Nov. 21, 2012 08:37

A slice of life

homeslice

I could eat pizza every day. Or, at least, I thought I could.
I am a pizza snob, raised on Long Island with Italian roots. When I was a teenager I really did eat pizza just about every day — doughy Sicilian from Mama Theresa’s, magnificent triangles from Garden City Pizza, odd rectangular slices from Pizza Supreme.
For a time I was of the opinion that all good pizza, without exception, comes from New York or New Jersey, with the possible inclusion of Connecticut.
But after nearly 25 years in the South, 12 of them here in the Triad, I am ready to admit that I was wrong.
There are great pizzas here — thick ones, thin ones, pizzas drooping with cheese and loaded with toppings, wood-fired, gluten-free, rustic and artisanal.
And though over the last few weeks we haven’t tried them all, we’ve eaten a hell of a lot of pizza.
Our ground rules: We stuck to places that primarily serve pizza. Lots of places have pizza on the menu, but not every place that serves pizza is a pizza joint. And we did our best to avoid large delivery chains and buffet franchises, because if you are serious about your pizza, as we are, you know that these places aren’t. No frozen pizzas, no take-and-bake, no grocery stores. Even with these filters, we found that pizza is well represented here.
Time and resource limitations meant that we couldn’t try every pizza on every menu, but we strived for a representative sample.
And try as we might, we barely scratched the surface of the Triad pizza canon. There are dozens of pizza joints in the Triad; we visited 16 of them. If we left out your favorite pie, let us know by dropping an e-mail to editor@yesweekly.com. We will consider amending the list.
After all of this research, we still love pizza. But we might be laying off it for a while.

Blue Rock Pizza & Tap
1529 N. Main St., High Point; 336.889.2583
A rockin’ pizza joint in every sense of the word, Blue Rock boasts more than 50 gourmet toppings to top off your slice or pie. You can opt for the lunch special — a large slice with your choice of two toppings, a drink and a side salad — or wait 20 minutes for a fresh 12- or 16-inch pie hot out of the oven. And you can sit back and listen to some classic rock while you enjoy your meal. If you only eat pizza for the crust, this place might not be for you as their crust is a bit too thin and not the best in town, but the fresh tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese are perfect underneath your desired fixings. Try some chicken and avocado with a little shake of garlic salt for a boost of fiber and Vitamin K. If you have time for a pie, get the Peace Train with tomato sauce and a combination of mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan cheeses and topped with fresh basil, or the Boss with tomato sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, ham and mozzarella — both recommended as house favorites from the courteous staff.


Burke Street Pizza
1140 Burke St., Winston-Salem 336.721.0011
3352 Robinhood Rd., Winston-Salem 336.760.4888
2223 Fleming Rd., Greensboro 336.500.878; burkestreetpizza.com
Burke Street Pizza knows what it is doing and takes pizza seriously, right down to keeping shakers of parmesan in a cooler so the cheese stays fresh. Daily slice specials run a little more expensive than their cheese counterparts — $3.35 compared to $2.45. Catch the barbecue chicken pizza that packs a gentle kick on Wednesdays, or any of the other daily deals served up on relatively thin crusts, which have a satisfying crunch.


Corner Slice
600 N. Elm St., Greensboro; 336.333.3077; cornerslice.net
Fisher Park’s neighborhood pizza joint reflects the sensibilities of its neighborhood: tasteful but not too fancy, with an emphasis on quality and originality while still adhering to the timeless qualities of the dish. Signature pies are small or large, named for the streets and enclaves of Fisher Park: the South Park, with ham and pineapple; the Bessemer, a taco pizza; the Elm, which is sort of like a Big Mac. I sampled Fisher’s Finest, with chicken, onions and peppers and a choice of barbecue or Buffalo sauce. The crust is thin but dense and glazed like garlic bread, a nice touch, and the Buffalo sauce brought the fire. A fabulous proprietary cheese blend shames the big pizza chains (cough — Papa John’s), and slices with one topping are available for a meager $2.


