Pizza Picks & Pans|
by Paul Ross
If there's anything that everybody's an expert on, it's pizza, so when we wanted to review pizza in Albuquerque, we decided to do it by committee. Instead of having one person review one pizza place, we had our panel of tasters check out several pizzerias' offerings. We put five pies up against each other in a blind taste test and got some very interesting results. Both our pizzas and panelists were chosen at random, and we want to you to know that this is merely a small sampling of the wealth of different pizzas available in Albuquerque and that the opinions of our panelists are by no means the last word. We invite -- as if we could stop them -- your responses, suggestions and comments about our results. Now let's meet our panel:
In choosing our competitors, we concentrated our efforts on local establishments. The pizzerias were not notified in advance that they would be participating in a taste test, and all orders were the same: One medium with meat and veggies. We picked up the pies and brought them back to the Alibi offices. The tasters did not know where any of the pizzas had come from until the testing was completely over. What follows include our panel's general reactions to a variety of pizza criteria, as well as a rating on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being poor, 10 being excellent.
- Dorothy -- An admitted non-pizza fan with two exceptions: She loves pizza as a fast-food convenience for her kids and ate it loaded with anchovies when she was pregnant.
- Sam -- This elementary school hockey star thinks pizza is a better match with hockey than with soccer, but only afterwards as it's too heavy to fuel hard sports activity.
- Ruth -- Coke is this middle school jazz queen's beverage of choice with pizza, which she chooses on the basis of mouth-feel and topping ingredients.
- Abi -- As a super busy high school student, pizza is a several-times-a-week convenience and a basic food group.
- John -- A denizen of the UNM dorms, he needs pizza even more often and faster than Abi.
- Jeff -- Professional chef, pizza maker and long-time pizza connoisseur who fondly remembers the old New York pizza that ruled during his childhood.
Central and Monroe NE (across from Highland Theater) 265-6919
- Entry: 14" Special, $13.01
- Appearance: Excessive: "Too much cheese for meat lovers," but maybe not for cheese lovers.
- Aroma: "Not much" to "not good."
- Taste: Cheese dominated. Some thought this contributed to a general greasiness. One complained of a bitter aftertaste. The comment on the pizza surprised our chef; he liked it.
- Crust: Crunchy and chewy. High marks.
- Ingredients: Pepperoni got raves. Other toppings varied wildly according to individual taste.
- Comments: Both ends of the bell curve represented. "Good sauce" though "not enough [of it]." While some would have liked to add veggies, others would have just as soon given the whole thing a pass.
- Rating: 4
921 San Pedro SE (at Kathryn) 255-1233
- Entry: 15" Supreme, $14.80
- Appearance: Although greatly liked, a few holdouts found it on the low side of industrial quality.
- Aroma: Smelled good to those who could.
- Taste: Six to one in favor. "Very spicy," "surprisingly good," and "nice and greasy -- just how I like it."
- Crust: Crispy but too thin.
- Ingredients: Plentiful but chopped too small and could've been fresher.
- Comments: Needs improvement, especially in presentation. Thicker crust would've been preferred over "cracker-like." Still better than most chain pies.
- Rating: 4
2501 San Pedro NE (across from Coronado Mall) 265-6919
- Entry: 15" Supreme, $14.03
- Appearance: The judges were really split on this one. Opinions ranged from "everything clumped in the middle" to "a work of art."
- Aroma: "Bready," "mushrooms," "pretty strong."
- Taste: Liked the vegetables but not the chile, which was "all heat, no flavor."
- Crust: Again, a full range: "great," "not bad," "gross."
- Ingredients: The same wide mix reflected in "good/great" to "cheese was plastic-y " and "sauce left something to be desired."
- Comments: As expected from the preceding assessments, some would order it again and others would like to forget the whole experience.
- Rating: 6
5003 Lomas NE (at San Mateo) 266-0321
- Entry: 12" Combo, $11.60
- Appearance: Smallest "medium" of them all but lots of "colorful" vegetables.
- Aroma: "Herby" and "salad-like."
- Taste: One "no" vote; all the rest: greasy thumbs up.
- Crust: More chewy than crunchy, with mixed reactions on the flavor: "yummy" to "bland."
- Ingredients: Pretty positive all around, but the sole abstainer really hated it, saying, "I didn't know they could make pepperoni out of Spam."
- Comments: The kids loved it, but the dissenter felt that "no love went into this pizza."
- Rating: 7
107 Cornell NE (off Central, near UNM) 255-5454
- Entry: 14" Ultimate, $14.20
- Appearance: Everyone commented on the large quantity of toppings. One said "almost too much."
- Aroma: Faint, occasional whiff of sauce and veggies.
- Taste: All over the place from "weak" to "excellent."
- Crust: "Bready, flavorful," "chewy," "nice and fluffy."
- Ingredients: Fresh vegetables backed by a slightly spicy sauce made this a winner.
- Comments: Although highly praised by one ("Looks like it's made by hand from scratch. This is how pizza should be."), the general consensus was that the pie had more eye-appeal than flavor.
- Rating: 7
Congratulations to Pudge Brothers and Saggio's who tied for first place in our modest taste test. If you're surprised that your favorite pizzeria didn't do well in our secret side-by-side comparison, do your own blind taste test and see what results you come up with. While no pizza sampled was bad, none transported us to heavenly realms either. The fun is to keep trying. And we will.
Paul Ross is a Santa Fe-based food writer.