Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 1)


Dare I say no food can be as unifying and polarizing as Pizza?  Generally, it’s the one thing most people like.  Need to feed a bunch of people quickly?  Kids birthday party?  Reward for good achievements?  Pizza party!  It’s the go-to feed a herd food.  Unless someone’s lactose intolerant or has a food allergy to tomatoes or something…  I’ve never heard someone exclaim anything to the effect of “Free pizza?  Ew!  No thank you!”  I’ve heard a friend say “Pizza is like sex, there’s no such thing as bad pizza.”  I’m pretty sure he’s paraphrasing a comedian, but I have no idea who.  No matter where the sentiment lies on the corny scale, he’s right.  Most pizza is acceptable sustenance if not worthy of writing online reviews, letters to your mom, or several stanzas of poetry.

At the same time, a simple statement like “[So & So] makes the best pizza!” can make the most passive among us throw-down in an instant.  I’m pretty sure if Canada called up, and said “Hey United States, we have better pizza than you!” – there would be a full-scale invasion, and we’d soon have another big state.  (Maybe minus Quebec, the Queen Mum can keep that one.)  I’m guessing that unless you’re from Quebec or you for some reason hate pizza, you’re still with me, right?

Slices from SLICE

Slices from SLICE

Here’s the plan:  I’m going to tell you about my favorite pizza, and you’re going to tell me about your favorite pizza.  We’ll all try to remain calm.  When you’re wrong, I’ll tell you… so don’t be afraid.  This will probably be limited to Pittsburgh due to my geographical location.  So, if there’s pizza from somewhere else that you want to tell me about, you can… & I’ll assume you’re wrong until I go try it.  If the place is local (to me), even better.  I may go try it.

Side note – In case you’re new, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish (& mollusks). I’m not too excited to try pizza from places that offer shrimp, lobster, crab or any other kind of deadly sea-bugs as pizza toppings. I generally don’t feel “safe” when they can put their hands in one topping to put on someone else’s pie, then into my toppings without washing their hands… or to (even worse) perhaps drop some on my pie.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for different kinds of pizza.  It’s OK to like more than one.  Shocking, I know.  Here’s the beginning of my run-down on local pizza:

Aiello's Pizza on UrbanspoonAiello’s is up first, because well… they’re my favorite.  Their sauce is nothing short of perfection to my humble taste-buds.  It’s sweet but it doesn’t lose the flavor of the tomatoes.  I love pizza sauce that doesn’t have that bite that you get from tomato paste.  The dough is perfect doughey goodness, yet thin enough so it’s not like you’re eating a loaf of bread with pizza toppings.  Aiello’s is always clean, and it’s cool to watch ‘em make the pies right there in front of you.  The seemingly gruff employees just are who they are.  They’re all nice guys.  They call my father-in-law “Anchovy Bobby” for his dedication as a customer and obviously now I guess… affection for anchovies.  Well, I did get yelled at by Joe once for being late to pickup a pizza.  I was fighting traffic down Forbes all the way from Oakland to Squirrel Hill.  But, he was concerned about pizza quality (and perhaps that he had been stiffed the cost of a pizza).

Mineo's Pizza House (Squirrel Hill) on UrbanspoonI guess if I’m talking Squirrel Hill and pizza, I have to mention the other guys.  I’ve had Mineo’s, but to be fair… it was only once.  I don’t see a reason to go back when Aiello’s is a few doors up the hill.  It was greasy, and they offer deathfish as a topping.  Boo, I say.  One thing you can’t argue is that they have just as devout a following as Aiello’s.  You’ll get lovers & haters on both sides of the issue.  I think it’s probably good for both businesses to have such a famed & heated rivalry.  (Legend goes that Joe worked at Mineo’s, then split to make his own name making pies his way.  Check out this article, this YouTube video, and this Facebook group for more.)

SLICE on Broadway on UrbanspoonI have found a new additional favorite closer to home in Dormont… SLICE on Broadway in Beechview is excellent.  Hoping my father-in-law’s ears aren’t burning, I’m going to go ahead and say that SLICE is every bit as good as Aiello’s.  Read the reviews on UrbanSpoon, Yelp, & Google.  All those people can’t be wrong, can they?  The guys that run the place seem really friendly, the place is clean, and easy to get to for me anyway.  Here again, it all comes down to the sauce.  The sauce here has a slightly sweet tinge to it… and it’s fantastic.  The proportion of the sauce is great too, there’s no cheese sliding off of this pie on the 1st bite.  The amount of toppings is respectful & not a “look how many toppings we can put on” kind of thing.  These guys really just know how to put together a great pie, and I can’t wait to work my way through the menu.  It’s also kind of cool to sit there & watch the T go by… even though I could also do the same thing from my front porch.  They get bonus points for having “The Big Salad” on their menu and for still being excellent the next day.

