Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clifton Pizza Wars: Part I

Fifteenth Stop: Adriatico’s
Date: April 11th, 2012
Location: 113 West McMillan Street  Cincinnati, OH 45219
Ranking: 8

Clifton can be annoying sometimes; like, when you are trying to find a parking spot semi-close to your destination.  Fortunately, Adriatico’s offers a parking lot to its guests, about a block down from the actual restaurant.  Just be sure not to accidentally park in the lot belonging to the competing pizza place next door.  We suspect that would be trouble, as evidenced by the handwritten signs in Adriatico’s, warning that you “WILL GET TOWED”.

For a Monday night, this place was pretty busy.  There were a few people waiting around the entrance for their takeout orders.  Adriatico’s is a favorite carryout/delivery option to those in its delivery area.  To this day, it’s an old favorite of UC grads and current students who reside in the area.  Thankfully, we were seated immediately, although in a booth that butted right up to some of our fellow diners.  This made us slightly concerned, as we anticipated trouble concealing our necessary pizza blog note-taking and picture-capturing.  However, all worked out in the end.  For all people know, one of us was interviewing the other for the UC college newsletter.

We had a realization after examining this menu:  we’ve grown especially fond of ranch-based pizzas.  It’s kind of surprising, really.  We never set out loving the idea of a “ranch” pizza, probably dismissing it as a nontraditional, low-brow way to desecrate the idea of a good pizza.  However, our newly discovered fondness is not just due to the ranch sauce itself, but the wonderful taste that results from its usual combination with bacon, chicken, onions, tomato, and spinach. 

Once we saw the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza on Adriatico’s list of specialties, there was no turning back.  They offer something else worth noting, called the Inflation Buster, which is a selection of 9 toppings for the price of 5.  This also seemed like a fun thing to try, but the downside is that you don’t get to pick or substitute your own choice of toppings, and we weren’t interested in some of the toppings offered (green olives in particular).  Note: for those interested, their “website” is a facebook profile containing a link to the menu and other pertinent information.     

While waiting for our pizza, we shared some pepperoni rolls.  It is easiest to describe them as a fried eggroll casing containing pepperoni, lots of cheese, and pizza sauce. They made both of us nostalgic for the days when BW3 carried an almost identical appetizer back in our teenage years.  Our pizza actually took a fair amount of time to reach our table, so we were happy to have requested this pre-dinner snack, and happily cleaned the plate.  They were crisp, greasy, and gooey, and came with an especially tasty marinara for dipping.  In short, you should get them, too!

On top of our pizza was chicken, bacon, onion, tomato, and ranch sauce.  While this one lacked the spinach that we have commonly seen added to a “ranch” pizza, it wasn’t short on the flavors and textures that make a pizza wonderful. Trust us on this one, it was good.  Well, more than good.  Otherwise, you surely wouldn’t see this pizza hot spot ranking in the single digits.  Here, pizza is cooked in a stone oven.  The crust comes out thick and perfectly cooked, so that there is a crunch when you bite in.  They do not skim on the bacon on this ranch variation, and the onions were fresh and added a nice flavor to the overall taste.  One square was enough for each of us, as we grew prematurely full after that filling appetizer.  The leftovers heated up well in the toaster oven, which made us happy – we almost always make use of our leftover pizza from these trips and hate to waste!

We’ve heard some complaints about the delivery side of Adriatico’s and, in our own dine-in experience, we found the service to be just a little slow.  However, we don’t expect an expertly crafted pizza to arrive instantly at our table.  Conversely, the prime care taken in the pizza’s creation is evidenced by the wait time.  Adriatico’s pizza is exceptionally good and deserves its top-notch placement on Cincinnati Magazine’s ranking.  We will surely be eating here again, and look forward to trying a different blend of toppings in the next round.  

