Tag Archives: pizza reviews

Taster's in Snowmass

Snowmass Pizza: Taster’s

Back in June, Mark and I spent a relaxing week hiking, swimming, reading and eating in Snowmass, Aspen and Denver, Colorado. We were lucky enough to stay at The Timbers Club in Snowmass – a gorgeous property right on the side of the mountain with a friendly and accommodating staff, comfy big beds, our own grill, afternoon cookies and multiple hot tubs to choose from.

One night for dinner, we popped across the street to a tiny strip mall with an excellent gourmet grocery store and a pizza place called Taster’s. (There’s one in Aspen too I think.)

We got a carry-out cheese pizza and ate it on the couch in front of a roaring fire and a flat screen TV.

Taster's cheese pizza
Taster’s cheese pizza

We had heard mixed reviews from people who had eaten there before, and I think it lends itself to be that kind of pizza place.

Overall, it’s kind of what you would expect from a ski-town pizza place. It was warm and doughy and filling, with a good flavor and a lot of cheese. It wasn’t gourmet pizza by any stretch, and it wasn’t really even New York thin crust. It was kind of like a puffy bread with sauce and cheese and grease and spices. Quite comforting.

Would be good on a snowy afternoon when you don’t have to wear a bathing suit afterwards.

pizza The Timbers
Taster’s in Snowmass
artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade

Denver Pizza Review: Osteria Marco

For our last dinner in Denver before heading home after a lovely vacation out West a few weeks ago, Mark and I dined al fresco on Larimer Square at Osteria Marco.

What I loved about this restaurant was the fact that although it is casual, the food reminded me a bit of my beloved Chinghale in Baltimore. Delicately plated salumi, and fresh and delicious-looking main courses. Different in that where Chinghale has interesting housemade pastas, Osteria Marco offers pizzas and paninis. No matter. It was the feel of the place that was warm and friendly and inviting.

After our appetizer of lace-y thin finochietta (fennel pork sausage) that I inhaled, I ordered the Artisan pizza with olive tapenade, goat cheese and roasted red peppers.

artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade
artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade

Um, yum. That is all I can say. I gobbled this down too and was feeling particularly pleased with my order. The chewy crust, salty olives and sweet peppers paired well with a healthy smattering of spicy crushed red pepper and a light white wine.

So if you’re in Denver, I would highly recommend checking this place out after a Rockies baseball game.

High Mountain Pies main entrance

Pizza Review: High Mountain Pies

As the name implies, this small pizza place is located in Colorado, outside of Denver, in historic Leadville. We found it on Yelp as we were passing through, as did many of our co-diners.

High Mountain Pies is situated in a cute little bright-blue house off of Leadville’s main street. They have picnic tables in a grassy field outback as well as under shaded umbrellas on the side patio (where we ate).

High Mountain Pies main entrance
High Mountain Pies main entrance

The owners were a couple of friendly hippies (obviously) who clearly created a pizza restaurant to fulfill their pizza-craving needs. (Mark and I noted how many Colorado restaurants seem to be designed to fulfill late-night cravings: for instance, on our way through town on the front end of the trip, we ate lunch at a pizzeria/taqueria, and last time we were in Denver, we ate at a pizza/biscuit restaurant. YUMMY!)

We ordered the pizza margherita, which was fine for what it was, but not really any sort of amazing pizza by general world standards. It was more of a doughy, salty, cheesy bread with sliced tomatoes. The fresh basil was a plus.

our pizza margherita
our pizza margherita

It was good, but I’d probably steer more towards a regular cheese pizza (or find a bar-b-que restaurant) next time. A+ for setting and friendly staff.

margherita pizza

NYC Pizza Review: Masseria Dei Vini

Mark and I had a fun Memorial Day Weekend with friends from our building (and from life, since I’ve known her since we were five): eating pizza, seeing a Broadway musical and getting midnight gelato.

We had dinner at an unsuspecting Italian restaurant on 9th Avenue: Masseria Dei Vini. You would never know from a street full of hole-in-the-wall quick-bite eateries that a large, bright, white-washed upscale Italian restaurant lies behind huge glass windows.

Complete with white tablecloths, mannered waitstaff and a restaurant-length (and height) wall of temperature-controlled, beautifully lit wine bottles, Masseria Dei Vini felt luxurious in an off-beat part of town. Like we had been transported away from anything grungy….maybe to the suburbs even?

