Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Ron's Original Bar and Grille (Exton, PA)

Just about one year ago, I paid my first visit to Ron's Original Bar and Grille as I searched for worthy pizza in the West Chester, PA area. As I noted in my review then, "I went there with FEEP (fellow enthusiast for eating pizza) Jr. to find out about their pie."  Even though we strayed from the traditional pizza on the menu and instead ordered Ron's signature "ovals" (interesting stuff cooked on a pizza crust), we really enjoyed the meal. I concluded " THIS now eclipses Marzano's as the best pie in the West Chester area. I have to go back and try their "regular" pie, based on the success of these ovals. Well done, Ron!  This earns 7.5 stars."
A close-up on a slice. Click any pic to enlarge!

Much has happened since July 2011 - Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza in Wayne has smoked all the local competition, and Marzano's (with the fabulous sauce) is now operating as "Montessi's."  In fact, accompanied by EPBAC (Eats Pizza But Avoids Cheese) and VACK (Vegetable-Avoiding College Kid), I had set out to try Montessi's only to learn that they are closed on Sundays until the end of summer. Hence, we took the opportunity to trek up Route 100 a few miles to get pizza at Ron's.

We arrived at sunset and were quickly seated in Ron's cozy dining area. Walking past the bar, I was intrigued by the sign announcing half-priced ovals and mussels in the bar during Phillies games. Would I be willing to watch these sad-sack Phillies in order to get those great deals?  Anyhow, we were hungry and thus selected a few appetizers to work on while we waited for the pizza: buffalo shrimp and crab fries. 
Buffalo shrimp

Seems like everybody is sprinkling Old Bay seasoning on fries these days. The fries here at Ron's were crinkle-cut. They were fried to a deep golden brown and seasoned generously. I like fries to have an external crispiness, and these were a success. The buffalo shrimp were not ground breaking in any way, but they were fresh and well-executed.  We resisted the "boneless chicken wings" which, seems to me, are just chicken nuggets for adults too embarrassed to order them unless there is a child present.
Crispy golden crab fries

Soon, our large pepperoni pizza arrived. It had an appetizing look, and there was a nice browning of the cheese which suggested that the pie was properly cooked. However, when we separated the slices, we noticed that the bottom of the crust was distinctly wet in the center - about a third of each slice. 

Pizza should not be wet!  Not on the top, not on the bottom, not even in the center of a Neapolitan pie. This pie was not overloaded with sauce or wet toppings; it did not appear to be soaked with condensation, so its moist state was a mystery.

Last time, we enjoyed the crust on the ovals, even as we noted it was not classic in the Trenton or Neapolitan style. But just looking at the pictures, you can see that something has changed from one year ago. I suspect it was more of a cooking technique failure than a change in the recipe, but the texture took a turn for the worse, even without regard to the wet center.  We enjoyed this pie, but while we were eating it, we all reached the same conclusion -- it tasted like Costco pizza, albeit much less greasy. 
2011: Crispy, golden, good texture

2012: Wet center, little character

We've confessed a fondness for the Americanized puffy bread crust at Costco, and this shared that flavor and texture. So while it's a satisfying way to fill your belly, it's a bit disappointing to have pizza that can't beat Costco.  The crust earns a 4; it could be a 6 with more cooking and dry center. The sauce is a 6, the cheese a 5, the pepperoni a 5.  Unlike the 7.5 earned by the ovals one year ago, this pizza is a 5.

What's the bottom line on Ron's? Nice ambiance, wonderful service, good appetizers. We'll be back, and we'll try some other entrees. But a savvy foodie recently told me that, because pizza is so jam-packed with fat and calories, we really shouldn't be eating pizza that is less than destination pie. Ron's remains a worthwhile dining stop, but skip the pizza.

Ron's Original Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your review of RON' sucks, to be blunt. Had this slop about 3 months ago. Never again. But I would return for anything else. As their name implies, it's Ron's Bar & Grill, not Ron's Pizza.

  2. Half price ovals during the Phillies game?! What is the TV situation like there? I'm always looking for an alternative to the same old Xfinity Live, McFaddens, and Dave and Busters when I'm down there. Would like to find a place with good pizza and tons of TV's in Philly area to enjoy the game. It would also help if they had good chicken wings (I have not found good wings anywhere in philly - breaded wing zings in sauce are not good wings!) Great review, and was the moisture more from grease or more from water? Was the dough possibly stretched too thin allowing the moisture from the sauce to seep through? Perhaps the pizza was made with the dough porous side up which made it easier for the moisture to penetrate?!

  3. NPR - The bar looks like a great place to enjoy a Phils game (on that rare occasion when they win). But keep in mind, Exton is a long way from Philly! The problem with the pizza - my guess - is that the crust is Sysco-sourced, and also the pizzaiolo not paying attention to the things that create soggy crusts, such as too much toppings, serving it on a wet dish, improper baking, using frozen cheese. Ron's is a nice place with a big menu - but clearly not pizza specialists. PQ