Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: Domino's Crunchy Thin Crust Pizza

While the purpose of the Pizza Quixote blog is finding destination pizza - pie that is worth the trip - we can't ignore the popularity of the huge chain pizza makers. Previously, we ate and reviewed Pizza Hut and Papa John's. I haven't had Domino's pizza in more than a decade, so it's past time to give it a fresh evaluation.
Crunchy Thin Crust style. Click any image for full size resolution.


We chose a delivery deal of two "large" one-topping pizzas, with a 2-liter Coke, for $20.99. A Domino's "large" is a smallish 14" pie. Domino's offers five crust styles: Hand Tossed, Handmade Pan, Crunchy Thin Crust, Brooklyn Style, and Gluten Free. This review covers the Crunchy Thin Crust pizza.

For the record, we found the Brooklyn style to be better than Domino's of the past, but overall a disappointment and surely not worth the calories. See the full review HERE. Happily, the Crunchy Thin Crust pie was significantly better.

This pizza sported the "party cut" which yielded 16 small square slices. Instantly, it reminded me of some the the thin crust midwestern pies I've had, such as the standouts at Rubino's in Columbus, OH and Chicago's Vito & Nick's.

Here, the crust was a bit more flaky and crackerlike than those wonderful midwestern pies I've had, and also more greasy. But it had a nice rigidity, a satisfying crunch, and even a touch of flavor.
Underside of the crust

This pie was allegedly topped with salami, but whatever small amount of cured meat present was buried in the sauce (scant) and cheese (meaningful amount). The cheese was an adequate role player. Smartly, the sauce was limited so that it would not turn the thin crust into soggy cardboard. However, that also deprived the pie of a rich tomato flavor.

This pie surprised on the upside. Still, it was so thin that a normal adult could easily eat this entire "large" pizza. Not a great value, even for $10. It's probably better served as a snack, hence the party cut was appropriate.

The crust earns a 6, the cheese a 5, the sauce a 4. Overall, this pie comes in at a 5 and it was better than a frozen pizza, which is an accomplishment for big chain pizza. Domino's is still in last place among the big three national chain pizzas.

Click to add a blog post for Domino's on Zomato

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: North of Brooklyn, Toronto

A recent trip to Niagara Falls and nearby Oakville, Ontario provided a chance to explore the pizza offerings in Toronto. A quick Google search turned up some well-written lists of the top pies in Toronto.  
Click on any image for full-size resolution

The list at TasteToronto was particularly helpful, especially when viewed on a phone, because it featured a good image of all ten featured pies. Based on visuals (and the fact that I wanted something other than yet another Neapolitan), we chose North of Brooklyn.


Coming from the Distillery District, we drove down Queen Street, which has a feel somewhere between Brooklyn's Park Slope (home to Roberta's), Philly's Fishtown (Pizza Brain), and Portland's Hawthorne Boulevard (Apizza Scholls). In other words, knee-deep in bearded hipsters on bicycles who appreciate good pizza. The curious address - 605.5 Queen Street - means the actual entry door is around the corner on Palmerston Avenue. 
View of the counter and kitchen

We arrived shortly after its noon opening. Three young men were staffing the place, but the operation was in disarray. Having just processed a large catering order, they had no pies available for slices. We were advised that it would take 15-20 minutes to get some pie.
Just a few tables inside this former ice cream parlor

Agreeable to the wait, we had interest in the Kale & Bacon pie, the regular Margherita, and a pepperoni slice.  However, they were out of pepperoni and the Kale & Bacon was going to extend the wait time. However, the helpful counter man offered to make one half plain and half nduja (spreadable Italian pork sausage from Calabria) so that we could try different slices.
A slice with nduja sausage

While we waited, we asked for beer (none was in the cooler with the soft drinks). Yes, they had beer, but it was warm in a case in the basement. Can we get ice with that? "Uh, we are out of ice, but we can ask our neighbors." Bottom line - these gents were not well prepared, but they were friendly, accommodating, and adept at finding customer-friendly workarounds. We sipped Budweiser over ice while waiting for our slices, which arrived in less than the 15 minutes we expected. 
Margherita slice

North of Brooklyn makes huge 18" pies, and then cuts them into six gigantic slices. At $3.10 - $3.40 (U.S.) per slice, they are a nice value. Each slice had tremendous eye appeal that extended beyond its size.

