A cool mince of clams, scented with rendered bacon, are mounded over toast lathered with garlic-scented mayo.A hearty white bean soup studded with chunks of Italian sausage and peppery bits of broccoli rabe became another cross-table spoon magnet.My “Summer Smash” cocktail was so sour it was undrinkable because our waiter had slipped behind the overwhelmed bar and tried to make it himself. The food arrived completely out of order, with the pizzas arriving so late in the meal, the staff offered to box them to go. And then, as though on cue, a server knocked an entire glass of wine over onto the pies – a flub that launched a series of apology discounts on our bill.
MENU HIGHLIGHTSTruffled foie gras toast; Taleggio grilled cheese; white bean sausage soup; shrimp-pesto salad; pork cheek ravioli with chanterelles; truffled bucatini; mafalde with duck ragu; ricotta gnocchi with sweet corn sauce; stuffed veal loin; grilled swordfish; pork tenderloin, belly and polenta with peach demi; pizzas: prosciutto-peach; Italian sausage; mushroom.A bottle list focused on Italy and California offer some more upscale options, including bottles from Ojai (misspelled on the list), Pride, Shaver, Andre Bonhomme as well as the co-owner's White Horse Winery in New Jersey. WEEKEND NOISEAn occasionally deafening noise level, hovering around 97 decibels, is a major flaw Sikora and crew are currently trying to address. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.) IF YOU GO Lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m-3 p.m. The corn pie with spicy long hots and chewy nubs of piquant capicola would have been fantastic had the toppings not been so heavy.Hearth’s best plates, though, were the handmade pastas and entrees.(Can Brussels sprouts get their seasonality back, please?) It was nonetheless a rustic homage to retro Euro cooking I loved. After several years away opening successful restaurants in Wilmington, chef Bryan Sikora has returned to Kennett Square (where he helped create Talula's Table) and opened an intriguing Italian-centric concept in an updated strip mall space outfitted with a wood-fired oven turning out pizzas, pastas, and cocktails.But the eclectic wine list is otherwise interesting and affordable, with unusual choices — dry Pedro Ximénez white, crispy assyrtiko, a touriga nacional rosé — that made for fun drinking.Even an albariño and rosé from Hearth Kitchen co-owner Brock Vinton’s White Horse Winery in Hammonton, which were far better than I expected.Sikora’s lighter riff on grilled cheese, the crispy ciabatta sandwich squares oozing with Taleggio over an heirloom tomato water that was clarified but vivid, was a dish I attempted to hoard for myself. A wood-fired pizza oven is the primary difference between what’s on the menu at 100-seat Hearth (not counting its 30 alfresco spots overlooking the mall parking lot) and the smaller 35-seater that is La Fia.And though they might not yet quite rank as elite in the wider regional picture of Neapolitan-style pizza craft, I enjoyed many of the pies with less conventional toppings.