Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adventure #35: Milto's Mediterranean Cafe

The wonderful thing about adventuring is that sometimes it transcends the pizza.  The pizza at Milto's Mediterranean Cafe (listed on Yelp and other places as Milto's Pizza Pub) was ok, but when I look back on the evening, the fun and friendship that surrounded the pizza made the experience exceptional.  I offer, as example, this picture where Ian and Girlface are completely mortified at something I've said (drunkenly) at a volume that exceeded that which was necessary to get the point across:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Adventure #34: Quattro Gatti Ristorante e Pizzeria

Quattro Gatti is the first place we've gone where we've been asked if we have a reservation. We did not, but Thursday night didn't seem to be the time to need one - we were promptly seated.

Was this pizza reservation worthy? Find out after this picture of bruschetta. (This was delicious, a perfect blend of textures and flavors.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adventure #33: Frank & Angie's Pizzeria

I must admit that I've been avoiding Frank & Angie's. I went there on a date once and it was a good date but the food was disappointing (not necessarily bad, just disappointing, we got the "margherita" which was of the common reinterpreted variety that is really a white pie with tomatoes), and then the boy turned out later to be both a bit of a jerk and rather disappointing, so I didn't really want to go back.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adventure #32: Hoboken Pie

I don't know the slightest thing about Hoboken, the New Jersey city that Hoboken Pie is presumably named after. What I do know is that if you want some saucy and delicious 'za, get down to 7th and Red River.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Adventure #31: Rockin Tomato Pizza Company

[8/27/2013 edit: the location we reviewed has closed, but a south Austin location is still open]
This is important > If you go to Rockin Tomato, you need to get the Garlic Bread Twists. They are delicious, well seasoned, generously portioned, and the twisty shape itself is the perfect food to just sit there and snack on. Ian proclaims this to be the best bread appetizer he's had so far while adventuring. I proclaim this to be one of the only pizza-related foods that is allowed to go anywhere near ranch dressing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adventure #30: Big Bite Pizza and Grill

Big Bite Pizza and Grill, probably more well known for its 'Phat' sandwiches (see their menu for the gory details) was our destination this week. It wasn't our in original itinerary, but it happens to have the virtue of being open at 11:30 on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adventure #29: Rudino's Pizza and Grinders

Two pieces of business up front before we get to the pizza:

First, I accidentally picked a chain restaurant. I hadn't actually looked at the website ahead of time and, having never seen a Rudino's before (they're a family chain in NC plus licensees in NC and other places), I just went with it. Trying to get their menu online to give you the exact contents of the pizza, I discovered that I had breached the rules with this pick.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Adventure #28 Pizza Paradise

When I texted to Karin that we were going here, I will admit that I called it Paradise Pizza. I will not make the same mistake again!

Pizza Paradise, located off of Metric near the ACC Northridge campus, is a local carry-out and delivery spot - no tables to speak of here! I didn't know this when I led Karin here, and we had to hustle our order back to her house before it cooled too much. When we got there, here's what we found:

We had ordered a Greek pie: Kalmata olives, banana peppers, red onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, and Italian seasonings. We also threw in an order of Paradise Sticks, their specialty breadsticks.

The first thing I have to say about this pizza is about the crust. I'm normally a fan of pan-style and deep-dish pies, and this was no exception - the crust was thick and chewy. However, it didn't measure up to some of my other favorites in the genre - maybe the seasoning on the crust or the topping to crust ratio? For the record, Karin is a big fan of the seasoning on the crust and didn't seem to have the same issues I had.

The rest of the pie was above average - nice tomatoey Marinara sauce without excess spices, just the right amount of Kalmata olives (not enough to overpower the pie), and a good seasoning blend to give it a little flavor to compete with the olives and banana peppers.

The only thing that may throw people off is the feta cheese - Karin found it slightly off-putting, but I didn't notice until she said something. (Funny how that goes!)

As for the breadsticks - the marinara is delicous, as is the garlic/spice mixture that goes on top of them. I think they're a little bready (no pun, seriously), but they are tasty and will put a major dent in your hunger.

- Ian

Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventure #27 - The Onion

There came a time last week when I was having a terrible day. I NEEDED pizza (and the added benefit of excellent companionship didn't hurt either). We decided to go down to The Onion downtown. The Onion is a special place. The motto on its website is "The best pizza you'll never remember eating." I'm here to tell you that it's worth the time and effort to go downtown sober and order a pie.* But don't worry, if you are drunk and stumble in for a slice (get the whole pie! You won't regret it!), your drunken buddy won't steal the parmesan shaker because it's duct taped to the counter (because The Onion is to pizza joints what Cheers** is to bars).

