Monthly Archives: November 2011

Pizza: The Tattoo Edition

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Stencil

Pizza Pain

Pride and Joy

“Pizza (noun) (Italian: [ˈpiʦ:a]) An oven-baked, flat, disc-shaped bread; typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese and various toppings.”

This is by no means a review of any pizza or pizza establishment. This is merely “part one” of our way of showing the world that pizza is more than just a food to John and I. It’s something much bigger. It has always been there for us in our time of need. When we’re drunk, stumbling around Frankford Avenue. When we’re out on a date and don’t feel like spending a wad of cash. When cooking isn’t an option because we’re having some ridiculous kill streaks in our video games. When work fucking sucks and nothing is going our way, pizza will ALWAYS be there for us 2 idiots.

We’re very serious about making sure the general public knows who makes the most delicious slices, and hopefully in turn, you’ll pass that knowledge off to others. It’s a never ending cycle of pizza gratification. Having it immortalized over our hearts until the day we cease to exist is the very least we can do to thank pizza for everything it’s done for us. Expect Plichter’s rendition of this handsome slice of joy to arrive sometime at the beginning of 2012. I’d like to thank Karly Cleary over at the inkwell for her killer interpretation of the perfect pepperoni slice. Enjoy.

The Inkwell
851 Street Road, Southhampton PA
www.theinkwelltattoo.com

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The Couch Tomato Cafe: Guest Review Edition

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The Couch Tomato Cafe
102 Rector Street

This week we packed up our tight jeans and stupid tattoos and hit up Manayunk for what the natives praise as some of the best gourmet pizza in the area. We also brought along a young jedi apprentice-guest reviewer to crush a few slices with us while we sat back and quoted american psycho. Steve Varallo has supported and backed the doughboys from just about day one, so it’s our pleasure to welcome him aboard for this review. If any of you morons want to tag along with us as a guest reviewer, please let us know. We’re always looking for fresh meat. So, without any further ado, this is the doughboys approved “couch tomato extravaganza.” – J&J

Varallo:

Since I can remember, pizza has been a huge part of my life. Growing up in an Italian household, my siblings and I were raised to hold these steaming discs of glory to a high standard. I’ve worked in well known pizza kitchens and have consumed countless slices from both good and bad restaurants. When I saw footage of these pizza pioneers driving their cars over offensive slices of pizza, I knew they meant business. It was an easy decision when they asked me to join them in this review.

When I found out we were reviewing this establishment that I’ve heard so much about, instantly I printed up an online menu and began studying. Right off the bat, the list of gourmet pizzas nearly blew my fresh, size 12’s clean off. My mouth watered a little more each day leading up to this pizza feast. After a long week of anticipation, it was finally time to indulge. We arrived like a crew on a mission. As we approached the scene, people cleared a path. Street signs meant nothing. I don’t recall hearing any sounds until Castro thunderously slapped down a doughboys business card and ordered up the four massive pies.

The southwest inspired “Santa Fe” pizza was first up. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this particular cuisine and this pie failed to change my opinion. While the crust was on point, it was somewhat bland and tasted like they might have forgotten the key ingredient. Easily my least favorite of the four. However, experimenting with the leftovers, I added some chunky salsa to the Santa fe and discovered what the couch tomato was missing.

The “Meaty Redhead” had a promising list of toppings that I was eager to get my hands on. Oven roasted chicken, turkey bacon, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and garlic infused oil. I must say, this was the pizza that I had the highest expectations of. While I did enjoy it, I found the sliced tomatoes to be very lackluster. I needed them to burst with flavor and that just didn’t happen. I also feel like there just wasn’t enough garlic to make an impact on the pie. I felt somewhat let down .

The “Touch of Italy” took me by surprise. The red sauce had a nice flavor that complimented the Italian sausage and ricotta very well. It was almost like someone played a trick on me and put grandmas meat lasagna on my pizza. I REALLY enjoyed this pie!!

