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What’s good here: Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria

A marinara pizza topped with pepperoni and arugula at Persona.
A marinara pizza topped with pepperoni and arugula at Persona. Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria

Personal – made right in front of you (including the crust) – pizzas and salads.

There is no guessing how fresh the ingredients are. They are right there to scrutinize.

A few Chef’s Choice pizzas include the Ensalata di Prosciutto – topped with extra virgin olive oil, shredded mozzarella, prosciutto, mixed greens and vinaigrette – and the Chipotle Chicken, made with chipotle-spiced dressing, mozzarella, roasted chicken and topped with crema (cream) and pico de gallo.

Bases include red sauce, pesto and no sauce, and a variety of toppings are intended to satisfy “Carnivores,” “Herbivores,” and “Cheesivores” – or those who like it all. For the sauce, Persona uses only San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.

Pizzas are cooked in an 800-degree oven for only a few moments and pulled out with just the right crispness on the edges. Gluten-free crust is available upon request.

Salads are handcrafted, including the Roma – with hearts of romaine, blue cheese crumbles, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and vinaigrette. There is also a Persona Salad, which means you create your own by selecting three ingredients after the lettuce.

There are some domestic and imported beers and wine. Desserts vary.

How did Persona get its start?

Classically trained chefs in California, who learned the art of authentic Neapolitan pizza-making from the birthplace of pizza – Napoli, Italy – developed the concept, and two local owners brought the idea to Columbia and opened last month.

The goal, according to the operations manager, is to offer more locations in the Columbia area. Part of the experience offered to customers is that of watching dough twirled and pizzas placed into and pulled out of the oven.

What does the place look like?

The red mosaic, egg-shaped, wood-fired oven is the focal point, as are the stacks of “00” flour imported from Italy. The walls are painted Mediterranean colors of reds and golds, and there is a melding of contemporary lighting and furnishings with Old World large canvas photographs of Italian scenes. Electronic boards project color photographs of the menu and ingredients.

The restaurant can seat around 44 inside and close to 20 on its Main Street sidewalk, weather permitting.

Who eats here?

USC college students walk by daily between class and downtown dorms, so they – along with those who work downtown and in the State House – are the primary patrons.

However, families and couples flock to Persona in the evenings. Persona expects to attract a varied demographics base.

Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria

WHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: 1202 Main St., Columbia

COST: Salads and pizzas start around $7 and go up depending on ingredients.

INFO: (803) 661-9096; www.personapizzeria.com