. Arise uses a sourdough crust, easily subbed out for wheat or gluten-free with a small charge, and the flavor is tangy, but prone to overpowering the other toppings, depending on which pizza you get. It's also very dense, despite the thinness. I would have liked to see a little more char and crisp on the bottom.

For $30 (a pizza and one drink) it's not going to break the bank but I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed. The service was great, the servers were helpful and accommodating, and it felt well-paced. Some of the pizzas looked really ingenious (Adam: short ribs, balsamic reduction, caramelized onions, fresh potato chips!) but I can't help but wonder if they suffer from the same topping frugality and strange distribution. I can't say I'd give it another try. I don't live in Amherst, and there's no need for me to travel there when there are plenty of better places in the Northampton/Hadley area. However, it is exponentially better than any of the other Amherst center pizza joints (Antonio's, Alpha, Bruno's, Primo) and provides a good alternative for middle-aged adults who want to eat somewhere nice without rubbing elbows with loud students.

6/10 rating: needs improvement, has potential
Arise Farm to Table Pizzeria
Amherst, MA

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  1. For $20 you should demand a world-class pizza. That is absurd.

    14 Replies
    1. re: fame da lupo

      Yeah, that was my main gripe. I don't expect Wolfgang Puck to come out and hand-shave gold leaf-enrobed truffle over my margherita, but for $20, there should at least be ample toppings and enough leftovers for a late snack!

      1. re: fame da lupo

        I am in total agreement with you and with zammdogg's review. Went to Arise last night and it was very disappointing. We ordered one of the special pizzas and there were hardly any veggie toppings. (You would think they would be bountiful considering it's summer!) The flavor was even worse. The pizza almost tasted like an "American Flatbread" frozen pizza. I wonder...

        I can hardly believe they served us the pizza they did. It was quite insulting. Won't be going back for a very long time. The bar is about the only good aspect to Arise.

        1. re: malena

          Malena, you hit the nail right on the head- it's so funny that you mentioned American Flatbread. We have tried their pizzas many a time, expecting that $12 would get us a fairly decent frozen pizza, only to be sorely disappointed. A very apt comparison.

          1. re: zammdogg

            many a time? fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

            1. re: magiesmom

              Magiesmom, I'm not quite sure what you mean. I don't think it's unreasonable to try a product a few times when it drastically underachieves your expectations. The first time, we were so disappointed we tried it again the next night as we erroneously assumed we received a bum pie.

              1. re: zammdogg

                Really? If I don't like a product I move on.
                You said "we have tried their pizzas many a time...only to be disappointed." I don't get this. Why would it be better the fourth or fifth time?

                1. re: magiesmom

                  How does this matter to the review?

                  1. re: hilltowner

                    It's completely irrelevant. My point was that expensive pizza warrants a bounty of toppings, quality, et al, and both American Flatbread and Arise lacked that value. It's a shame!

                    1. re: zammdogg

                      I will quibble by saying that it is a peculiarly American preoccupation to desire a "bounty" of toppings, I prefer the Italian sentiment of keeping the pizza simple. Prosciutto and porcini - perfetto.

                      1. re: fame da lupo

                        Agreed. I loved both of the pizzas I had here and thought the topping proportions were just right. I shared 2 pizzas with 3 people and and gladly paid $13 for my portion.

                        1. re: fame da lupo

                          Justifiable- and again, I'm not expecting them to soak through the bottom of the crust or protrude three inches above it, but when the bulk of your toppings is grilled vegetables with a few pieces of cured meat for flavor and richness, I expect more than a scattering of veggies. That being said, your "P 'n' P" sounds awesome!

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          So, I order a caesar salad for $11. There is an up charge of $5 for white anchovies and croutons. What?? OK, so I ordered it. They must have been minced and mixed in cause the anchovies were hardly detectable. Hey, but wait..I thought caesar salad is made with anchovies and croutons? So, it's $16 for a caesar salad at a self-styled upscale pizza joint where they chintz on the pizza ingredients as well? Another visit.? Er, no thanks!

                          1. re: Big Fat Moe

                            An $11 caesar salad better come with a bird on top.

          2. People were eating outside because it was a nice night and the al fresco dining season in that part of the world is short and savored. I would hate to see Arise destroy its cozy atmosphere by cranking up the lighting.

            1. We tried Arise for the first time last night. The plusses? It was very convenient to the movie theater. Our waitress was very friendly. And the cod tacos were quite good. I thought the wine list was a little weird -- for a restaurant with a "local" flavor, why not have a Riesling from the NY finger lakes region, or a Merlot from Long Island? I did think the beers were reasonably priced, though again, it seemed like there were only a few local beers. The pulled pork & rhubarb fritters were a real disappointment -- very doughy and really hard to taste/find the pork inside. The dipping sauce was cloyingly sweet for me. The grilled corn with lime and cheese was just okay. I thought the place itself was nice, although some air conditioning would have helped. Not sure why they didn't have it on on such a warm, muggy evening. Overall, I didn't think it was a terrible place, but did think it was a little pricy and I don't think it was worth making a return trip. I did however, look at the pizzas that other customers had ordered, and they looked very good. I noted that a lot of people on CH had complained about the skimpiness of the toppings, but that seems to be an issue that has been solved by the kitchen-- the pizzas did look really good!

              1 Reply
              1. re: bauskern

                well, I'm happy to see any conversation about my neck of the woods. and just got some good chuckles reading through this whole thread....including magiesmom saying 'I will admit it does not!' about P&P pizza. I think I have eaten once at Arise. and don't think there will be a repeat experience. being near the movie theater is not enough.

                I'd rather bump up against the college kids at Antonio's with a Tomato Basil slice for $3.50.