There’s an old saying that pizza is like sex: even when it’s bad, it’s still better than nothing. This is the worst sort of lie imaginable: bad pizza is the one unforgivable sin.
Maybe it’s my food snob side showing, but I’ve never had good Italian food outside of the Metropolitan New York Area. It’s the same way with bagels: good luck finding a decent bagel store outside of the Five Boroughs or Long Island, but that’s more a function of the fact that the main Jewish enclaves are clustered around the Five Towns. Still, there’s a hell of a lot more Italians spread around the country than there are Jews, which would logically lead you to believe that it’s easier to find good pizza in places besides Little Italy. However, this is wrong.
Don’t get me started on places like chain Italian food restaurants, either. What Pizza Hut did for mom and pop pizza joints, the Olive Garden did for sit-down Italian restaurants: it’s about as close to the real thing as Taco Bell is to real Mexican food. In fact, I’d rather take a fork in the eye than eat at an Olive Garden, though I have been known to enjoy the guilty pleasure of cheap, greasy dough or one of those vile Doritos Locos tacos on occasion. Besides, Pizza Hut specializes in that abomination known as Chicago style deep-dish pizza, which is an affront to anyone who grew up eating thin crust New York style.
Luckily, the majority of pizza joints you’ll find will feature thin crust pies, which is as it should be. Unfortunately the further you get from the metro NY area, the likelihood of finding a decent pizzeria or Italian food restaurant approaches nil at an exponential rate. An excellent example of this is the meal the wife and I had today in North Creek, at what I can only assume is the only game in town. I’m not going to point the finger because, well, I’m not interested in giving this place bad publicity; besides, we didn’t actually try their pizza. Instead, the wife had a calzone while I had the one menu item that can be used like a litmus test for good Italian: the chicken parmesan hero.
I have to give it to those poor schlubs: it was an honest try, and they were close. Of course “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so it’s not really much of a compliment. The wife’s calzone was sub-par, as it featured not just an over-done crust but grainy ricotta cheese on the inside, though the mozzarella the place used wasn’t bad. It didn’t help that the marinara sauce that came with the calzone was cold as if it had just come from the refrigerator. My chicken parm on the other hand was rather abysmal. The chicken was gummy, the red sauce was bland and overly sweet, and the hero roll was too soft; combined with the ho-hum mozzarella, especially considering that it could have been melted a bit more, the whole thing was more or less a disappointing experience.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, though – I ate the hell out of it because I’m a fat bastard. Next time, though, I think we’ll give a slice or two a try. If it’s still no good, we’re going to take off and nuke the place from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure