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Sahm's latest, Rockstone, serves first-rate pizza 

click to enlarge From front to back, Rockstone's roasted beet and arugula salad, "Goose" pizza and shrimp bisque pasta. - MARK A. LEE
  • From front to back, Rockstone's roasted beet and arugula salad, "Goose" pizza and shrimp bisque pasta.
  • Mark A. Lee

The latest offering from well-respected Indy restaurateur Ed Sahm and partner Ryan Bucksot, Rockstone Pizzeria Pub brings a fresh take on pizza and beer to the city's far northeast side. While there's no shortage of pizza in these parts, Rockstone elevates the genre to an impressive level of quality, drawing upon first-rate local ingredients prepared expertly and priced reasonably. Arriving with the softest of soft openings and already generating an enthusiastic following, this unassuming yet stylish establishment will certainly give more upscale eateries a run for their money in all departments.

Elegant in design, with plenty of exposed stone and wood, Rockstone features a partially open kitchen, visible from the adults-only bar area (children are welcome in the family dining room next door), the focal point of which is the impressive custom-built stone wood-burning oven. Here fresh dough is made into pizzas, breads and crackers, while various meats are slowly roasted or smoked overnight.

It's an impressive piece of kit: whoever is working it clearly knows his or her stuff, because these are some of the most enjoyable pizzas I've had in a while. Not exactly traditional, but not piles of post-modern weirdness either, just happy combinations of great flavors and textures, informed by good taste and attention to detail.

With only four appetizers, each featuring one kind of housemade bread or another, the focus is clearly on the admirable selection of salads, sandwiches, pastas and, of course pizzas. Salads are varied and impressive: the Greek ($6.95 for a large) offers vibrantly fresh mixed greens, high-quality feta, ripe Italian tomatoes and a splendidly fruity-tart vinaigrette. This represented a most pleasant departure from the traditional frozen iceberg lettuce that usually passes for Greek salad.

Of the pasta dishes, the Shrimp Bisque ($12.95) was a standout. Unusual sounding, perhaps, but pretty well perfect, offering very high quality cavatappi lightly coated in a richly-flavored but lightly textured cream sauce, baked off to a delicate golden color.

Build-your-own pizzas are available, but I chose to go local with The Goose, whose gloriously puffy but still chewy crust provided the perfect base for a slow-cooked sauce topped with some of the eponymous market's capocollo and city ham. There's something magical about a perfectly-baked pizza, when the base is thoroughly cooked but not burnt, the cheese melted into a satiny pool, finished with just enough topping that it doesn't impede the rising of the crust, that gives me enormous satisfaction. This was one of those pizzas. Gluten-free crust is also on offer, but I can't imagine that it could approach the perfection of the real thing.

Rockstone's beer selection also ranks along with the best in town, offering 24 local, regional and imported brews. On a recent visit there were three selections from Bier alone: something you don't see very often outside the brewery. Beer moves fast here, so you know it's always fresh and that the list is constantly rotating. More adventurous drinkers might wish to check out the intriguing range of sake-based cocktails. For almost two decades this versatile Japanese libation has promised to be the next big thing, but just hasn't managed to crest the hill. Kudos to Rockstone for placing it front and center.

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