Elizabeth’s Pizza
Eight Triad locations; elizabethpizza.com
Elizabeth’s can be credited with bringing NY-style pizza to the Triad in 1978, via a genuine Italian family, real pizza ovens and a sauce that eschewed the sweetness usually found in outlier recipes. This is what pizza was meant to be, with smoldering layers of cheese, a slate of traditional toppings and a crust that passes the litmus test. We tried the Elizabeth’s Special, piled high with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers and other toppings. Other options include a white pizza with ricotta and broccoli, and a beatutiful Margherita pie with whole medallions of real mozzarella. We took these three pies down in the office within 20 minutes.


Home Slice
5803-B Hunt Club Rd., Greensboro; 336.851.5455; homeslicepizzaandsubs.com
Home Slice was opened this June by Buffalo, NY native Bob Haberer. The barbacue chicken pizza features fresh mozzarella, cheddar, chicken, red onions and barbecue sauce. The onions are sliced really small and fine which was very enjoyable and the sauce was sweet, tangy and spread very thinly across the lightly-browned crust. The pizza balls are unique. The tennis ball-sized dough balls are filled with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. A marinara dipping sauce is included.


L’Italianos
219 S. Elm St., Greensboro 336.274.4810
Right in the middle of downtown Greensboro, L’Italiano is good for a quick bite or a longer sit-down meal. The tomato, basil and mozzarella slices almost melt in your mouth and it’s easy to forget it’s even pizza as your senses are overwhelmed. It’s worth the nearly double price of the cheap $2 cheese slices. The basil balances out the sweetness of the sauce, and it may have been coincidental but the crust was puffier than on a slice from the cheese pie.


Marios
4215 W. Wendover Ave., Greensboro; 336.632.0072
1575 New Bedford Drive, Greensboro; 336.316.1119
1066 Hanes Mall Blvd., Winston-Salem; 336.768.0057

River Ridge Drive
Clemmons, NC 27012
(336) 778-2002
2205 Cloverdale Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC 27103
 (336) 602-1410
Mario’s, with two Greensboro locations and one in Winston-Salem, sets the gold standard for fans of NY-style pizza by the slice. The plain cheese slice is enormous, bigger than a whole pie at some places, with a thin, chewy crust, sauce with just the right tomato tang and a serviceable layer of cheese. Not everybody folds their pizza like they do in Brooklyn, but the slice at Mario’s leaves the eater little choice.


Marozzi’s Pizzeria
5815 Samet Drive, High Point; 336.905.8500
Marozzi’s just recently celebrated its two-year anniversary and has already established a name for itself as the best NY-style pizza in High Point. The slices are NY-sized and the crust is thin, yet chewy. The red sauce pairs just right with the generous amount of mozzarella, and the best part: The crispiness of the dough contrasts the gooiness of the cheese in every bite. Although all of their toppings are a hit, Marozzi’s has been noticing an influx of anchovy requests lately. A native New Yorker myself, nothing hits home better than a traditional cheese slice.


Mellow Mushroom
314 W. 4th St.,
Winston-Salem 336.245.2820
609 S. Elm St., Greensboro 336.235.2840; mellowmushroom.com
The Triad locations of this chain pizza joint offer different vibes, but the menus are the same. The Winston-Salem location fits well with the arts emphasis of downtown while the Greensboro store is decked with stained glass and chandeliers. Six gluten-free options and a spread of specialty pizzas mean there’s probably something for everyone, from the mushroom lovers Magical Mystery Tour pie with feta and mozzarella cheese to the delicious Thai Dye pizza slathered with sauce and topped with cucumbers and grilled curry chicken.


New York Pizza
337 Tate Street, Greensboro 336.272.8953, nyp-gboro.com
Claiming no affiliation with NY Pizza on Battleground and the title of longest established family-owned pizza place in town, New York Pizza may be most known for staying open until 5 a.m. daily — including deliveries — and the associated bar. A mural in progress matches the high school-and-college student vibe. A recent daily special offered $10 for a one topping 16-inch pizza, and unlike Mellow Mushroom, the chef was willing and able to whip up a pie with a pesto base on one half and a regular sauce base on the other. If it’s a one-topping kind of night, consider the pineapple or upgrade from pepperoni to sausage, or go the slice route and stick with the popular pesto and tomato pizza.


