Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year, Newport

Twenty- Fourth Stop:  Newport Pizza Company
Date: January 8th, 2012
Location: 601 Monmouth Street Newport, KY 41071
Ranking:  16

We’re baaaaaaaack!  Pizza lovers of the Tri-State rejoice; we have returned after a short pizza blogging hiatus and are now blazing through the last half of the top 50 Cincinnati pizzas.  However, the first post-hiatus visit was actually not in Cincinnati.  We dropped in to one of our tried and true favorites in Newport, on one of those warm, balmy evenings in January.

Almost everyone that we know loves Newport Pizza Company.  Only one of our friends has been less than impressed, and we’d venture to say that was a fluke.  Here’s why:  Newport Pizza Company has consistently served up unique, fresh, and delicious pizza every time we've gone, and that was no different on this particular visit.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we have to admit that we dined with a friend of ours who is also an employee at Newport Pizza Company.  One could argue that our satisfaction and overall experience is tainted or biased, but based on our past experience as well, we are willing to bet that the experience was a true indicator of the service and food we’d receive on any visit.         

The atmosphere in NPC is cozy, clean, and comfortable.  The service has always been very friendly, and the staff is well-informed and extremely knowledgeable about the menu and bar offerings.  Speaking of the bar--they offer a really great selection of craft and import beers, if that’s what you’re into.  Our fantastic server Krista was attentive to our every need, and made sure that our foray back into pizza blogging was going to be a good one.  And it was.

We started out with some Fried Mozzarella, which are fresh mozzarella chunks, battered and fried into gooey, geometric cubes, with a heavenly crisp on the outside.  The fresh, house made marinara sauce was the perfect compliment to these, although they could probably stand alone just fine.  Courtney had never tried these before, and was definitely in love.  (p.s.  there were two left and, though the server kindly advised that these weren't very good reheated, we found them to be just fine later.  Come on, you can't waste something that good!) 

Between the three of us, we decided to order two 12” pies, each split in halves with different types of pizza on either side.  That was a benefit of knowing an employee - she knew how to get the most bang for our buck and the most tastes out of one visit.  On one of them, we chose the Monmouth and the Meatball Lasagna.  On the other, half  Barbeque Chicken and half Zeus.

We both really loved the meatball lasagna pie, which showcased their homemade sauce and meatballs.  There was a light mix of Ricotta cheese in the sauce, which was a pleasant addition.  Eating this pizza reminded Robyn of our annual T-Givin’ potluck, in which our friends make delicious lasagna the night before Thanksgiving.  Whatever your favorite lasagna is, this pizza will probably remind you of it, which is awesome.  The crust is light and chewy, but not too thin to support the heavy toppings.  This pizza is a different kind of good, and the right choice if you're in the market for a pizza that's not quite pizza.   
Meatball Lasagna on the left, the Monmouth on the right

The Barbeque Chicken pizza was pretty standard for its kind, but was great.  Do not underestimate standard ingredients; it's what they do with them that is important!  We heard this one is pretty popular, and totally see why.  The barbeque sauce was sweet, not vinegary.  There was plenty of the sauce, which was nice.  The onions were a little dry for Robyn’s liking, but they still added good flavor to the pizza overall.     
Barbeque Chicken on the left, Zeus on the right

The Zeus was the first NPC pizza that Courtney ever tried, awhile back, and remains probably her favorite.  This one offers fresh spinach, Roma tomatoes, garlic, feta, asiago, and an olive oil base.  It is seriously the melt-in-your-mouth kind of good, actually just as good (if not better) than Courtney remembered.  This one is definitely the right choice if you want something with a different kind of taste, or maybe something a little lighter.   Also, if you love Asiago.  OMG Asiago.

The Monmouth is the NPC house specialty, basically a high-end deluxe pizza.  This guy features the usual suspects for a deluxe.  The meat:  pepperoni, awesome Italian sausage, and bacon.  The veggies: bright green peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  The cheese:  mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan.  These ingredients are piled super high, so we recommend attacking this one with a fork.  A classic done right.

We know what you're thinking:  "of course you're going to give it a grand review, your friend works there!".  Believe us, though - we are not exaggerating.  Newport Pizza Company is good stuff.  Skip Dewey's the next time you head towards the Levee, and drive a few blocks up to NPC instead.  Maybe try the Pizza of the Month, where the NPC team tries out some creative blends and thematic pies (it's Caribbean Jerk now, but we heard the Greek they had recently was one of their best).  And, if it's your birthday and you are an extremely lucky person, their delivery driver will sing Happy Birthday to you in a full-on operatic voice.  You are not misreading this - it's one of our new favorite memories.  

