Monday, July 18, 2016

The People vs. Toss Pizzeria and Pub

Majority Opinion from Chief Pizza Justice Kevin:

I have never had garlic knots like that. I don't know if this simply means I'm uneducated in the art of knots, but they were excellent. Doughy in the center, but crisp on the edges, perfectly oily, just the right amount of Parmesan. The texture was gorgeous. Other knots I've had have been delicious, but never represented the same variety of texture. We got the knots with garlic butter, which was largely unnecessary. Marinara may have been useful.

The pizza was -- I've been struggling with whether to call it bad. No sauce whatsoever is a bold choice, for any pizzeria. Possibly even an admirable choice. My least favorite part of many pizza's is the sauce, and I was initially optimistic about the prospect of the thin layer of cheese on crisp crust (the crust being the one unquestionably delightful part of the pizza for me).

I chose the pulled pork and jalapeno. A warrior's pizza. The pulled pork and Jalapeno was unquestionably the better pizza, though the pulled pork was a little too dry, and the jalapenos unnecessary. Initially I was optimistic, as the pork and jalapeno married quite well in the first few, cheese-­only bites. As I got to the actual pork, however, it was simply uninteresting. It left me running through hog varieties in my head, trying to locate the magical difference that makes pulled pork so wonderful on a sandwich but terrible on a pizza.

The jalapeno was, much like the pulled pork, merely inoffensive. The bite it added was pleasant, but it didn't do more than marry jalapeno and cheese. Not a bad flavor, but not why we eat pizza. Even a simple jalapeno pizza from Papa John's would have at least had the sauce to make things more interesting. The pizza wasn't a chore, but nor did it have much of a point. The pizza could have done well to disregard pulled pork for the most ordinary pizza topping in the world, pepperoni, which would have done quite well alongside the jalapeno and the crisp crust. Pulled pork exists because it has a wonderful texture that can complement BBQ sauce and the moistness of melted fat. To sprinkle bits and pieces of it here and there, and then submerge them under Jalapeno, loses the texture and misses the point. That's why pepperoni stands it's ground on pizza.

Of course, then I have to ask myself why sauce doesn't belong on this pizza.

Karin's margherita was less inoffensive. A delicate pizza at the best of times, a sauceless margherita isn't impossible, but the tomatoes had better be perfect. So much of the texture of the margherita is built upon the marriage of sauce and cheese, and to use sliced tomatoes invites a failure of ingredients. In this case, the tomatoes were gooey. So too the garlic ­an unwelcome addition to the classic recipe, which, as I've mentioned, is delicate at the best of times. The garlic was mush, lacking (in the same vein as the pulled pork) any of the bite that makes garlic worthwhile. Being whole garlic, none of the flavor of it could get out to mingle with the rest of the pizza, so it was merely one nugget of sudden sweetness in the midst of other lackluster flavors. The sweetness of the cooked garlic wouldn't have been bad on it's own, but it did nothing to contribute to the flavor of the margherita. When I rule the world, it'll be a war crime to call any four topping pizza a margherita. Until then, I'll content myself with begging that garlic on pizza be chopped and cooked only when the pizza goes through the oven, so that it can work as god meant it to.

On beer:

Tipping is so complicated and awful as it is. Don't provide more options. And don't provide options that will result in drunkenly made pizza. Just split the waitstaff tips with the kitchen staff. You don't have to be so fucking Austin it hurts.

As someone who has been screwed over by customers seeing the delivery charge and thinking it was a tip, please, keep tipping simple.


Concurring Opinion from Pizza Justice Karin:

I would be tempted to go back only for the garlic knots, which were fantastic, but what makes me hesitant is that Toss was really noisy. It's a small room and sound bounced around so that even with a half-full restaurant, the atmosphere was cacophonous. I'll contrast with Pinthouse Pizza, which also has noise-control problems, but whose hours are such that I can avoid a crowd and whose pizza is so good that there is I would brave a lot for it. Are garlic knots worth it? Probably not, especially given that I wouldn't really want a pizza to go with them.

I promised myself that I'd only write one paragraph, but I can't leave it unsaid that I question the choice to simultaneously caution diners with "Don't go crazy...our pizzas work best with minimal toppings" while the "Carnivore" in the specialty pie section includes chicken (alongside 5 other meats). I know every pizzeria needs a meat parade option, but every topping that is included on a specialty better be there because the pizza needs it to achieve maximum deliciousness. That had better be some damn tasty chicken to stand up to all the pork on the pizza (see above notes on the pizzas we did get to understand why I'm skeptical).

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