By Graham Hicks
I woke up with a start, the sweaty smell of mozzarella and tomatoes oozing from my pores.
What a dream! Imagine, drowning in a sloppy sea of pizza. Nothing but pizza here, there and everywhere. Melted mozzarella clogging up my nose, tomato sauce waves crashing over my head, pepperoni rafts floating just out of reach!
Eating five pizzas in four days had its consequences.
In our town, pizza is everywhere. No other fast food is so available – even burgers and fries.
Pizza is good – extremely good – and relatively healthy. But there’s so much of it!
Acknowledging the pizza trend, and curious about new toppings, The Weekly Dish did a trendy pizza blitz: Pizzeria Rosso on Thursday, Blaze Pizza on Friday, Pink Gorilla Pizzeria on Saturday, Love Pizza on Sunday.
These ratings are from the best to the merely good. There wasn’t a lousy pizza to be had. The competition is too stiff.
Pizzeria Rosso, pizza – 4.5 of five Suns.
(8738 109 St., 780-433-5382, pizzeriarosso109.com. Hours Sun-Mon, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m; Tues-Thurs, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m; Fri-Sat, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Delivery: skipthedishes.com. Twelve-inch pizza, $14.50 to $21.)
I admit to bias – I like full-service restaurants with atmosphere, which Rosso, crowded up against the Garneau Theatre in the Bridge District, definitely is. Plus Rosso has free customer parking and is opening a second pizzeria downtown, Bianco in Rice-Howard Way.
Rosso’s rustic crust was easily the best of this bunch – slightly charred from the wood-fired pizza oven, thin but not overly thin, whole wheat but lively and light.
The toppings are extensive, true to Rosso’s Italian roots. Two of us split an “Avocado di Pollo” – chicken, avocado, smoked mozzarella, tomato, roasted garlic, arugula (everybody has arugula these days), a touch of pepper heat and a dusting of Parmigiano. All was as fresh as fresh could be. It was an excellent lunch, and, at $21 for a 12-incher, enough for two. Service was fine.
Pink Gorilla, pizza – 4 of 5 Suns.
(7018 109 St., 780-660-0060, pinkgorillapizzeria.com. 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, Fri-Sun – noon to 10 p.m., closed Tuesdays. Delivery: doordash.com. Take-out 25% off. 10-inch pizza $19.99)
This is contradictory. I wouldn’t order the same namesake Pink Gorilla pizza again as it was too savoury and sour for my tastes. But this playful pizza palace offers up adventurous and creative pizzas from chef/owners Ryan Brodziak and Mark Bellows. The duo is expanding on the success of their Local Omnivore meaty sandwich shop in Holland Plaza.
The Pink Gorilla is well-toasted on the bottom, gently chewy (as if brushed with olive oil) on top. not too thin, not too thick. The toppings are unique – The Pink Gorilla itself had a swath of shaved pastrami, pickled daikon, sliced pickles and mustard, making it a tad sour. But overall, the Pink Gorilla pizzas are unadulterated food fun. Alongside the conventional are toppings not found elsewhere- ginger beef, artichoke, chickpeas … even grilled octopus. Pink Gorilla’s 10-inch pizzas, at $20, are at the high end price-wise, but fair enough for the quality and originality.
Love Pizza, pizza – 3.75 of 5 Suns.
(10196 109 St. (also St. Albert), 587-520-9734, lovepizza.ca. Hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free delivery after 4 p.m. on orders of $25 or more. 17 by 6-inch triangular pizza $14.65.)
Love Pizza differentiates itself from the pizza pack with an oval, 17×6 inch ultra-thin pizza. The Meatatarian lived up to its billing – bounteous layers of capicolla, sausage and spicy pepperoni representing great value at $14.65 for the equivalent of a 12-inch pizza. The crust is almost too thin – Love pizzas fold over easily, for calzone-style eating. Love needs a real pizza oven – its conveyor-belt grill doesn’t deliver that final searing heat. Sadly, the post-grill cold garnishes – arugula, chopped green onion – were not fresh. The family-friendly company, now in the downtown and St. Albert, has further expansion plans.
Blaze Pizza, pizza – 3.75 of 5 Suns, an abysmal 2 of 5 Suns for service.
(12010 104 Ave. in the Brewery District, also Manning Town Centre and South Edmonton Common; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. blazepizza.com, Skipthedishes.com, 11-inch pizza $12.65)
Blaze is a franchise, with its owners (including basketball star Lebron James) aiming at 500 outlets in North America. It’s Subway-like – you line up, order, move along as you watch your pre-baked pizza being assembled, slid into a high-temperature pizza oven, decorated with its final cold flourishes, then picked up.
Which is fine. Blaze crusts are pleasingly thin and crispy. The Green Stripe signature pizza was very tasty with fresh pesto squirted over the usual toppings, plus red peppers. The pepperoni (substituted for chicken), was so sparse as to be near-undetectable.
The service, at 4:30 in the afternoon, was abysmal. Despite the line-up, the disinterested staff were as slow as molasses. Only the end-of-the-line baker was smiling. We timed it – 30 minutes from arriving at Blaze until sitting down with our pizza.
I suppose one could live on pizza – carbs, protein and veggies in every slice. Enough independent pizza parlours are out there to eat at a different one every night of the year.
Then there’s the pizza chains – Boston, Pizza 73, Royal, Little Caesar, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Famoso.
I’ll pass, at least for a few weeks. More pizza nightmares I do not need.