A'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA'Pizza Badamo on UrbanspoonA’Pizza Badamo is another great nearby shop.  They, like SLICE, seem to have a “No B.S.” approach to making pizza.  Fresh ingredients, simple pies, done right, & value for the money.  I also need to work my way through this menu.  I’m anxious to try the Eggplant Parmesan sub.  The one & only thing that may give SLICE a slight edge (to me anyway) is the sauce.  A’Pizza Badamo’s sauce has a little more savory flavor than sweetness.  Like I said, I like sweet sauce.  Then again, I think I’m going to have to try many many more pies from each place to decide who the champion is.  I hope to never be able to make up my mind.  These guys are also really a class act, the place is quaint, clean, and a relaxing place to hang out.

Well, those are my favorites (& one not-so favorite, I guess)… and it’s a lot to take in right now.  Perhaps I’ll have to make this a series of posts.  I could do a post just about the pizza shops in & around Dormont.  It’s an almost endless list.

At any rate, before I continue my pizza tirade… let the comments begin!  Where are your favorites?

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36 responses to “Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 1)

  1. One of the best pizzas that I have had while in Pittsburgh was from Vincent’s. I hear plenty of people on the fence about that place, but the pizza was huge, gooey and delicious. haha

    • There’s this whole debate in Vincent’s Pizza Park vs. Vincent’s of Greentree… and I think maybe even a 3rd Vincent’s snuck in there?

      I think VIncent’s Pizza Park is in Forest Hills, Irwin, & Holiday Park (Plum). Maybe all the same place? Not sure.

      I grew up digging the one in Plum. Not bad pizza, but SUPER greasy.

      I dunno who was 1st & whatever.

      Vincent’s of Greentree in Canonsburg is pretty good. Dunno about the actual one in Greentree.

  2. You hit the nail on the head as far as Pittsburgh Pizza goes. Aiello’s is #1 A’Pizza Badamo is #2 though a little far south for me to enjoy it very often, and Vincents Pizza In East Pittsburgh is #3. also a little far off for regular dining though. The best Pizza i have ever had though is from a dive bar in Columbus, OH called Hound Dogs. They offer 4 different Pizza sauces and 2 different crusts. The Spicy Sauce on the Smokin’ Joes Crust is the definition of delicious, its like no other pizza, i have ever had. It is also so greasy you can’t really take it to go.

    All of that said.. i have recently discovered i have a pretty serious allergy to dairy products, and i can’t or really shouldn’t eat pizza at all. At least not with cheese.

    Also the pizza shops i like are nowhere near my house. so new mans own frozen margarita is the pizza of choice around here. Or Franks.. they deliver.

    • Ha ha. Aiello’s is so tasty. I want one now. You need to try SLICE. I have seen either them or A’Pizza Badamo say they’ll make pies with vegan cheese… so no gastro-intestinal distress maybe?

      Do you speak of the Vincent’s on 30, close to We’llKillYinzBurg?

      Frank’s is OK if we’re over that way. Not crazy about their sauce, but again… it’s not bad pizza at all.

      I’ll tackle other places next, then the chains maybe in a part 3. Ha ha.

      This could be a series.

      I have Beto’s, Fiori’s, Molly’s, Meatball’s, and all kinds of other places in mind to write about.

  3. Abby & Bimbos in Greensburg. Worth the trip! You would dig the sauce.
    BTW – We regularly turn down pizza because of our son’s allergy – he can’t eat or even touch a dairy product.

  4. I know you’re correct because there are some family joints (non-chains, not even “local chains”) around the area I’d “heard-tell” of for years. Eventually, I get to try them out.

    I have NEVER been impressed, let alone content with shelling out the money, time and saliva on them! Srsly.

    Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
    I hate sweet sauce. Whether store-bought, chain or family dump, if it’s sweet sauce, I don’t like it.

    In STL we have something called “provel” cheese. It is not provolone. It tastes (interestingly!) like gruyère (and I lived / worked in France where I ate shedhloads of it–if you had an open mind and a blindfold, I’m pretty sure a commoner would come to the same conclusion). In our area, it’s seen as “the” cheese for pizza. Most places do mozzarella. I’ve nothing against m but a nice tangy-bitter-spicy cause and provel and I’m in heaven.