Before I tell you my thoughts on “The Barbie”, I want to let you in on a secret. I’m not a huge toppings guy. I’m a sucker for thin, crispy pies cooked to perfection. I typically enjoy the 60-40 ratio of sauce to cheese scattered on my crust. With that being said, when this pie hit the table…my pizza game was forever altered. Pulled pork, diced onion, bell pepper, mozzarella and smoked gouda cheeses piled on their fantastic crispy crust. The swirl of BBQ sauce from center to edge was perfect. It was nearly hypnotizing. The aroma quickly overshadowed the other pies inferior scent. I savagely grabbed a slice and went to town. At this moment I realized what reviewing pizza was all about. I could feel my tastebuds come to life. The pork was perfectly tender and smokey, like something you would get down south from a legit smokehouse. The little hint of onion and pepper thrown in were a perfect compliment to the pork. The other pies laying there next to this heavenly circle of love knew their night was all but over. The barbie was without a doubt the show stopper.

When all is said and done, the couch tomato cafe delivers a dynamite crust on each pie. While some pies weren’t as good as I hoped, others surpassed what I had expected. I highly recommend any pizza or BBQ pork lover to grab a slice or four of the “barbie” when possible. I promise you won’t be let down. I’d also like to give a special thanks to the doughboys for allowing me to join in on this review. It was a great experience that my stomach and I won’t soon forget.

Isabella Pizza

Isabella Pizza
1824 E. Passyunk

Castro:

So you’re in South Philly, huh? Sure, you can get a cheesesteak or a slice of pizza from one of the endless array of overpriced slop shops at your immediate disposal…OR! You can stop at a little 8-year-old joint on the northwest corner of 1800 Passyunk avenue called “Isabella Pizza.” We’ve received a few recommendations to try the pies from here. But, not just any pie; the “Chicken Parm Pizza.” Sounds fascinating, right?! In all my years of wasting my life away, getting fat from devouring slice after slice, I’ve never had this particular concoction on a pizza before. I’m a complete sucker for chicken parmesan. Especially when I go out to semi-classless, yet totally white trash Italian restaurants. I don’t wanna give out any unnecessary plugs, so we’ll just refer to them as “Golive Arden.” There’s something about that dish that’s just so simple and reassuring. Even a little ugly baby will suck it down.

Picture this. A generous sized slice topped with diced pieces of crispy breaded chicken cutlet, totally sweet and tangy marinara sauce and a heaping sprinkle-sprankle of fresh mozzarella cheese. It was ALL THAT. My slice held up perfectly. It didn’t sag. No need for a fork and knife. All hands on deck. I even picked up and ate the pieces of chicken that base jumped from my slice to the tabletop, kinda like what one of those occupy Philly idiots would do to lit cigarette that they’d find on the sidewalk. Their menu has one of the biggest selections of gourmet and traditional pizzas too choose from, just in case chicken parm isn’t your thing (we probably shouldn’t associate anymore if this is the case.) Also I’d like to add, they have a peanut butter sandwich topped with grilled banana slices, honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s simply titled “the king.” I’ll give mad props to whoever tries that delicious bastard first.

I went into Isabella’s on a completely empty stomach and I tapped out by the middle of the second slice. That’s how big these slices were. Not only that, but I spent $5.50 on 2 slices and a soda. That’s a first date type of restaurant in my book. You can use your savings to put toward the zookeeper on DVD for your loved one’s stocking stuffers. I’d say this may have very well been my absolute favorite “slice-to-go” pizza that I’ve ever had.

Plichter:

After living in South Philly for three years, I can honestly say a lot of pizza places down there are overrated. In fact, some places have been downright awful. The Mack’s down on Oregon Ave is nothing like the one on the boardwalk. I’ll never order from Bella pizza again after my roommate Anthony Berardi found chicken feathers on their wings. (PS- Their pizza was mediocre too. It didn’t “fucking suck” but it sucked.) But there was one place in particular that has continued to impress me since that first bite: Isabella Pizza. Aside from their impressive plain slices, their specialty pizzas are absolutely phenomenal. As easy as it sounds to make a chicken parm pizza, Isabella has perfected it.

Many pizzerias that sell slices make up for their quality by serving gargantuan slices. Others try serving tiny, gourmet slices for the same price. Isabella Pizza is the place where the best of both worlds meet. Their slices are hefty and delicious, not to mention reasonable. Thin crust that doesn’t waver, along with cheese that coats the entire slice accordingly, come together for a nice start to a perfect slice. But any pizzeria can throw together cheese and crust, so let’s get into the chicken. I don’t know how they do it, but the breaded chicken chunks take a mundane idea and make it anything but. It’s totally simple, but simply delicious. It’s juicy, lightly breaded, strips of all white meat chicken. The cheese then solidifies it in place, making sure you get chicken in every bite. Although I believe there could be more marinara in there from time to time, the chicken parm pizza at Isabella’s has never left me disappointed.

