Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Pizza

...is a rare thing these days, what with the proliferation of mediocre chains like Papa John's, Pizza Hut, and Dominos. Pizza crusts are now uniformly doughy and flavorless (or crackery and flavorless) and are topped with dull sauces and overly-salty cheese. Eating some super-salty pizza last week got me to reminiscing about Pizzas I Have Known. (The salt bomb was from Pizzeria Speranza, in Charles Center. They do a pretty good NY-style pizza, better than most, but I don't recommend the variety coated in sliced green olives. I was parched for the rest of the day, and my lips were pink, swollen, and horribly chapped for two days afterwards.)

When I was a little kid, the pizza of choice in my family came from Pappy's, a local chain. They've been gone a very long time, and although I can still taste their pizza on my mind's tongue, I don't really remember it that well. What I do remember vividly is the birch beer, a drink I was only able to get with a slice of cheese at Pappy's.

Another pizza we ate a lot of came from a joint called George's, on Broadway in Fells Point. When my Uncle Frank wanted pizza (we lived in the same house as he and my Grandma), he wanted George's. Unfortunately, it was fairly often, and I soon got sick of their doughy crust. Not to mention their soggy fries and totally disgusting fried mushrooms. I got sick of a lot of take-out food that way, when Uncle Frank got in one of his ruts. We ate a lot of fried chicken and Western fries from the chicken stand in the Broadway Market too, but I digress....

Every rare once in a while, when we were in Highlandtown, we'd get a pie from the venerable Matthew's Pizzaria. People still rhapsodize about their pizza, but honestly, I don't get it. I always thought it was flavorless. A recent trip to DeSantis, where they proudly serve Matthew's Pizza, only reinforced that notion.

When my family moved out of Fells Point, Armand's Chicago Pizzaria became our local pizza joint. They served a pie that was delicious from top to bottom, particularly the Italian Sausage version, which used slices of sausage rather than crumbles. The edges would curl up fetchingly and get crisp, as pepperoni does. It was a sad day in our house when they closed their doors. They reopened as PizzAPeel, which was pretty dismal and disappointed us terribly with the one pie we tried there.

As an adult, I lament the availability of really good pizza in my area. Mr Minx and I live fairly close to the Egyptian Pizza in Belvedere Square, and while I like their fancy fixin's very much (particularly the India and the Fells Point), it's not real pizza. For that, we have to make a field trip to Dundalk to eat at Squires. We had our share of pizza there when I was a kid, but I didn't appreciate it then as much as I do now. The sauce at Squire's has a particular piquancy that tastes a bit like celery seed to me, and which I really enjoy. We usually get the "everything," (sausage, meat sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, green pepper) sans the green pepper, which comes with such a heavy blanket of toppings, half fall off before the slice reaches the mouth...yet the crust doesn't get soggy. Yum! (We're eating there later in the week and I can't wait!)

Finally, when we're too lazy to cook and don't feel like Chinese, we call Yeti on York Road. They're a Nepalese carry-out that specializes in Indian cuisine, but they also have pretty decent pizza. Their deluxe pizza has ham, the once-favorite food of our cat Pete (now it's roast lamb), so everyone is happy. It's not Pappy's, or Armand's, but it's pretty good.

Apart from the trendy Joe Squared which we haven't yet tried, has anyone found really good pizza in the Baltimore area?