I admit to a prejudice against campus eateries. Often plagued by uninspired decor and inexperienced, hapless crews, most restaurants targeting Ann Arbor’s students offer boring menus of subpar food. But prejudice can blind you–and by waiting until recently to try Silvio’s Organic Pizza, I’ve been missing out on some exceptionally good food.

Tucked into North University’s Roumanis Square building, Silvio’s sits squarely within the campus map. It’s a family business, owned and run by Silvio and Catia Medoro, their children, and, if Silvio has his way, their expected grandchildren. Natives of Italy, where food plays an important role in family and community, the Medoros have built their business on organic ingredients and carefully made dishes.

I know many will argue, but a pizza is really about the crust, and Silvio’s has a great one–flavorful and sturdy, with a crispy bottom and chewy interior. Even Silvio’s gluten-free crust, while not as tasty as its traditional one, is crunchy, almost cracker-like, and better than most wheat-flour crusts around town. Nor does Silvio’s overload the pizza with sauce or toppings, ensuring that flavors remain balanced and the crusts crusty. Toppings run from traditional to inspired; we particularly enjoyed the sausage and rapini combo, the arugula and proscuitto “salad” topping, and a stuffed pizza special with meaty bits of porchetta, spinach, and egg.

Silvio’s fine touch with dough is also evident in the ciabatta bread. Like the pizza crust, it’s chewy, moist, and flavorful. At dinner one night, a deceptively simple sandwich of a zucchini and onion frittata in a split ciabatta roll proved how good humble but well-made food can be.

The real discovery at Silvio’s, though, is the homemade pasta. Some pastas grace the regular menu while others show up on the monthly specials list; most are worth seeking out. One evening, four of us agreed that the potato gnocchi, bathed in butter and sage, were the best any of us had ever tasted–light, pillowy, and absolutely irresistible. We also couldn’t stop slurping up the egg fettuccine with ragu, tender noodles tossed with a light yet flavorful sauce. After the cheese bombs of most American-style lasagnas, Catia’s homemade vegetarian version was a revelation. Featuring multiple sheets of paper-thin egg noodles interspersed with equally thin layers of mushrooms and spinach, a trace of cheese, and a topping of olive-oily tomato sauce, it satisfied without overwhelming.

We were less fond of the Michigan mushroom ravioli, stuffed half moons of whole wheat pasta. Compared to the other homemade pasta, the whole wheat version was overly thick and tough, though we wiped up the last of the ravioli’s rich nutty cream sauce with our bread. A real disappointment was the pasta with white clam sauce, which, while utilizing the same tender egg noodles as the fettuccine with ragu, was utterly devoid of flavor. Nor would I recommend the gluey, bland polenta.

Silvio’s has a good hand with vegetables, and a simple side of mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, and onion, finely sliced and grilled, proved stunningly delicious, as did a special

of roasted eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. The caprese salad was beautifully presented, and “Grandma’s minestrone” was light without being insipid. All of these proved better starter choices than a special mixed platter of chewy fried seafood and stuffed olives, raw vegetables, provolone triangles, and ramekins of sour cream and tomato-mustard seed sauce–an odd combination of disparate ingredients.

Because the desserts sit mostly unwrapped in a refrigerated case, they don’t always look as appealing as they might, but like the rest of the food, they’re all homemade. A custard-filled bomba would not persuade me to abandon my addiction to doughnuts, but the ricotta and chocolate chip-filled sfogliatella, a flaky, buttery, sugary pastry, was simply too good to share.

Silvio’s recent expansion and remodeling have produced an attractive, airy room. Cherry-red walls mingle with grass-green tiles. Chairs echoing the wall colors surround simple wood tables and counters. Silvio’s hydroponic wall garden, a U-M student installation, offers not only design appeal but also herbs for the kitchen. And it finally has secured a license to serve wine and beer.

The only area where the restaurant falls down is in its table service, much of it due, apparently, to lack of training and insufficient support during busy times. One night the lone waitress was pleasant and accommodating but also uninformed and unorganized. Another night a different waitress was more professional but overwhelmed, and always the kitchen followed the unusual practice of making and sending out one dish at a time, so that we couldn’t enjoy our meals in unison.

Clearly, Silvio’s hasn’t quite mastered the move from casual counter to full-fledged table service. But for me, good food trumps imperfect service and, having overcome my prejudice, I’ll be frequenting Silvio’s corner of the campus for some of Ann Arbor’s best pizzas and pastas.

Silvio’s Organic Pizza
715 North University

Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-midnight, Sat. & Sun. 11 a.m.-midnight.
Pizzas $3.99-$29.29; soups, sandwiches, calzones, and salads $4.59-$13.69; pastas $6.39-$14.89; desserts 59 cents-$5.49
Wheelchair friendly