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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pittsburgh Pizza - A Year in Review (Part I)

In 2013 I set out to hit as many of the pizza restaurants as possible on the Pittsburgh Magazine list of 25 Superb Pittsburgh Pizzas. Despite my love of pizza, this was a surprisingly difficult challenge. Out of twenty-five pizza joints I only made it to seven and I only had the opportunity to seriously review four. This gave me a new found respect for the folks at 101 Achievements Blog who attempt to complete 101 activities every year. Cheers to you Jen and Mike!

Here are my thoughts on four of the delicious pies I tried this year. They are listed from best to worst. Honestly, I was pretty shocked at the stark contrast in terms of quality and deliciousness.

Beto's - South Hills 

This is what I see when I dream.

The South Hills area seems to have some super secret lock-down on high quality pizza. For whatever reason the majority of the best pizza restaurants in Pittsburgh are located somewhere in the Dormont/Mt. Lebo/Brookline area. Is this where all the Italians hang out or something?

Beto's was the best new pizza I tried in 2013. I'd compare it to Police Station Pizza in Ambridge. Thick square cut Sicilian style pizza with the toppings heaped on while the pie is still hot. Many people prefer to have their toppings baked on, but I think they are incredible when thrown on fresh from the oven with this style of pizza.

The remarkable thing about Beto's is that your order is up in about 3-5 minutes. Our pizza arrived before we even finished sharing a side salad. I went with extra cheese, pepperonni, mushrooms, bannana peppers and tomato. I honestly can't rave enough about how fresh, crisp, delicious and flavorful Beto's pizza is. Despite being thick, the crust is super crunchy and it requires some real stamina to consume. It was really fun watching my pizza-partner, Lauren, try to chew her pie. I think she only got through about two slices before the restaurant was closing.

PRO TIP: get extra napkins at Beto's you'll need them when trying to eat your pizza.

Beto's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Slice - South Hills

The Big Louie
Slice stood out among the pizza I consumed in 2013. This incredible pie was baked for us in about ten minutes while we hung out in Slice's pleasant dining room. The Big Louie pie consisted of mushrooms, pepperoni and hot sausage. One of the first things I noticed was that the hot sausage was fresh and delicious, possibly even from a local butcher. There's nothing I hate more than when a pizza place uses frozen super processed sausage that ends up tasting like it came out of a soup can. Well done old chaps at Slice!

I thought the pie was a bit salty and the crust was a little too thin for my taste. I really liked how well done the pie was and I thought it was an excellent value for the money. I believe Slice is trying to emulate a New York style pizza, but hey, this is Pittsburgh. While I believe New York style pizza is some of the best in the world, I say go wild and create a style of your own.

PRO TIP: The friendly staff at Slice sells pizza by the slice daily. If you are feeling non-committal you can drop in for just a slice (dad jokes).

SLICE on Broadway on Urbanspoon

Nappoli - Squirrel Hill 

Cook me more!

I was a little surprised that Nappoli in Squirrel Hill made the list of Pittsburgh's finest. It was totally acceptable pizza, but I wouldn't rank it in the top tier. Napoli features a thicker crust, in particular I thought the dough and toppings were high quality. The sauce could have used a little work in my professional pizza opinion.

We ordered this pie with mushrooms, pepperoni and feta.  It was one of those obvious jobs where they threw our toppings on an already made pie, but didn't let it bake enough when it went back in the oven. Unlike Beto's this strategy didn't work as well because the pie was most likely intentionally under-baked the first time around and wasn't fresh when it was prepared to our specification. It just wasn't as ewww-gewwwwy delicious as I would have liked, but it was absolutely superior to any pie from one of the large commercial outfits, EG Domino's, Pizza Slut or Papa John's.

PRO TIP: Go here if there is a long wait at Aiello's or Mineo's, it is right up the street!

Napoli Pizza on Urbanspoon


Giovanni's - Dormont 

Giovanni's has a number of locations throughout the city, but I wouldn't particularly reccomend you go out of your way to visit any of them. The location in Dormont gave me the creeps. The dining room is also a chocolate store. Do you guys specialize in pizza or chocolates?

We ordered the neapolitan margarita pizza with bacon. It was entirely underwhelming. The sauce had a bit of a pleasant kick, but it ran rather thin. The toppings seemed haphazardly strewn across the pie and the whole thing just seemed overly salty but still flavorless in my opinion. This was the only pizza we tried where me and my pizza-partner argued over who was going to take the leftovers home because nobody wanted them. The stuffed pepperoni roll cheese bread was far superior to the pizza. The cheese bread featured a very yeasty thick crust with a generous amount of cheese and pepperoni.

I believe Giovanni's must have been a better pizzeria some time ago in the distant past. Their inclusion on the list of Pittsburgh's finest is a mystery to say the least. I think I could name at least five or ten more deserving candidates.

PRO TIP: Try the chocolate and send me an email to let me know if it is any good. 

Giovanni's Pizza & Pasta Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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