Ian and I disagreed about where exactly this pizza fell on a scale of deliciousness. We agreed that the cheese was fantastic. He felt that the sauce, while deliciously tangy, was a little too sweet. I am okay with sweet sauce and was definitely happy with the quantity of sauce (they were generous), so the biggest issue with the pizza for me was that the crust felt a little underdone. I am a pizza optimist though and would like to think that experimenting with special instructions such as "light sauce" or "well done" (or perhaps catching the pizzaiola in a different mood) might yield a heavenly pizza.

Regarding toppings, we settled on "The Italian" specialty which has pepperoni, sausage, black olives, mushrooms, and garlic (Yes, the above picture looks like a drunkard took it. Perhaps I was channeling my surroundings without realizing it). I had a hard time tasting the garlic through the rest of the ingredients, but I was ok with that despite the fact that I'm a huge garlic fan. The sausage was tasty, the pepperoni was greasy, and the black olives and mushrooms rounded out the pizza well.

I suppose it is worth repeating that despite the small problems with the pizza, I will definitely be recommending it as good downtown pizza.


*When talking about downtown pizzerias, I think it's important to point out, as a caution, the difference between getting a slice of pizza and getting a whole pie and that a slice of pizza can't be used to predict the quality of a pie and a pie can't be used to predict the quality of a slice. When I say slice, I mean walking into a joint (or up to a cart), seeing the displayed pizzas, picking one out, and having them heat it. The pizzas that are used for slices are par-cooked (which is why they look rather disgusting as compared to fully cooked pies) so that when they reheat them they don't get over-cooked. The consistency of a slice is inevitably either drier or soggier than what you might get if you order a pie.

**Every city in the world has a dive bar named Cheers right?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Adventure #26 - Red House Pizzeria

It's a cool crisp autumn evening. You want to sit outside, drink some cocktails, and eat some pizza. While you're at it, it would be nice if you could get some people-watching in. Where do you go?

It's red, it's a a house, it's a pizzeria.

Red House Pizzeria, on Manor Road in between Vivo and El Chile, is your new hipster hangout-cum-pizza joint. Not as divey as Jack's, not as refined as House, Red House provides smaller pies with hearty toppings and a delicate, balanced crust. While they only have a limited number of specialty pies, don't be afraid to throw some toppings together on your own. Karin and I figured this one out by way of a happy accident.

We weren't going to learn much about anything other than pepperoni, having ordered the Double Pepperoni, consisting of cheese, pepperoni and . . . more pepperoni!

What came out was pepperoni and sausage. We didn't have to point this out to our cute tattoo-sleeved waitress -- she admitted the kitchen mistake right off the bat, and offered to have our original pizza made for us. We told her that we would roll with it in true Adventurer style. This paid off double - we got to taste some awesome sausage AND had our waitress return to tell us she would be bringing us out a double pepperoni pie before we left. WIN!

Ok, I'll finally talk about the pizza. DOUBLE PIE EVALUATION!

Not only did I sneak a piece of the 2x pepperoni, but I ended up eating my share of this pie within 10 minutes of getting home.

Here's my eval of the Double Pepperoni:

Pepperoni - greasy, thick, meaty.
Crust - light, slightly soggy in the middle due to grease, perfectly chewy with crispness on the edges
Cheese - tasty and just a little stretchy.
Sauce - just plain good

Sausage and pepperoni:

The only difference between the two pies is the subtraction of a few pepperonis and addition of some freaking awesome sausage. Characteristics of the sausage: moist, spicy, sweet, awesome.

Our waitress let us know that all toppings are prepared/cooked in-house and we believe it.

This place is legit.

- Ian

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adventure #25 - Return to Eastside Pies

After adventuring to 24 different pizza joints it's becoming clear that there are a few places that deserve 2nd visits; these are places that Ian and I find ourselves returning to on our own, bringing guests to, and recommending, sometimes after only one visit ourselves. Eastside Pies is one of those places. The first time, we were impressed with the pizza overall but the sausage was a little bland. On return visits Ian swears that the sausage was flavorful, making the pizza delicious. I'm a sucker for a menu with creative names (there's a pizza called the Moon Dingo), so when we decided to revisit somewhere, Eastside Pies was a natural choice.