Adriatico's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rolling in the Deep (Dish) at Bourbon House Pizza

Fourteenth Stop: Bourbon House Pizza
Date: April 26, 2012
Location: 7500 Oakbrook Drive Florence, KY 41042
Ranking: 20

Chicagoans feel deeply about their pizza (pun intended).  Those raised on the popular East Coast styles of New York thin crust or the traditionally Italian style Neapolitan pizzas might consider Chicago deep dish to be more of a “casserole” than a pizza.  However, pizza perfection tastes differently everywhere in America, depending on the region of the heartland you are in.  Fortunately, our geographic location lends itself to sampling a variety of culinary tradition from the people who have crossed, transplanted, or stumbled upon our area of the map.  Though we were far from the Windy City, the pizza we ate at Bourbon House could have fooled us.
Clean, casual, and modern atmosphere

Complimentary garlic knots for first-time visitors!
Our knowledgeable server was able to give us the run-down on the whole process of how our pizza would come to fruition.  A deep dish pizza is a work of precision and careful methodology.  It’s a two-step and approximately 25-30 minute process, we learned.  After a few minutes of preparation, the bottom crust and toppings cook in the oven for about 10 minutes.  This pizza, which most closely resembles a pie, is then removed from the oven, and the top crust is applied.  It cooks for 10 more minutes after this addition.  If it’s undercooked, it will be an unappetizing sludge of soggy ingredients.  If the crust is weak, it won’t be able to stand up to the dense filling of cheese, sauce, and toppings inside.  A deep dish done right is quite the accomplishment, considering it is easier to screw up and harder to perfect than its thin-crust counterparts.  So pat yourself on the back, Bourbon House, you got it right!

Where do we start with this thing?  It was monstrous, and we immediately knew why our server said that a medium would be way more than enough for the two of us.  Our server kindly served us each our first slice.  This was greatly appreciated, as slicing and serving inches of cheese and toppings isn’t the easiest feat.  We ended up only eating one piece each of this delicious creation, taking home 3 apiece for leftovers (which, by the way, heated up amazingly in the toaster oven).  Deep dish pies are known for their substantial amount of “fillings,” and depending on what kind of toppings you choose, they will turn out anywhere from hefty to staggering in size. 
These were our leftovers. 

We ended up ordering the Bourbon House Supreme, which was “loaded with Ricotta and Mozzarella Cheese, home made robust sauce, and your choice of any three toppings.”  For our toppings, we got the ol’ trusty combo of spinach, mushroom, and pepperoni.  The most amazing part of this pizza is the crust.  Biting into the crust was subliminal-the contrast of the gooey toppings with the chew and crisp of the crust was just right.  The pepperoni was notably delicious, with its savory spice and flavor refusing to be hidden by the bulk of the fillings.  The Ricotta cheese was an unlikely contender in the mix, but the little blobs mixed throughout were rich and creamy, adding an opposing dimension to the chewy goodness of the mozzarella.   
Not the most flattering picture, but I don't think the pizza minded. 

If you want a quick bite to eat, do not come here.  Visit Bourbon House pizza only when you have time to wait for that perfectly cooked stuffed pie of a pizza, and then savor its every bite.  And, if it’s your first visit, be sure to mention that to your server.  First-timers are privy to a free order of garlic knots.  This is the owner’s “thank you” for trying her pizza.  Every “thank you” should come in the form of warm, savory bread treats.  The garlic knots came out crispy at the edges, dough-y in the center of the knots, and accompanied by a thick, dipping-friendly marinara sauce and melted garlic butter.  They were so scrumptious that we couldn’t leave a bite to spare. 

The service was tip-top, the atmosphere was cozy and clean, and the food was impressive.  Our server’s reheating tips worked like a charm (cover the crust in foil, just like a pie), and the free appetizer was a nice and generous gesture.  All in all, we were quite pleased with Bourbon House Pizza, and stand by its strong ranking in the pizza list.  We will definitely be returning, though possibly not until we chomp away at the 36 pizzas left in our mission. 

Bourbon House Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grandview Tavern & Grille

Thirteenth Stop: Grandview Tavern & Grille
Date: April 11th, 2012
Location: 2220 Grandview Drive Fort Mitchell, KY 41017
Ranking: 34

Shhhhhh.  Half price pizza on Wednesdays.  Don’t Tell. 

So, this particular week, Wednesday was the only evening that worked for us to get together for a pizza treat.  We wanted somewhere close to one of our houses, so when Courtney checked our master tracking spreadsheet and saw that Grandview Tavern & Grille was in Fort Mitchell, that seemed like the place to go.  As luck would have it, upon visiting their website, she found that Wednesday is half price pizza night.  Score.

