The Pizza Snob #2: Pizza Schmizza

My second installment of the Pizza Snob review series covers my trip to Pizza Schmizza for lunch on Tuesday. This chain of locally-started restaurants is contained entirely in the Pacific Northwest of this country, and is apparently something of a local favorite. Then again, just about anything that is “locally-owned” or the like is considered sacred in this town, so calling something a “local favorite” in Portland, Oregon is not necessarily saying it is actually good. Is this Schmizza place all that its raving fans make it out to be, or is it another example of this Portland trend of over-hyping the quality of its local names? Read on to find out.

Before I get to the review, let’s talk a bit about New York. Over the decades, New York has become known among pizza-eaters as some great holy Mecca of delicious pizza, even by people whose actual knowledge of the city doesn’t extend past the exploits of Gary Sinise’s Team of Elite Action Crime Scientists. I’ve overheard people that I know have never left the west coast say over a slice of pizza how “delicious and New Yorkish” it was. I’ve seen billboards in cities from coast to coast which proudly proclaim how “just like NY!” their pizzas are. Many chains think that by slapping the words “New York” onto a biggish-sized thin crust pizza, that their customers will believe they are being magically transported to a happy land full of the apparently orgasmic flavor of that legendary metropolis with each cheesy bite.

Pizza Schmizza is one of those chains. Okay, fellas, repeat after me: Sixteen Inches Does Not a New York Pizza Make. When the heads of pizza places make the decision to publicly refer to their 16-18-inch pizzas as “New York Style,” they usually either:

A. have never eaten pizza at a local NYC pizzeria
or
B. assume that the vast majority of their customers fall into category A.

There are exceptions to this, delicious local joints whose amazing pies truly fulfill the legacy that New York has made famous, but these are few and very far between. Sadly, I doubt this trend of misinformation will ever stop. This whole New York Style sham is so pervasive and makes these lying companies so much money, that they will simply never have a good reason to quit capitalizing upon the mistaken beliefs of their ignorant customers. But for many of you, the response to this is “Who fucking cares? If the pizza’s all right, why bitch about it?” I care. Why? Because I’m a Pizza Snob, and that pizza wouldn’t know New York if the Cloverfield monster shat upon it.

At this point, I imagine you’re wondering how I classify a New York Style slice of pizza. That’s simple. If I can pick up a slice of pizza easily in one hand, it isn’t New York pizza. If I can easily eat the slice without having to fold it in half or roll it up into a taquito, it isn’t a New York Pizza. If the thickness of the toppings is not greater than the thickness of the crust – great enough so that the moment you pick up the slice it is pulled down in a sagging fold by gravity – it is not New York pizza. A pizza does not have to be “authentic” New York Style for me to enjoy it, as I enjoy many types of pizza. But no matter how delicious it may be, pizza so falsely advertised loses points before I even taste it.

So anyway, I suppose I should probably talk about Pizza Schmizza, huh? My lunch Tuesday consisted of two slices:

Slice 1: Good ole Pepperoni* and Cheese
Slice 2: A special concoction they called “The Popeye”: Spinach, Roma Tomatoes, Garlic, Feta, and a base of Alfredo Sauce instead of the usual red sauce

Like most slice-serving establishments, Pizza Schmizza has a variety of pre-cooked, pre-sliced pies sitting out under heat lamps for display. Customers walk up, point out the ones they want, and after the pizza guy runs them through the oven for a short bit, the slices are on your plate and ready to begin their final trip into your belly. This is standard operating procedure for most slice joints, and I can’t really think of a better way to do it.

One day after my time machine is finished, I shall go back in time and meet two different people, just to shake their hands. The first person will be the fella who invented the explosion of flavorful perfection that is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The second person will be whoever had the fantastic idea to put Alfredo sauce on a goddamned pizza. That slice was damn tasty, but it was also slightly marred (again by my own food snobbishness, I admit). On the plus side, the slice with the Alfredo was a creation of wonderful flavor engineering. The choice of toppings was fantastic. On the down side, whatever super-buttery sugar-stuff they called Alfredo sauce really wasn’t Alfredo at all. I’ve had (and created on many occasions) real, homemade Alfredo sauce, and once you’ve done the same, any “similar” sauce that tastes like it came pre-made from a jar on the shelf at the grocery store just won’t be as good as it might once have been.

I cut each slice in half, putting one half of each in the fridge for later, and chowing down on the rest. A couple of the little pieces of pepperoni were the unfortunate victim of the “puddle o’ grease” affliction, which is not something I’m fond of. I like mostly-flat pepperoni with slightly crisped edges – better known as “the way it should be.” The rest of the toppings were pretty tasty, but otherwise unmemorable. The crust was also pretty good, and while I don’t normally, I actually enjoyed munching it down after all the “saucy bits” had been devoured.

Both the reheat and the cold pizza testing were kinda meh. Nothing too memorable, and the flavor lost a lot in the process. I don’t personally recommend saving their slices for later munching.

Cheese: Meh (tasty, but a bit too greasy for my liking)
Crust: Okay (it was good munching even cold, but a bit too thin)
Sauce: Yum! (alfredo is always a good choice in my book)
Toppings: Pretty Decent (I penalize for the greasy pepperoni, but otherwise they were good, and the alfredo slice was just awesome)
Service: Pretty Decent (the slice-slinger was really cool, and one of the cook gals was totally cute and smiled at me)
CPQ: Meh (Nothing special)
RHV: Meh (Nothing special)

The Final Verdict: It’s tasty for thin crust pizza, but I’ve easily had better quality and for better prices. I’d probably only eat there again if there was a group decision of some sort and my preferred places were not an option. It’s big, but not at all “New York Style” like its website proclaims.

I have a feeling there’s pizza on the menu for this weekend, so chances are the next edition will be up Monday.

– NPC

* = Let it be known that as far as pizza toppings go, I am actually pretty bleh about pepperoni. After the years I’ve spent working in the pizza industry, I’ve come to recognize pepperoni as perhaps the single most boring topping you can ever get on a pizza. Personally, I prefer sliced deer penis.

2 thoughts on “The Pizza Snob #2: Pizza Schmizza

  1. Vehement agreement on the rant about New York style pizza. I grew up in New Jersey, and while I like a lot of what gets sold as pizza out here, I have yet to find real New York pizza. It’s supposed to *fold*! ;-)

    I would be very interested to hear your suggestions for the closest thing to be found in Portland.

    Probably the closest I’ve found was at the Whole Foods Market on Couch downtown (near Powell’s). Strange but true.

  2. I love many, many different types of pizza, from the traditional deep dish “original” italian-style pie-focused pizza to the super-thin greasy New York pizza, and hell, I even like Pizza Hut.

    But if you are going to call your Pizza “New York” style, it had damn well better be!

    So, the best two places in town that I’ve found for that type of foldable pizza are Stark Naked in SE Portland and Escape From NY Pizza in the NW 23rd area. Both are quite, quite delicious, and very foldable.

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