Before I talk about the pizza, I want to spend a moment on the service. When we arrived there was a couple of people in line ahead of us but the place wasn't packed. The kitchen seemed hectic, but that's not unusual for packing five or six guys into a little space and a busy night. After ordering we went to sit on the patio (the only seating area) to wait for our garlic knots (more rolls than knots) which were promised to us as soon as they came out of the oven since Ian was famished. Slices kept coming out of the window and even though we knew that people had ordered after us we figured that our knots would be out any minute. Eventually a to-go order came out that had knots as well. We thought they might be ours, but when we went to inquire at the window they had not only lost our order, but had completely forgotten that we'd ordered at all. Two different guys came out to apologize (and they upgraded our pizza from the 14 to the 18 inch), but it doesn't change the fact that we waited 30-40 minutes when it should have been 15-20. The whole thing made me a bit grumpy and less able to enjoy the pizza when it finally did come out, so some of the enjoyment of the pizza that you'll read shortly was gleaned from my experience reheating the slices the next day.*

We got the Homer, a pizza topped with meatballs, roasted red peppers, onions, and habanero peppers (allegedly). Here's the breakdown:
-Crust: still good, very thin, didn't hold up as well in the 18 inch size as it did in the 14 inch.
-Sauce: still delicious, adds flavor to the pizza and made what little edge there was tasty
-Meatballs: these were amazing, I never want to have a pizza there again that doesn't have meatballs on it. They were spicy and worked well on a pizza.
-Roasted red peppers & onions: they were there, no surprises
-Habanero peppers: MIA. The window-dude said that he personally put them on the pizza and that perhaps they weren't as spicy because of when they were picked.

Overall, I wanted so badly to like this place as much as everyone else seems to and I can't say that I necessarily dislike it. For me, it's still in a limbo-land of pizza places that I'll need to visit again to pass judgment on.

*For having a very thin crust the slices reheat surprisingly well. The crust holds together and doesn't get soggy even though it is soft and floppy. The sauce didn't create a weird slimy layer that I've found some other reheated pizzas have.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Adventure #24 - Garlic Breath

Where do you turn when you're absolutely starving? Do you seek perfection from a gourmet Margherita? No. Do you go to the local pizza smörgåsbord buffet and load up? Ugh, I hope not.

Here's what you do - you speed your way up I-35 to Garlic Breath in Round Rock. There were 4 of us. We were starving. This called for something serious. Bring in the Taco Pizza.

Refried beans, salsa (these served as the base), beef, black olives, Doritos. We also had jalapeños placed on this pie.

*watches all those who are reading this at 3am in their underwear start to grab their car keys before realizing that the restaurant is closed*

Now, don't let me characterize this all as only food for the starved or stoned. By all accounts, this is a competent pizzeria. The crust was sturdy enough to hold the thick beans and heavy toppings, but was also flavorful. The beans were just the right consistency, and the toppings were all in proportion. My only complaint about this pie is that the ground beef was plain and slightly flavorless. Would this have changed if we chose steak or chicken? I'm not sure, but maybe you should try if you're up in Round Rock.

P.S. - We also had some cheesy garlic bread as an appetizer. I loved the size of these - they were like buttery, cheesy, crispy morsels.

- Ian

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adventure #23: EZ's

I was excited to go to EZ's because they have a wood-fired oven for cooking pizza in. Perhaps it's that I'm currently learning to work the woodfired oven at work or that it seems that, if a place is keeping a fire going specifically for the purpose of cooking pizza, they must be excited about their pizza. The latter is probably not true.

They only offer two sizes of pizza, 7 inch and 11 inch (slightly smaller than the typical medium pizza) and since we had guests (and there was a handy special) we decided to get two 7 inch pizzas, a pepperoni and a margherita pizza (they're loose interpretation [an unfortunately rather common interpretation] of which is a white pizza with sliced tomatoes and basil on it).

Both pizzas were underdone and doughy. The crust was fluffy and not unpleasant had it been cooked longer. ^This^ is not an acceptable upskirt for a wood oven cooked pizza! Look at the top pizza, the "margherita". It's not even golden brown! Most of the crust is still white.

The rest of it reminded me a lot of the pizza Lunchables I used to take to grade school. It seemed like a bready, kid friendly crust, pepperoni that was not even a little crisp, cheese that was decent but not good, and unremarkable sauce.

I am truly curious if the pizza would be any better if I ordered it well done.

Conclusion: EZ's is as kid-friendly as it advertises and there is a variety of food, so maybe if I were to go there again and find out that their burgers weren't that awesome and then be forced to go there again and I asked for my pizza well done, this would be a more than edible pizza option. I just wouldn't pick it as a place to go for pizza.