Pie Works
1941 New Garden Road, Greensboro; 336.282.9003; pieworks.com
Once a chain with a few Triad locations but now reduced to a single store — but with locales in Louisiana and Mississippi — Pieworks speaks to the pizza artist in all of us. Back in the day the place was known for exotic ingredients like rattlesnake and gator sausage on a vas toopings, cheese aqnd sauce menu that spoke to the pizza artist in all of us. The menu has been pared down, but still has exotics like crawfish, andouille and artichoke hearts. Notable is the dark wheat crust, almost a pumpernickel, which went well with my personally deisgned pie featuring shrimp, jalapeo and alfredo sauce. They have a slate of house favorites as well, but it’s still more fun to create your own.


Spring Garden
2419 Spring Garden Road, Greensboro; 336.834.2452; springgardenbarandpizzeria.com
Here’s a little-known piece of local culionary lore: The pizza at Spring Garden Pizzeria used to suck. But after a useful piece of constructive criticism, they tweaked the sauce, improved the crust, upped the cheese-per-pie ratio and gave the toppings list an upgrade. The result is a true celebration of that most storied pairings, pizza and beer. They’ve got a full bar, and serve food well into the wee hours. But maybe the best thing about it is the 2-for-1 slice special which happens during lunch hours and late night. It’s as good a place as any to spend the last three bucks in your pocket.


Sticks & Stones
2200 Walker Ave., Greensboro; 336.275.0220
Sticks & Stones incorporates local and organic products into every pie they bake. Their artisan pizza dough is made with a touch of toasted wheat bran for added nutrition and health benefits. A Kiss Before I Go, a customer favorite, has a perfect combination of fresh, chunky tomato sauce, eggplant, mozzarella cheese, caramelized garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and mushrooms. Customizations and substitutions are always welcome if you don’t like mushrooms. They also offer vegan substitutions like dayai tapioca-based cheese and NC vegan chicken. Sticks and Stones is doing its part to be healthy, help the environment, and give its customers some delicious food to brag to their friends about.


Upper Crust
1816 Silas Creek Pkwy, Winston-Salem 336.748.0200; uppercrustpizzaparlor.com
Two tables filled up with board gamers last weekend at Upper Crust, but customers who don’t bring their own entertainment can take advantage of the foosball table or a classic claw arcade game. If the large or extra large pizza options — the only sizes available, coming in at 14- or 16-inch — pizza lovers can still get the pizza pocket on the “budget buster” menu. Pizza comes with honey-cream sauce to dip the crust in as a dessert, and larges hover around $17. Meat lovers will likely opt for the “Squealer” though the Mexican pizza has a generous helping of beef and veggies including two kinds of peppers, but don’t miss the barbecue chicken.


Francesco’s Pizza
336 Summit Square Blvd., Winston-Salem; 336.377.3332; francescostriad.com
Francesco’s has really cheap slices. I can’t wait until the day I get to tell my grandkids, “When I was your age, a slice of pizza used to cost $1.50.” The tomato sauce, with a hint of salt and vinegar flavor, contrasts well with the mozzarella cheese and crispy dough. A to-go slice is ready in about three minutes, so if you’re in a hurry, this is a perfect place to visit. Need a job? Francesco’s is looking for two dishwashers; apply within.


Wolfgang Puck
607 Green Valley Road, Greensboro; 336.854.0303; wolfgangpuck.com
Celeb Chef Wolfgang Puck changed pizza forever when he started making them in his kitchen at Spago in LA with counterintuitive ingredients like smoked salmon, house-cured meats and his world-famous crust. The Greensboro spot, one of just two in the country, does it Wolfgang’s way, allowing the crust to ferment for a full week before pounding and flipping it, resulting in a light, bubbly dough flavored with the seasoning of a fire-stoked brick oven. The prosciutto with roasted peppers was unbelievable good, but we’ll be back to try the littleneck-clam pie, the lamb sausage pie, the chicken-meatball and a dozen others. You can get a pepperoni pizza here, but why would you want to?      

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