When we pulled into the parking lot, Robyn remembered family dinner there a few years prior.  It had been for a special occasion, such as an anniversary, that warranted a “fancy” dinner.  And, as we eyeballed the storefront, we started to second-guess whether or not we were dressed appropriately.  Everyone seemed to be dressed in suits and dresses.  Apparently this place is a big happy hour hot spot for the corporate folk.  We’re not fancy ladies, especially on weeknights when the plan is to stuff our faces with delicious pizza goodness.  Also, we are so used to little parlors and holes in the wall that this place immediately struck us as stuffy.  However, as soon as we approached the hostess station, we realized we had worried for no reason.  While the overall atmosphere was a bit more formal than to which we are accustomed, there were plenty of other people in casual attire around the bar and in booths along the walk to our table.  Once we saw the lady in the crummy old hoodie, we felt much better.

We were seated in a room adjacent to the bar area, where the clientele seemed to be mainly the upper crust of the white middle class baby boomers.  Our hostess seated us in a booth table covered in white linen, a glass tabletop, and adorned with candle lighting.  Despite the candles and time of day, the room was very dim, which made photos difficult when coupled with our amateur skills and tools. 

The pizzas come in one size:  the perfect size for one hungry adult.  We like this setup, as it allows us to try two kinds of pizza pie.  Our final picks were the Sicilian ($12 regular price) and the Wild Mushroom ($12 regular price).  The Sicilian was topped with “homemade zesty tomato sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, capicola, fresh basil, and oregano.”  The Wild Mushroom came with roasted and sautéed mushrooms, olive oil, garlic, and smoked Gouda.   There are many other tasty-looking choices available, and it took us a few moments to narrow down our selections.

For both pizzas, the shining element was the crust.  The dough is enhanced with a top-secret blend of herbs and spices, making it unlike any other crust we’ve consumed thus far.  It was soft, yet crisp in all the right places, and has a show of green that tells us its herb components are fresh.  When we commented to our server about how much we liked the crust, he agreed that it was delicious but then quickly said “he cannot tell a soul” its recipe.  No worries – we have no intention of actually trying to recreate these pizzas.  We just want to eat them.

Robyn really liked the cheese on the Wild Mushroom pizza, along with the juicy flavor and texture that the mushrooms provided.  Its smoked Gouda was melt-y and delicious, really all you can ask for.  The mushrooms (we think Cremini) were whole and had a slightly sweet flavor.  Odd for mushrooms, we suppose, but somehow it worked. 

Robyn wasn’t keen on the Italian sausage on the Sicilian, but mostly because it’s not one of her favorite toppings in general.  Courtney was happy with this one, and especially liked the fresh basil that topped it all.  It was a great touch to the sausage and pepperoni, providing an overall cooling effect to those spicy meats.  This pizza was nice and crispy at the edges, giving a nice crunch to your bites. 

As aforementioned, Courtney had discovered that Grandview hosts a ½ prize pizza deal on Wednesdays.  Our server didn’t mention this when we ordered, but neither did we.  No big deal, since we already knew about the deal, and would have gotten pizza regardless.  However, when he did eventually slip a hint at ½ priced Wednesdays, it was rather uncomfortable.  He handed us each a check (we go dutch), smiled, and said that the pizza tastes “so much better on Wednesdays.”  We didn’t know what to say.  As far as he knew, neither of us even knew about the promotion.  It almost seemed like he was calling us out as cheapskates, which we didn’t really like.  Though he was very nice and attentive throughout our visit, this moment is the one that sticks with us. 

In the grand scheme of things, sure, we liked Grandview’s pizza.  Most notably, the crust was a small work of art.  There was that odd moment with our server near the end but, overall, considering his otherwise friendly service and their tasty pizza, it was a pleasant dining experience.  You can tell that they take special care in making each guest’s personal pizza, and pride themselves in their array of fresh ingredients.  We just don’t think we’ll be dreaming about this pizza every night (we’re looking at you, Giuseppe’s!).  

Grandview Tavern & Grille on Urbanspoon