P.S. The kid's menu has "Kid's Brick Oven Pizza". I have no idea what that could possibly be and the menu gives no further hints.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Adventure #22: Mangieri's Pizza Cafe

More than a week later I still don't know quite what to think of this pizza. We got the Hot Pig from Mangieri's Pizza Cafe. The Hot Pig has "sausage, spicy giardiniera Italian relish, garlic, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, and fresh parmigiano reggiano." The crust had the exact flavor of a Ritz cracker, buttery and just a little sweet. This was probably the weirdest part for me. The toppings were ok; the pepper overwhelmed the sausage; the relish was an interesting and delicious topping; everything just didn't quite come together and I don't know why.

Something that did come together wonderfully was the garlic bread. It came with delicious marinara and what was probably a house made garlic butter sauce. Both sauces were so good that I kept alternating, not wanting to pick one or the other.

It wasn't bad pizza, it wasn't even not-good pizza. The only way I think I could draw a conclusion would be to give Mangieri's a second try (but I'm certainly not going to drive down to South Austin to get some).


Friday, September 10, 2010

Adventure #21: Texas Pizza, Pasta, and More

For a change of pace, Karin and I decided to grab a takeout pie from a place near to her home - Texas Pizza, Pasta, and More.

Word of warning: we were lucky we had decided on takeout, because there is NO seating here. In fact, when you walk in the door you face a large desk - the type a secretary would have. The kitchen is hidden behind the back wall and a large swinging door with a small window near the top. All in all, it made the ordering and waiting an odd experience. We chose to sit in my car outside rather than stand there awkwardly.

When Karin went in and got our pizza (out of doors, out of mind?), we were off to her house for TV and 'za.

Here's the breakdown:

Garlic Cheese Bread: Karin did not care for this much at all, but I was a fan of the thicker consistency. It had a pita-like quality, with some thickness and chewiness, and just the right amount of cheese baked in to it. The marinara was super thin, but pleasantly spicy.

The Mexican (Pizza): Ground beef, bell pepper, onion, black olives, green olives, tomatoes, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, crushed red pepper, and garlic. Double-digit ingredients!!! Let's have a moment of silence for this achievement. . .and for how it just wasn't that great.

The ingredient selection was the strongest part of this pizza. I loved the green olives and jalepenos! The pizza had salt and spice, but the overall quality was lacking. The crust was not crisp in any segment, the cheese was uneven and congealed quickly, and the sauce wasn't really a presence.

If you're in the Airport/Lamar area, this is a local delivery option for you. Otherwise, check our list for some other sports worth traveling to.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventure #20: Austin's Pizza

Last week we ventured to Austin's Pizza, the staple food of college-kids all over town. There's not much to say about the place, so I'll jump right into the pizza.

It was ok.

Better than Craig-O's, worse than Jackalope.

They have specialties named after Austin places (which rocks) and we went with The Downtown; Pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and black olive. A musing on why it might be named The Downtown: it's the ideal combination of toppings for getting after going downtown and getting drunk.

The cheese was cheesy, the mushrooms were fresh, the pepperoni was greasy, the crust was buttery; I have nothing bad to say about this pizza. I'd order it for delivery over Dominos, Pizza Hut, or Papa John's any day.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventure #19: Niki's Pizza

This was a random adventure, friends and followers. Not only did Karin just happen to spot this pizzeria/Italian eatery as she was out shopping, but we didn't intend to go here this week! Karin had proposed one destination that I had denied due to a rules violation, so she had suggested another. When I pick her up, she desired to go to yet ANOTHER pizzeria, so off we went to the barren north - Tech Ridge.

Niki's Pizza is located in a nondescript shopping center over by Tech Ridge. They serve slices, and one gets the impression that there's a booming lunch crowd given the proximity of Dell. At dinnertime, we had a few other guests dining in with us, and a few others came in to grab their pies to-go. Although the menu online lists some specialty pies, there were none on the menu in-store, so we made pizza ourselves.

We decided on pepperoni, onions, and green peppers due to a) a special on an XL 3-topping and b) a misunderstanding between Karin and I about black olives; turns out we both like them. For starters, we had some garlic bread, as usual.

The garlic bread was appropriately garlicy, but the marinara was thin and generic. We were starving, so there wasn't much to complain about.

How about that pie?

Component #1: Grease - Pools of it!
Component #2: More Grease - Seriously, this is one of the greasiest pizzas we've had. You can see it in the upskirt crust pic.
Component #3: Nicely cut tasty veggies - These were cut in a way conducive to being on a pizza and were pretty fresh. For sure they were a high point.
Component #4: Generic pepperoni - Not much to say about this. Basic salty pepperoni, kind of thin.
Component #5: Cheese and sauce? - The grease, cheese, and sauce seemed to all blend together to form a cheesy substance on the pizza. Not much flavor to comment on.
Component #6: Crust - Not firm enough to stand up to the grease, but appropriately chewy on the ends.

