Marco Polo Pizza: Working Lunch

I asked our staff their opinions on delivery pizza lunch from Marco Polo Pizza & Italian Restaurant, and the overwhelming response was a very non-descriptive “Good”. In my mind, this means “average”. Saying that a pizza is “good” is such a copout.

C’mon people, more detail please! Marco pizza

“Anything with bread and cheese is good.”

“The crust was thin and slightly burnt – a little overdone. The pie was not evenly sliced.”

“My enthusiasm was tempered by the temperature of the pizza on arrival.”

“Marco has good pizza but the trip across town takes away from it.”

One outlier comment came from a staff member who rated the margarita pizza slice the best of its kind she ever had. I have to chalk this up to the fact that she is originally from China, and perhaps has a different pizza palette than the rest of us.

Buy a Couch; Eat Pizza — Jordan’s

blaze_signageI needed to buy a new chair and couldn’t resist going to the new Jordan’s furniture on Long Wharf Drive. Plus Blaze Fast-Fired pizza was inside and it was lunch time!

The pizza restaurant, ice cream shop, and Connecticut’s largest indoor ropes course are situated at the back of Jordan’s. The “it” area, as I think it’s called. It was dark, loud, and glowing back there, kind of like an arcade. I had no hope for good pizza.

The pizza is prepared kind of like at Red Tomado, where it’s flash cooked in just a few minutes. You have to stand around and wait for your name to be called, and it’s kind of hard to hear, due to the loudness factor. I wound up grabbing someone else’s pizza because the person at the counter looked at me when they said a name. Then two minutes later said person came looking for me, took the pizza away, and gave it to the guy standing next to him.

Blaze pizza
It was a “meh” plus

When I finally received my pizza, which was about 5 minutes later, I was hungry and more hopeful about the possible quality. The pizza had an exceptionally thin crust which I enjoyed, but it seemed bland even though I had them put some spices on it. The tomato sauce didn’t seem to have much Italian flavor and while the dough was crisp it was unremarkable. But considering that it’s pizza in a furniture store, not bad really!

If you’re buying furniture at Jordan’s or doing the ropes course, by all means get yourself some pizza. But don’t stop off there just to get it.

Ernie’s: Yelp is Wrong

It’s the last day of 2015ernies_inside and to celebrate a friend and I went to Ernie’s, a place in her Westville neighborhood that had great ratings online.

When we walked in, it was clear that this place hadn’t been renovated in quite some time. Kitsch can be fun and weren’t turned off by the bouquets of fake flowers on the wall, framed prints from the 80s, or brown upholstered booths and chairs. There were a few people waiting to pick up orders, but we were the only dine-ins.

We ordered a salad to start off with, and it didn’t quite look fresh. I wondered if it had come from a bag. We were given paper plates to eat off of and plastic cups to drink out of, which seems a little cheap.

When I first saw the pizza I was a little disappointed. We got half eggplant and the eggplant part just looked awful, like it was floating on top of the pizza and not a real part of it. It was also breaded and fried which is totally unnecessary. When eating those slices I elected to remove the eggplant entirely.

ernies_pizzaAt first I liked the cheese, but after it cooled off it seemed to get gummy. My friend pointed out that it was actually yellow mozzarella instead of white, which is unusual. She also noted that the dough tasted like it might have been purchased instead of freshly made.

After some discussion, we decided that Ernie’s was probably a place that had been in one family for quite some time and the current managers had probably let things go. It would be great for an episode of Restaurant Impossible. Otherwise it’s only average or a bit below average.

Sally’s: Perfection

This was the best pizza I’ve had since the inception of this blog.

My friend, a secretive government agent who would not appreciate being named, said it best:

Excellent chewy crust. Neither round nor square. White clam pizza was delicious. The old fashioned decor and the long rich history make it feel a privilege to eat here.

Sally’s white clam pizza
It’s kind of a dump, but reeks history.

BAR: the art of pizza

bar small
Is there a basil shortage I didn’t know about?

After going to New Haven’s City Wide Open Studios and hearing an amazing artist sing a song about pizza, heading to a pizza place was mandatory! BAR was not too far away and it was early enough for it not to be overcrowded on a Saturday night.

