If you've been following us at Eat It and Like It for as long as we've been doing this, then you know we get around in our search for great food across the region. I am regularly asked how we manage to find some out-of-the-way or hidden places that we either write about or feature on our television show.

There are two answers to that question, really. One answer is we spend more time than we'd like eating average or below average food in search of the good stuff. The other answer is sometimes we get a solid tip from a viewer or reader and it winds up being as good as they claimed it is.

I have no problem at all admitting that we stumbled upon a pizzeria you need to check out the next time you are in Statesboro, thanks to one of those tips.

Nonna Picci is a relatively new pizza operation on Highway 301 in Statesboro. They opened in August. A couple of months later, I was sent a note by someone talking about a wood-fired oven pizza shop in Statesboro. Full disclosure, hand raised - I was skeptical.

The gourmet pizza train has been running for a few years in the area. There are a couple of chains here and there, but they can be a little on the pricey side for the amount of pizza you get. There's a reason for that. Making pizzas from scratch with fresh ingredients can become costly. I am a firm believer that those pizzas are generally better, but when those expenses get passed on to the consumer, some people just stop believin'.

We wondered how a quality, and generally expensive, product would translate to a college town. Students aren't looking for quality. They are looking for a pizza that will serve as three meals. Enter Nonna Picci.

Jordan Tejeda is chef/co-owner of this pizza spot in the 'boro. Grew up in Augusta and worked in some fine-dining kitchens there. He came to Savannah and wound up learning the ropes at Alligator Soul.

"I knew I wanted to eventually open my own restaurant," he says, "but I never thought it would be pizza."

He was living in a carriage house in Savannah. His landlord took delivery of Jordan's mail. At the time, he was ordering a lot of books. The landlord took notice. Once he found out Jordan was a chef, he asked him if he'd be interested in opening a pizza restaurant.

"I wasn't sure at first," Jordan says. "But the more I read about it, the more I was hooked."

After three full years of reading, making dough, testing, baking and tasting, Jordan and his partners opened Nonna Picci in Statesboro. I think they've got a hit on their hands.

The Statesboro location is going to be the first of what they hope will be a series of spots across the country. They have their eye on college towns for sure, but downtown Savannah might just be their next stop.

The dough is all made from scratch. Jordan says his biggest mountain to climb was learning how to do great pizza.

"Time is an ingredient," he says. "The most important when it comes to dough. We ferment our dough 24 to 48 hours."

The toppings are as good as he can find and still keep his costs down. They are making their sausage in-house and using Brooklet's Hunter Cattle Co. for their ground beef. That would be for the toppings and the fresh pasta meat lasagnas they are also making.

We did our research after that initial tip last fall and found it hard to believe that a crunchy pie this tasty could sell for less than $7. But they do. They are outstanding.

College town, yes, but it's important to mention that Nonna Picci is totally family-friendly. They even let kids make their own pizzas at the table. The kids have fun making a mess with toppings, then the staff bakes whatever your little one made.

We mentioned it on TV last weekend and it is worth repeating here. A lot of us pop in on Statesboro time and again for visits with family or a ballgame. Your next trip should include a visit to Nonna Picci. You will eat it and like it.

See you on TV,

Jesse

NONNA PICCI

Address: 807 S. Main St., Statesboro

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Info: nonnapicci.com, 912-681-1900

QUICK BITES

Savannah Restaurant Week kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday, Feb. 4. Three courses for $30 at any of the participating restaurants - and that list is growing by the day. Check it out at dining.savannahnow.com.

I finally made it to Husk for some nibbles at the bar last week. Absolutely as advertised. If you go, the fried chicken skins are a must. You will eat it and like it.

We have a special episode of "Eat It and Like It with Jesse Blanco" this weekend: a chat with three of Savannah's treasures. These are the people who make your dining experiences memorable, even if you don't know their names. Join us at 7:30 a.m. Sunday on WSAV-TV.

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