Altogether, this wasn't the greatest pizza, although for the price (9.99), there's not much to complain about. It could easily feed 4 people if you include the garlic bread we got. Last but not least, Karin and I each had additional insights during the night after our adventure:

Karin - "The cheese and grease did a number on my stomach. 10 dollar tummyache"
Ian - "This is much better after some time in the fridge, at 1am, when the grease has congealed."


Monday, August 16, 2010

Adventure #18: Yaghi's Pizza

For once, I think we picked the right "weird" specialty on the menu. We got the gyro pizza, so those delicious nuggets of meatiness you see above were incredibly tender and flavorful. It came with cucumber yogurt sauce. I know that you're thinking that this sounds really gross, that cucumber yogurt sauce should not go anywhere near a pizza, but to me it was a lot like dipping pizza in cucumber-slaw ranch. The pizza was fantastic without it (I personally am not wild about cucumber so, after a few tastes to make sure that I got the full experience, I ate mine almost exclusively without), but the cucumber sauce actually added to the pizza. The crunchy (crispy? What is the correct adjective for the way vegetables crunch?) bits in the sauce added some texture to a bite and the creamy yogurt added unique flavor.

As to the "pizza" bits of the pizza, the sauce, crust, and cheese. They were all there, nothing really stood out but nothing was bad either. Crust was chewy but crisp where it needed to be; The sauce was present and complimented the meat; The cheese was salty and abundant.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adventure #17: Jack Pizza Company

Let that swirl of chipotle sauce take you deep into the dark world of dive bar pizza - this is a trip you want to go on, so just follow that swirl all the way to Jack Pizza Company, nestled in the Jackalope in on 6th between Trinity and Neches.

See that sauce? That's a spicy chipotle sauce that will give you a mild burn through the duration of your eating experience. It helped give our chosen pizza's name some meaning - The Diablo. The Diablo features this pepper sauce on top of meatballs, bacon, and cheddar cheese, with a Lone Star beer-infused crust holding it all together.
I think my main complaint with this pie is in nomenclature. They know Diablo means devil, right? There is nothing evil about this pie - the spice is perfection, not persecution! The meatballs are small, tasty, and greasy enough to be mistaken for sausage - good sausage. The cheese works to make it all stick together (along with the minimum amount of sauce - this is not a slippery pizza - which is good, considering the size of the slice, seen below.) The crust is chewy, airy, and easily foldable (again, important due to the big slices.) All these factors are great, but the most amazing thing is this:

Bacon. Bacon bacon bacon. This is the best bacon I have ever had on a pizza. The pieces are large enough to provide some mouthfeel and the flavor is . . . savory. Meaty. Bacon.

This is an intensely savory and spicy pie that goes great with the location - a dark bar to keep you from fully acknowledging your gorging behavior, with beer to spare to help you cut through the spice. Oh, and here's that slice size I've been telling you about:

There are six of these. One is enough. Did I mention pies are half price on Tuesdays? See you there!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventure #16: Craig O's

There comes a time (in this case a lazy Sunday afternoon) when a Pizza Adventurer must realize that not every pizzeria is going to be an Austin gem, that there are probably more thoroughly edible but entirely unimpressive pizzerias than not.

There was nothing technically wrong with the pizza. The toppings were all fresh, I could taste and identify all of them (though the caramelized onions were a bit weird, would have preferred fresh ones); the crust was neither soggy nor hard, it was very much a "topping delivery system" rather than its own element; the sauce was a bit sweeter than necessary, but not inedibly so.

There's really not much to say about it. In all, the pizza was ok and reasonably priced (we got an extra large for the price of a large because it was Sunday), but I can't do much other than put it in as a "middle of the road" pizza.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adventure #15: Rome's Pizza

An Adventure in Esrever.

We wondered what we had just eaten. It had the appearance of a pizza, but the taste of a taco. Delicious, yet confounding. Again, the wrong pizza?

The cheese was plentiful and flavorful, the crust light. All ingredients were fresh, especially the onions and cilantro. The chipotle pesto gave a slight smoky flavor and a bit of spice. The chorizo was lean as advertised, and quite tasty (if overpowered by the beans, sauce, and cheese.)

Chunks of tomato, lumps of chorizo, strands of onion, swaths of cheese, florets of fresh cilantro, they were floating on a bed of mozzarella sprinkled with black beans. Underneath, a chipotle pesto lurked. . .Introducing the Pancho Villa.

Some 'Bistro Bread' to start. . .average pesto, fresh tomatoes, delightful fresh Parmesan. Woefully thin and slightly tinny marinara. . .