    There’s also a big difference between sausage, Italian sausage and pepperoni. STL has a little Italy called The Hill. I can’t say where the seasoning comes in for “Italian sausage” but if you asked for sausage, thinking you’re getting “Italian sausage,” you’re going to be sorely disappointed. That’s why aficionados ASK. “You have Italian sausage, right?” Many places do not. That’s fine but a common local assumption (like provel being used) will lead to disappointment!

    Also, STL specializes in HYPER-THIN crust. My friends from CHI or Detroit call it “cracker crust.” It’s thin like a soft flour tortilla. I do NOT like thick crust pizza (or hardly hand-tossed) because I was raised eating super-thin. If every other variable is delicious, I’ll deal with your thick-crust pizza by eating off the topping, certainly not the crust-edge. Ew. In STL, there isn’t any crust edge! The toppings to out all the way. Num!

    • You’ve heard about the family joints in Pittsburgh? Or, are there not too many in St. Louis?

      I’m interested in this Provel cheese. I was unaware that St. Lous had a “style” of pizza all their own.

      Not a huge fan of sausage in general… & especially on pizza. Processed & spiced meats are just not my thing.

      Sweet sauce is where it’s at. I’m just sayin’.

      • Pittsburgh: Nah, I was just hopping in — I’ve never been to PA but have a friend in Harrisburg, which is I believe about half the distance to the moon from you.

        There used to be more family joints in STL. Bear in mind, I live 3 counties from STL. So, I’m not an expert but I sure as hell know from STL-style crust and cheese!

        All the more sweet-sauce for you. I’m keeping mine “punch in the lip stinging.” :)

        • Yeah, Harrisburg’s a few hours away… used to dig a band form there called Kamikaze Zero. They claimed they were from “Knife City” though.

          Wonder where one can get an STL style Pizza outside of STL?

  5. Just had a great Pizza Salami! I love it with some nice mozzarella and some spicy pepper and stuff on it. Mmmhhhh

  6. Hi Eric. Long time reader, first time poster. I must concur madtante that STL does have some killer pizza and the provel cheese is definitely unique to the area. My personal favorite pie shop is IMO’s for largely the reason that it’s local and you can find them in a number of different locations. I live about an hour and a half from STL but there is an IMO’s about 45 minutes away so it’s something I indulge every once in awhile. The provel cheese is a big issue with some people as it’s not the standard mozzarella. Actually, my wife hates it but I am firmly centered in the knowledge that it is God’s unholy gift to pizza. Most of the people from the area that I’ve met that aren’t big fans of the STL-style pizza would say that the cheese is their issue. These people are poor, misguided fools.

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  8. I guarantee you cannot get stl pizza outside of stl as you can’t get provel cheese! And you prolly know this if you’ve travelled at all: nobody can “make” anything right outside of where it’s from, like our Vietnamese folk bring in homemade foods — which aren’t like ANYTHING you get at any “Chinese” resto here, even if they advertise as Vietnamese…Anyway, they always apologize, “It’s not right because you need ___.”

  9. Imo’s is a chain, yes. But it’s a STL-based chain and I don’t think they have any locations out of the metro STL area. I had thought that I saw somewhere that you can have them basically ship you a pizza but I’m not finding it on their site. http://imospizza.com/

  10. Hunners Pizza in Sturgeon is better… and pizza is like sex .. when its good it really good and when its bad its still good ..lol

  11. So, who can ship me an IMO’s pizza, or some Provel cheese?

  12. I was referring to the Vincent’s on 30, yes.

  13. I grew up in pizza wasteland (San Jose, CA)

    After little league, we’d go to Mountain Mike’s pizza and get a pie on soft two-inch-thick spongy crust, with ham, pineapples, and olives. We had Straw Hat pizza, and Round Table pizza. We’d go there because it was a place to hang out but I never really liked any of the pizza I ate.

    I wish this could be a story of pizza redemption, but it is not. I just haven’t found a slice yet that turned me into a devoted convert. If I have to pick my favorite, it’s the $1.60 slice at Pizza Prima on N. Craig St. The crust is good, not too thick or thin, and the sauce is not sweet, and has a peppery garlic flavor. I’m not a fan of sweet sauce either.

    Now… my wife, she is a pizza Snob (capital S) and I’ve taken her to all the well known places, but she hasn’t found her favorite Pittsburgh pizza yet. I guess she’s probably most inclined toward Little Chicago’s pizza in the South Side – sadly, that place closed a few months ago… They made awesome hoagies too… I miss them.

    • Oh yeah… I’ve heard of Pizza Prima. Never eaten there.

      Have you tried A’Pizza Badamo? They’re awesome.

      That one place in the South Side that sells slices is awesome… down near the Smiling Moose or Rex Theater somewhere… across the street… I should google that.

      So… are you a fan of homemade pizzas or anything?

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