I’ve had so many assholes tell me that the best pizza in Philly is authentic South Philadelphia pizza. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a bit biased since I’m from the Neast and grew up on Gino’s. But if you’re in South Philly and need to get your pizza fix, you can depend on Isabella’s for the best in the area. If you’ve already had the chicken parm pizza there, go for the white pie with steak, peppers, and onions. You can thank me later.

Worst of the Worst: The Chain Challenge

Worst of the Worst: The Chain Challenge

Today the 4 largest pizza chains in America go head to head for the title of “worst corporate pizza.” I know what you’re thinking. “Why, doughboys…why? You guys are better than that!” Look, this is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. It’s not so much a review to find the best pizza as much as it is a guide to the worst of the worst. We both grew up eating za’ from these 4 places. They’ve spent millions upon millions on advertising. They came up with different ways to put cheese inside the pizza. They’ve constructed pizzas with 30+ slices and pizzas with breadsticks as the crust. The fact is, no matter what they try to do, their pizza will always in my eyes be the shittiest of shitty. So here for you are the worst chain pizzerias out there, ranked from best (if you can call it that) to worst.

1) Pizza Hut

Castro: According to the World Wide Web, the Hut was established over 50 years ago. There’s currently 6,000 Pizza Hut restaurants in the U.S and more than 5,600 locations in 94 other countries around the world. You would think a company with those kind of stats would have the pizza game on lock. Fuck no. Stuffed crust, the New Yorker, the Bigfoot…Every pizza they’ve managed to construct either was atrocious or it got me super sick. The only good thing to ever come from pizza hut is the buffet. I think the only reason I go is to try and beat my personal record of slices consumed. (18 slices circa 2002) Hey, remember throwing cherry tomatoes from the salad bar at the 66 bus on half days from school? That was pretty cool. I will give them the award for best commercials. Pizza head ruled. Anyway, we got a half pepperoni, half green pepper pie. Their pizza is entirely too thick and doughy for my taste. The cheese is super watery. Their crust is probably the only positive thing about their pizza…and that’s only if you get a side of sauce for dipping. It’s great pizza to get when you’re completely hammered drunk but on this particular visit, this pizza fucking sucked.

Plichter: Anyone who’s known me for the past ten years knows just how sick Pizza Hut makes me. I mean, literally. Early Good For Nothing practices always concluded with a trip to the Pizza Hut buffet, followed by me writhing in pain on Scott Boland’s porch. And did I ever learn my lesson? No. I continued to eat it almost every time simply because I’m a stupid moron and it was free. (Scott used to work there, so we got free pizza a lot.) Even since those days I still think to myself from time to time, “Hey, I wonder if Pizza Hut still makes me sick?” The last such occasion was about two years ago, when an impromptu trip to Pizza Hut for stuffed crust pizza ended with me vomiting in my father’s bathroom. The only reason I remotely got excited to visit Pizza Hut this time around was because I wanted to play the video games they used to have at the entrance of the store. And to my disappointment, they didn’t have them anymore. Fortunately, this time around I had my revenge on Pizza Hut by winging a slice of their horrible pizza at their store.

2) Papa John’s

Castro: “Better ingredients. Better pizza. Papa John’s.” God I hate the commercials with that guy twitching and smiling in his 1970 Camaro as he spits that line. I remember recently ordering a “six cheese Tuscan pizza” and getting what looked and tasted like a 1 cheese, plain pizza. Papa John’s literally has nothing going for them except that butter garlic sauce you get with every pizza. I definitely would/could/should do shots of it. Ok, so today we got sausage pie. As you can see from the picture, it was completely flaccid and flimsy. I’m guessing they use some kind of wheat-based flour for their dough in all their pizzas. I hate it. I ate one slice and I had to stop. The sausage tasted like bad diner breakfast sausage. My recommendation? Toaster oven yourself some Ellios because that’s the same quality pizza I’ve been getting EVERY time I end up getting a pizza from Papa John’s. Yo, good ole’ PJ’s fucking sucks.