 

Mark and I split a pasta as a our appetizer (even split it was a lot of food), and then I had the Margherita pizza as my main, of course.

magherita pizza
margherita pizza

The pizza was excellent and actually fairly large. I ate the whole thing. But I probably could’ve taken half home and still been full!

The crust was a puffy and charred. There was a perfect ratio of sauce to cheese (not too much sauce) and lots of basil leaves. I ate it with a knife and fork, but you definitely could’ve eaten it with hands too, which is to say, it wasn’t too soggy in the middle.

I would definitely return, although next time I would probably split the pizza, or force myself to stop eating and take the rest home!

Houston Pizza (Bagel) Review

Doesn’t a good pizza bagel just make your day?!?! It’s warm and gooey with a chewy, salty, dense bagel underneath! What’s not to love?!

Side note: I always choose a salt or everything bagel for my pizza bagels, but my sister says this is “gross” and that one should only get a pizza bagel on a plain bagel. You decide.

Did you know that originally bagels came in only plain or salt? Then they started branching out into all sorts of other flavors in the 1950s. And with the rise of Lender’s – prepackaged and frozen bagels – so too more flavors and more diverse consumers across America, for instance, the cinnamon raisin bagel, which was created to appeal to the non-Jewish “breakfast food” market.

I just got done reading Maria Balinska’s The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread which is a fascinating look at the creation and rise in popularity of the bagel. Bagels have a fuzzy origin story, in that many ethnicities and countries have similarly shaped bread products so it’s hard to pinpoint one beginning point for the bread with a hole phenomenon. But it’s also a food whose history is intertwined with stories of political, economic and labor battles. The book is a quick read for anyone interested in food history and/or Jewish food history.

But anyway, back to the pizza bagel at hand. This particular pizza bagel was procured at New York Coffee Shop, a crowded Jewish bagel and coffee joint in the Braeburn neighborhood of Houston Texas.

“Decorated” in the 1980s, walking in reminded me of the formica counter top diners we would go to as children, perhaps after Hebrew school on Sunday for a matzah ball soup and pickles.

My mom did indeed have the matzah ball soup which looked traditionally delicious. And I of course had the pizza bagel, on an everything bagel, with a cup of coffee.

pizza bagel

It was all really good. The coffee was above average and totally came in above expectation. They definitely knew how to do a good pizza bagel with toasted bagel, fully melted cheese and not too much sauce.

Personally, I don’t see how one could mess up a pizza bagel, but you’d be surprised.

If I had it to do over, I’d choose a salt bagel just to kick things up a notch.

And the personality of the place was charming and nostalgic too. Would I want to lick the table? No. Did we run into people our in-laws knew from the community? Yes. And isn’t that really what these old-school Jewish diners are all about in the end? Thumbs up.

make-your-own veggie pizza

Houston Pizza Review: BLAZE

My mom and I visited my sister in Houston a few weeks ago and took a lunchtime trip to Blaze Pizza on Westheimer. Blaze is a fast-casual pizza chain, where you stand in line and either choose a standard personal pizza from their menu or do a create-your-own pizza from a smorgasbord of ingredients, Chipotle style. The staff assembles the pie and then rapidly cooks it in their huge wood-fired oven and calls your name when it’s ready to get at the counter.

There was a Blaze in Royal Oak when we were living in Michigan that I always wanted to try but never got around to it, so I was happy to go there in Texas!

I ordered the off-the-menu Red Vine pizza which is red sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, and I also added shredded mozzarella to it.

red vine pizza with extra mozzarella
red vine pizza with extra mozzarella

My sister did a make-your-own with lots of veggies including mushrooms and arugula.

make-your-own veggie pizza
make-your-own veggie pizza

Both pizzas were delicious and we devoured them both. The ingredients were fresh and flavorful and the crust was pretty good – not dry or cardboard-like, which can often be the case.

The only issue I had (which is unfortunately pretty standard these days at this kind of restaurant) was that I was SUPER parched afterwards. Even after drinking lots of water, I could still feel the effects of the saltiness from the pizza.  They were yummy going down though 🙂

The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable about the ingredients and food prep. My mom has a lot of dietary restrictions, and they were incredibly helpful directing her in terms of what she could or couldn’t eat. For instance, they don’t use cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza to prevent sticking; they use semolina, which she can eat. They also swapped out her Italian salad dressing for oil and vinegar and made her salad fresh, instead of directing her to the case of pre-made salads, to ensure no cross-contamination with items she can’t digest. I thought the customer service was excellent, especially for a fast-casual establishment whose business model is based on volume, standardization and quick turnaround.

