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?
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 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).
I 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.)
I 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 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?