Plichter: If Papa John actually cared about his customers as much as he claims, he would’ve traveled back in time and aborted himself to prevent naïve patrons from wasting their time and money. This was seriously like microwaved rubber with the worst breakfast sausage imaginable on top. Of course, Castro already mentioned the only redeeming factor: the butter garlic sauce. But even that couldn’t save this shithole. Oh and by the way, a shot of that garlic butter will set you back about 17 grams of fat, and their extra large Spicy Italian pizza weighs in at a combined 4000 calories. Eat E.J.. Eat up!

3) Domino’s

Castro: You’ve seen the commercials about dominos advertising new recipes and new ingredients. They guaranteed to build a new pizza from the ground up promising “hand tossed pizza with a new robust sauce.” I went in there with high hopes of something new that was gonna blow my mind. Guess what? It’s the same crappy pizza they’ve always been serving. We got a bacon pizza because let’s face it, bacon’s good on everything. Not on a dominos pizza. It literally had no taste to it. The cheese was rubbery. Out of all 4 places I was most disappointed by their pizza. Wanna hear a cool story? Dominos was the first company to have the “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee back in the day. One of their delivery drivers crashed into another car injuring the other driver trying to make the deadline. She sued and took an 80 million dollar payout. Dominos immediately dropped the 30-minute guarantee. I LOL’d when I read it. Anyway, yo this pizza fucking sucked in 1991 and it fucking sucks in 2011 too.

Plichter: When looking back on some of the worst decisions I’ve made in my life, almost half of them have to do with ordering food. One such example would be when I decided to order from Domino’s in South Philly, even though I knew of about twenty awesome real pizzerias in the neighborhood. And why did I make such a rash decision, you ask? Because I actually gave them the benefit of the doubt when they revamped their recipe. After they screwed up my order twice and I had to wait about for 2 hours, I finally got to try this new and improved taste. I don’t care how many shitty commercials they put out with people approving of the new recipe. It still tastes the same! The only improvement they made was by adding the garlic and herbs to the crust, which makes only a minimal difference. I happen to think that Castro and I greatly improved their bacon pizza by throwing it on the ground and stepping on it.

4) Little Caesar’s

Castro: Their old slogan “Pizza! Pizza!” referred to them serving 2 pizzas instead of 1 like everyone else. They used to come on a piece of cardboard in a giant paper bag with no box. Classy, right? I’m not gonna lie, I said some good things when they opened the Little Caesars on Levick street last year. I was so hype about it. But then I realized that you’re paying $5 for a pizza that was probably made an hour before you walked in and has been sitting in a warming tray until it finally reaches your mouth. It just doesn’t sit well with me. We got a “hot and ready” pepperoni. I mean, your choices really are limited here. The bottom of our pizza looked like a sponge. The pepperoni was soggy and the cheese was slimey. I took one bite and immediately threw it against the wall. Seriously. This pizza really takes the cake of the worst corporate pizza ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to throw up.

Plichter: Of everywhere we visited today, I am seriously the most disappointed in Little Caesar’s and the fact that they’re the worst of the four. Last time I had it was about two years ago while in Delaware, and I remembered it being fairly decent. Maybe my palate has broadened in that period of time. Maybe we just happened to visit a shitty Caesar’s, or just got a randomly bad pie. But there was no mistaking that this was the worst of the day for certain. I could at least finish an entire slice from the other places, but I couldn’t even do that here. It was TERRIBLE. Castro’s right, the crust looked like a sponge. But even sponges are relatively soft. This was like some sort of drywall/sponge hybrid that Little Caesar’s has been working on. It seriously looked and tasted like some sort of plastic pizza slice you’d find in a child’s play kitchen. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the rats out back of Little Caesar’s refused to eat it.

Johnny G’s Famous Pizza

Johnny G’s Famous Pizza
7315 Oxford Avenue

Castro:

Next up on the “slowly killing ourselves by consuming ridiculous amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol” agenda is a little establishment who has been serving the Burholme/Fox Chase/Elkins Park residents with some of the area’s finest pizza for over 3 years. Johnny G’s looks like your average, run of mill neighborhood pizza shop from the outside, but inside tells a completely different story. From the moment we walked in, it seemed like the dinner rush just hit on a Saturday night. However, it was only Wednesday. The staff was unbelievably busy yet they all maintained their cool, each helping the other out. They looked like a bunch of foot soldiers stacking up sandwiches, dressing up dozens of orders of wings and saucing up pizzas as far as the eye can see. Under their command was Johnny G himself. His confidence almost melted my face as I walked in. He reminded me of a general about to lead his troops into combat. He was vicious and ruthless, but at the same time he knew exactly what he was doing. 40+ years in the biz will do that to you. He had the 1,000 yard pizza stare. He was definitely an OG in the pizza game. Boss status.