Newport Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

Pizza by the Slice, and a Whole Lotta Spice

Twenty-third Stop: Ramundo's Pizzeria
Location: 3166 Linwood Avenue  Cincinnati, OH 45208
Ranking: 14

It was a weeknight, and takeout pizza seemed like a good way for us to spend the evening.  There are a few places on the pizza list that offer only takeout, or are perhaps best designed for takeout.  Ramundo's has a very small interior, with its space mainly reserved for the kitchen.  There are a couple of bar top-type tables immediately near  the entrance, mainly there to accommodate the late-night diners after their rounds of the many bars that pepper the heart of Mount Lookout.  For these patrons, Ramundo's offers the good ol' pizza by the slice deal, also a good option for a quick lunch for those who work at the local businesses.  If you want a whole pie and a seat, though, we recommend picking up an order and heading home to your dining room table.  Or, better yet, your couch, which we all know is the best place to eat pizza. 

For a few years, Courtney and her husband lived right in Mount Lookout square, within walking distance from some great restaurants.  There was Ruthai's for (you guessed it) Thai food, Betta's, no longer there, for wonderful Italian (Filo Chicken!), and Zip's for a tremendous burger.  Ramundo's was their go-to for pizza whenever the mood struck, and they usually ordered a 3-topper with bacon, spinach and tomatoes.  It was always delicious, with the freshest of ingredients and just a little spicy kick to the sauce.   

Having not had Ramundo's for too, too long, Courtney was truly looking forward to reconnecting with their pizza.  We called ahead to place our order, which included that large bacon-spinach-tomato pie and some Ramundough Bites.  These aptly-named treats are described on their website as "zesty pepperoni & cheese rolled up in our garlic butter brushed dough".  Who can resist that?  Plus, we learned about Ramundo's Rewards, a loyalty-type program for clients, and how new members get a free order.  Top that.

The pizza was just about ready when we picked it up, and we were quickly headed back to Courtney's to indulge in its deliciousness. 

Sometimes a dish, an event, a place can take on added importance and greatness in your mind, increasing with the years and with every time you remember it in conversation.  "Remember how good that blah blah blah was?"  "It was the best blah blah blah EVER."  We're sure you know that overhype-things-for-yourself feeling; we can't be the only ones.  Well, sadly, that was the case here.  Courtney had such melt-in-your-mouth memories of Ramundo's Pizza.  Worse, she'd passed this excitement onto Robyn.  In the end, we both ended up disappointed.  Bummer.

It's not that Ramundo's Pizzeria has bad pizza.  It's just that, well, it wasn't as good as we wanted it to be.  It certainly was not as good as Courtney recalled, though certain elements do stand out.  The crust - crisp and chewy.  The toppings - absolutely fresh.  The flavor - something was missing.  The sauce - incredibly spicy.  It probably didn't help that, before eating our Ramundough Bites, we both doused them with the side of sauce that accompanied them.  The spice of the sauce totally overpowered the poor little pepperoni and cheese snacks, and sent our mouths into a fit of rage.  We were a little saddened the by spice-level of the sauce, but figured it only hit us so hard because we had so liberally applied it to the appetizer.  Surely, the pizza wouldn't be so bad.  We were wrong.  Not horrendously spicy, but still a bit too much.  Courtney didn't remember it being like this in the past, but from what we've heard, that is generally the experience with their sauce.  There are folks out there who love Ramundo's.  After all, it is #14 out of 50.  We can see that, perhaps especially if you're into spicy.  Overall, it just wasn't our favorite. 
Ramundough Bites-what's not to like here?  Yum!

Some classic iceberg lettuce to cool the palate after that spicy sauce

We don't advise against Ramundo's, but we think it's fair to say we don't highly recommend it, either.  We've heard people exclaim their love for Ramundo's, and we've heard others denote it as "gross".  Guess we're right in the middle.  If you are a fan, be sure to sign up for Ramundo's Rewards.  Their e-mails are frequent, but they do offer some nice deals for their members, including bonus treats on your birthday.   Oh, and their calzones are fantastic.  Well, so says Courtney's memory, which is apparently not so reliable these days.  

Ramundo's Pizzeria & Deli on Urbanspoon