Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review: Grande Pizza Co., Boca Raton FL

What is Detroit style pizza? It's a rectangular pie, baked in a pan, with a thick but usually airy crust. It has a lot in common with a Sicilian style pizza and the Old Forge pies in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
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Detroit pizza has two features that really set it apart, however. First, the cheese is deliberately spread all the way to the edges, so that it seeps down on the side of the crust for a dark caramelized edge. Second, the red sauce is often ladled on top after the pie has baked.
Oozing cheese at Grande Pizza Co

Here at Pizza Quixote, we've never been to the legendary Buddy's in Detroit, where the style was invented. But we've had spectacular Detroit style pie from:

  • Norma's Pizza in Manheim PA (Norma recently won the Caputo Cup for best NY style pizza, too)
  • Via 313 in Austin TX (where you can also get authentic thin-crust bar pie)
  • Binge House Pizza in Downingtown PA (a hybrid of Detroit and Old Forge styles)

Detroit pie at Via 313

All of those pies are spectacular, so we were keen to try the Detroit style pizza at Grande Pizza Co in Boca Raton once we learned it was a menu option. Grande has four South Florida locations.

In Boca, Grande looks like just another unremarkable pizza joint in a strip mall. When you enter the modern space, there is a long counter that seems tailored for take-out orders, then a pretty large dining area that is anchored by a U-shaped bar. Certainly a bit more upscale than the typical mom and pop pizza shop.

The menu looked pretty much like the standard "something for everybody" list of subs, gyros, wings, other fried stuff, and pizzas. In fact, the Detroit pie is buried under the "New York Style" pizza options. 
The bar at Grande Pizza Co in Boca

If you check their online menu, there is no mention of Detroit style; instead, a "crusty cheese" pie is listed. Bottom line - you're not getting the Detroit pizza unless you go there seeking it out; we did.
Brilliant caramelized edge

We began with a house salad, which offered the standard ingredients but was crisp and fresh, and decorated with some nice spicy pepperoncini.

Our group (3 people) chose pepperoni as a topping for our $15 Detroit pie. Our pizza arrived cut into eight generous rectangular slices; four of those were corners with caramelized cheese on two edges.

At Via 313, my only disappointment was that the pepperoni was buried under the cheese, following the Detroit tradition. Here, happily, the pepperoni rode on top. The large rounds were generously applied, but they were thin slices of standard grade stuff. They enhanced the pie, but only by a little.
A premium corner slice

Most Americans love an over-cheesed pie, and this one was loaded. It was premium grade Grande mozzarella (no relation), and it was applied in a thick layer that oozed off the edges of every slice. This made for mandatory knife and fork eating.

I'm not certain if the sauce was applied post-bake or not, but it did ride atop the cheese. The sauce had a nice smooth texture and an excellent, slightly sweet flavor. We all agreed that we'd like more of this sauce and less of the cheese.
Beautifully golden brown underneath

The crust was superb. It was a little thinner than a Sicilian pie, mostly light and airy in its interior, and it sported a perfect crunchy brown bottom without being excessively oily. It seemed a bit compressed under the weight of all that cheese, but somehow this pie was exceptionally well balanced in its textures.

Each bite delivered a nice mix of crunch and chew from that fine crust, and a classic salty pizza flavor from the Grande cheese and that red sauce. Despite the flaws of too much cheese and too little sauce and standard grade pepperoni, this was a delicious and delightful pizza.

Our party of three adults shared the large salad and then polished off this pizza with little difficulty; we left feeling satiated but not stuffed. I think that is a reflection on the airiness of the crust.
The brilliant hybrid pie at Binge House

Our service was polite and efficient; I'd love to go back at dinner time and enjoy this pizza with a glass of red wine. I think that if the pizzaiolo held back on the cheese and doubled the red sauce, this pie would be as good as the legendary square slices at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn.

It's not quite at the magical level of Norma's, Binge House, or Via 313, but it's excellent pizza. South Florida can boast of a lot of fine pizza joints. Grande Pizza Co joins Scuola Vecchia, Jerk Oceano, Tucci's, Nick's New Haven, and Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza as yet one more destination pie in the region.

Grande Pizza Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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