My friend and I decided to be purists and ordered a regular red sauce with mozzarella, adding only basil. I truly believe pizza should be reviewed in its truest form as the addition of toppings can mask a poor quality basic pizza.

When our baking sheet arrived, it was looking delicious! But where was the basil? I mean, there were a few pieces on it, but just not enough. Some pieces (they do not cut actual slices) didn’t have any. Do you need to order double basil? That seems kind of ridiculous.

Aside from the missing basil, the pizza was delicious. I’ve decided that the minimal crust is really just a vehicle for delivering cheese, and whatever toppings you’ve ordered. I would called it a hint of crust, in fact! This is probably why the pizza is served on the baking sheet, because otherwise it would fall apart. The cheese is high quality so I’m fine with their approach.

I do love the pizza at BAR, but as mentioned earlier it’s often crowded so I don’t go here too often. Parking can also be a challenge.


Abate Restaurant: blind taste test at The Grove

“It’s something I would eat after a hangover.”

62% found this cheese pizza from Abate's Restaurant greasy.
62% found this cheese pizza from Abate’s Restaurant greasy.

With eight responses in, the overall rating for Abate Restaurant’s cheese pizza is a 3.75 on a scale of 1 (awful) to 5 (amazing). The equivalent of a C+ or B-.

“Nice thin crust, just the right amount of cheese.”

When it comes to the specific elements of crust, sauce, and cheese, opinions differed quite a bit. One person selected “amazing” for the crust while most others only rated it “OK”. The cheese was most commonly rated “pretty good” while I personally rated it “not good”.

The reason for this discrepancy may be the level of grease. Two-thirds of those surveyed selected the word “greasy” to describe Abate’s pizza… I’m not a fan of this style. The next most popular descriptor was “fresh” (50%) followed by “bland” (37.5%).

The most popular scenario for eating this pizza is “the restaurant is downstairs and I am starving” (85%), while no one said it “a place to take an out of town friend who wanted to try New Haven pizza”.

View the complete results of the survey.

Pizza on the run: Red Tomado

After a job interview that ran late (for a good reason), I realized I would have nothing to make for lunch when I got home. Mentally reviewing my quick, nearby options, I decided to give Red Tomado a try. I heard they make custom pizzas, Chipotle-style, that are out of a special oven in 2 minutes!

Red Tomado pizza
Ready in two minutes, amazing!

When I arrived the staff could sense I was a new customer and gave me the low-down. All pizzas come in a standard 12-inch size, and you can either choose your own ingredients or pick from a few pre-designed options. I chose to make my own and went with marinara sauce (other options included BBQ sauce, Buffalo sauce, or pesto), eggplant, red peppers, and black olives.

At first bite, I liked the pizza, but it’s definitely not typical New Haven style, and realistically it’s not intended to be. It was quite doughy and the only crispness was in a few places on the crust. I thought the sauce seemed bland, but that may be my own fault. You are given the option to add oregano, garlic, and some other spices and I elected not to.

I think this restaurant is a good fast fresh option for downtown New Haven. However, it may not satisfy the refined palette of the city’s pizza elite.

Grand Apizza: a blind taste test at The Grove

Having a slice of pizza on your own is one thing, but pizza is much better shared! It’s a chance to talk about what you like or don’t like, what your favorite pizza place is, and exchange local knowledge.

My dad managed a pizza place in New Haven for about 30 years that was excellent, but overshadowed by other more well known places like Peppe’s and Sally’s. I wondered if knowing where a pizza came from would influence how it was perceived, and decided to conduct a blind pizza taste test!

Grand Grove
Grand Apizza at The Grove. Thanks for your help with the survey everyone!

Ten co-workers at The Grove were given a slice without knowing who made it and asked to answer a seven question online survey. The results are in, and Grand Apizza is pretty good! I have to agree, they are near my house and I wouldn’t think about ordering from any other nearby pizza establishment.

The sauce seemed to be the most impressive element of the pizza, getting slightly higher marks than the cheese and crust. Seven out of ten respondents selected “fresh” and “sweet” as adjectives to describe it. No one thought it was bland.

Here’s a link to the complete survey results.