A thin crust, pliant but sturdy (suitable for folding, for those who engage in that bad habit) was the platform for a strikingly bright red sauce dotted with creamy white cheese. I saw the pizzaiolo apply the cheese in cubes, so I think it was fresh mozzarella.


Terrific crumb and hole structure

The crust was pale, but with a good golden browning at the cornicione and some nice subtle char underneath. It was crisp on the exterior and perfectly al dente chewy inside. It had its own delicious flavor. 
Underside of the crust

The sauce was as simple and uncomplicated as any I've had outside Trenton's DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies, and that is a good thing. Vibrant and tangy tomato flavors, not overcooked or overseasoned. The cheese was applied in perfect proportion. The Margherita slice was an essentially perfect rendition of a classic thin-crust New York slice; adding nduja to that gave an extra element of spice and flavor.

I can often find some flaw in even the best pizzas. For example, the sauce and toppings can overwhelm the superb crust at Sally's Apizza in New Haven; the brilliant DiFara slices in Brooklyn can be drowning in oil or a sauce overload. Here, however, the pizza was flawless. Top-rank ingredients and perfect execution.

I loved this pizza and I regret that I didn't eat more of it. Along with Picco in Boston, one of the very few pies that has no room for improvement. The crust gets a 10, the cheese gets an 8, the sauce gets a 10. Brilliant, uncomplicated stuff. And it comes from a conventional gas deck oven. Every Toronto hipster or square should get there soon and often.


Click to add a blog post for North Of Brooklyn on Zomato

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Domino's Brooklyn Style Pizza

While the purpose of the Pizza Quixote blog is finding destination pizza - pie that is worth the trip - we can't ignore the popularity of the huge chain pizza makers. Previously, we ate and reviewed Pizza Hut and Papa John's. I haven't had Domino's pizza in more than a decade, so it's past time to give it a fresh evaluation.
Brooklyn style. Click any image for full size resolution.

We chose a delivery deal of two "large" one-topping pizzas, with a 2-liter Coke, for $20.99. A Domino's "large" is a smallish 14" pie. Domino's offers five crust styles: Hand Tossed, Handmade Pan, Crunchy Thin Crust, Brooklyn Style, and Gluten Free. This review covers the Brooklyn Style.

I've had some wonderful pizza in Brooklyn. Classic old-school thin rigid pie at Totonno's, cutting edge Neapolitans at Roberta's and Forcella, tomato pie Sicilian squares at L&B Spumoni Gardens, grandma pie at Lenny's, and world-class squares and rounds at DiFara.  Which one of those is "Brooklyn style?" Hard to pinpoint a definitive answer. I think the Brooklyn moniker is a marketing tag for Domino's, nothing more.

On this pizza, it meant a soft, medium-thick, floppy crust with lots of grease but without a lot of flavor. The crust was almost as good as a DiGiorno frozen pie, with the look, taste, and texture of supermarket Italian bread. In that, it had a bit in common with the fat floppy slices sold at Costco. Inoffensive, better than the white-bread Domino's pizzas I recall from decades ago, but remarkably unremarkable.

Things got better on top of this ho-hum crust. The conventional mozzarella blend cheese was plentiful - creamy and salty - a fine role player. On the first few bites, the sauce had surprising character, tangy and vibrant. However, the more I ate, the more I detected over-herbage and a metallic aftertaste. The pepperoni was sliced thinly, but applied generously across the entire surface, and it lent the right amount of salty/savory cured meat flavor and orange grease.
Underside of the grease-soaked crust

Overall, this pie was tasty and a lot better than the Domino's of old. Still, by modern standards, this was a subpar pie. Papa John's and Pizza Hut pies are better. These Big Three chains, however, have caught up to the typical mom and pop pizza, because mom and pop are using inferior mass-sourced ingredients to compete with the big chains on price (details HERE).

The crust earns a 3, the cheese gets a 5, the sauce is a 5, and the pepperoni a 6.  Overall, because the crust is always the key, the Domino's Brooklyn style pizza earns a 4.  Better than no pizza, but really no reason to eat this stuff.



Click to add a blog post for Domino's on Zomato