In terms of fast-casual chain pizza, I would definitely rank Blaze near the top.

Blaze
Blaze

 

Roman style pizza "al metro" - by the meter

NYC Pizza Review: Merilu in Hell’s Kitchen

As we make our way around the New York City neighborhood pizza joints, the next stop is Merilu Pizza Al Metro on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen.

Merilu specializes in “Roman” style pizza (along with a classic New York thin crust), which has a crispy crust and is more often baked in long rectangles. Another discerning feature sometimes found in the Roman pizza, as in Merilu, is the “Al Metro” which basically means that you are purchasing it “by the meter.” So while the pizza I had delivered was some sort of regulation size, if I were in the restaurant, they would cut off a slab of pizza based on how many meters I wanted to eat. Or something like that….

Anyway, I tried the traditional “cheese” version of the Roman pizza, and Mark got a regular thin crust with jalapeños on top.

The traditional New York style pizza was 100% my preference between these two. My Roman style pizza was heavily sauced with kind of sweetish sauce for the lesser amount of cheese present. Now obviously I’m no expert on this style of pizza, so that could be totally typical and the ideal set up for this za. But it wasn’t really to my taste.

So there you have it: not for me, but doesn’t mean it’s not for someone else. And on to the next.

thin crust slice of cheese pizza from Sacco

NYC Pizza Roll…Just In Time

Eater put out it’s third list of the City’s best pizza parlors, just in time for me to repost it!

(Side note: Eater.com was my former employer in Detroit.)

Love the description of pizza being “carpeted” with cheese. Adding it to the lexicon 🙂

Lots to try, although not a ton here listed in Manhattan so may take me a while to get around. I’ll keep you posted as I do though.

Enjoy the list in the meantime ~ how many of these have you been to?

Pies under glass at Cavallo's

NYC Pizza Review: Cavallo’s

A few Fridays ago, Mark and I went to The PIT Loft (which is the Peoples Improv Theater) to see a sketch comedy show in which our friend was performing. I got out of work, met Mark on the subway platform and we made our way to W. 29th St. with 30 minutes to spare before the 9pm performance.

So what else would we do besides grab a slice of pizza at the nearest hole in the wall pizzeria: Cavallo’s on 7th Ave.

Pies under glass at Cavallo's
Pies under glass at Cavallo’s

It looked promising enough: a narrow restaurant with pies on display, Stella on tap and just enough grime on the walls to remind you that you aren’t in some sterile suburban strip mall.

I got a thin slice of mushroom and Mark got a thick slice of cheese. The mushroom was as it should be: totally and completely covered with sliced button mushrooms. None of these frou-frou mushrooms that don’t belong on New York style pizza, and not an inch of slice to spare.

It definitely didn’t meet the “doesn’t crack when folded” test, but we saw it sitting out under heat lamps, so no surprise that it wasn’t made fresh to order. It did indeed seem like their night was winding down by the diminished number of pies under glass and the lack of sparkle on the remaining slices. But oh well.

Overall, the pizza was serviceable. Good flavor, mega toppings and satiated any growing hunger pangs.

Was it the best pizza ever? No. Would I go back? Probably not. Did it fill a need? Yes.

And on to the next.

Bella Vita cheese pizza

NYC Pizza Review: Bella Vita

In my ongoing quest to try all the pizzas, we ordered delivery from Bella Vita Pizzeria on 58th Street last week. It was recommended to me by my Aunt Laurie, who had tasted it at a recent party. It is what one might consider traditionally classic New York pizza.

And it didn’t disappoint!

We ordered a standard large cheese pizza as that really is the best way to compare apples to apples across all the pizza places.

NYC-style thin crust cheese pizza
NYC-style thin crust cheese pizza

When it came, the light color on the cheese and crust had me worried that perhaps it was slightly undercooked. But indeed it was not.

It definitely hit the spot in terms of what I look for in that comforting thin crust za of growing up: HUGE slices (I still ate 4 – oops), chewy crust that is easily foldable (and doesn’t crack per my dad’s instruction), lots of cheese and sauce, and pre-spiced with oregano – although that doesn’t preclude adding my own “toppings” of oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper.

Bella Vita cheese pizza
Bella Vita cheese pizza

Thanks for the rec A.L., and look forward to ordering from here again 🙂