If you are looking for authentic Italian pizza, go somewhere else. But if you like robust Italian-American pizza and exuberant sub sandwiches, put Russell’s on your to-eat list any time you are near Wagener, South Carolina. It’s a cozy, side-street, small-town shop with minimal amenities (plastic utensils, paper dishware, unupholstered seating) and a short menu of well-crafted dishes guaranteed to vanquish the most rapacious appetite.
Pizza has a thin crust that puffs up and deliciously blisters all around the circumference, crisp enough to stay level to the very point of a topping-laden slice. Ingredients are not artisan, but they are good quality and mix well with each other. I’ve yet to try a simple cheese pizza — suspect it would be boring — but a works pie with all kinds of different meats, veggies, and just the right amount of cheese (not too gloppy) is a can’t-stop-eating delight.
An item listed on the menu as an “Original Wedge” bears little resemblance to what’s found in pizzerias of Westchester County, New York (where wedge is the regionally specific term for a hero sandwich). It’s more like an Italian-flavored puffy taco or stuffed pizza: a broad, folded over round of bread that exactly straddles the line between bendable and breakable. Inside is a cornucopia of ingredients: pepperoni, sausage, chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, and ranch-dressed lettuce. It’s a neat package. At first bite, it becomes a mess … albeit a yummy one.
Other worthy highlights: heavyweight, beef-chocked lasagna that is not subtle, but is hugely satisfying; a nice baked potato, plain or loaded with cheese and ham; and nice, crisp-edge wings.
While there is a spacious dining room next to the order counter, a large portion of Russell’s business is call-ahead take-out.
There are two other locations of Russell’s Pizza: 571 Main St. in Blackville (803-284-3001); and 13031 Main St. in Williston (803-266-7722).
Thanks to Sophie Plowright for tipping us off.