We decided to keep it simple like Kevin McCallister. A lovely plain pizza just for us. Nothing fancy pants…well, except for the shirt and ties. After we ordered, we were informed about their famous white pizzas that they’re locally known for. We’ll get to that a little later. We sat by ourselves, out of sight so the staff wouldn’t see us making stupid faces with pizza dangling from our mouths. As the plain made its way to our table, we high fived and dug in. There was no method to the madness of the distribution of cheese and sauce. Some bites had more cheese than sauce and vice versa. That’s what I ❤ about it. The body was super crispy and the crust was the just the right size. It wasn’t too thin but it wasn’t thick like all that Frankford avenue slop. I wouldn’t recommend eating it right out of the oven because you’ll definitely burn your mouth. I did it 4 times in a row because I’m a total idiot.

Now, we mutually agreed that if the white pizza was Johnny G’s specialty, then white pizza we must have. So 20 hours after consuming the plain pizza, we went back for more. Plic picked it up and brought the beast to my house and we went to town. As we lifted the lid, it was like the contents of Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase was shining us in the face. It was perfection to say the least. A white pizza topped with fresh tomatoes, spinach and…wait for it…BACON. This pizza was so fucking delicious. I’m so happy we ended up with this pie. It far exceeded my expectations when I seen it on the menu. The small patches of crispy bacon mixed with the juicy tomatoes and fresh garlic were a combination to be reckoned with. No wonder this is the pizza that all the locals swear by. I dare you to order this exact pizza and not personally thank us for this review. On a side note, leftovers are twice as delicious in your toaster oven the next morning.

Since I’m well out of delivery range, Johnny G’s may very well end up being my new pick up joint. I’ll make the 10 minute drive for one of these tasty pies any day of the week.

Plichter:

There’re few establishments out there that can provide both friendly service and a quality product. If an arrogant pizzeria knows how good they are, they tend to take for granted the value of the customer. After all, they most likely have a solid clientele and don’t care about losing a customer here and there. On the other hand, a below average pizzeria will tend to be extra friendly to overcompensate for how shitty their pizza actually is. These are the kind of places where they immediately smile at you when you walk in, just to show how grateful they are for having a customer. But somewhere in between the friendliness and quality is where you can find Johnny G’s Famous Pizza. Located at 7315 Oxford Ave in Northeast Philly, Johnny G’s is the type of place where the cast of Cheers would probably get pizza, since many of the employees know their customers by name. After visiting the amount of establishments we have since the inception of Doughboys, it was nice to be able to go to a pizzeria, have a candid and laidback conversation with the owner, and enjoy some truly delicious pizza.

I think it’s safe to say that of all the comfort foods out there, pizza is the best. (Duh.) So what better way to prepare for a viewing than stopping for a quick slice of pizza?! I had heard nothing but good things about the plain pizza at Johnny G’s from friends and coworkers, so we kept it simple with that. Being a busy night at the shop, it took a good 30 minutes for our pie. But it was certainly worth the wait. The sauce to cheese ratio was about 60/40, which ruled cause I tend to enjoy a little more sauce on my pie. Also, it stretched to the edge of the crust (or “handle” as I’ve heard it called by some), allowing for more pizza than crust. Their sauce is just a bit sweeter than your average pizzeria, which is always a welcomed change of pace. That, along with their signature pan crust, made the experience more than worth the trip. But it wasn’t until we finished our pie and talked to Johnny that we realized there was another menu item we had to try (albeit some 20 hours later).

Before Johnny G’s, Vince’s white tomato and spinach was my end all-be all of white pizzas. After Johnny G’s, a new king has been crowned. Johnny himself had told me they do some pretty spectacular things with white pizzas, and he certainly backed up his word. Their Specialty Pizza #4 is a white pie with diced tomato, spinach, basil, and BACON. Topped off with grated Parmesan cheese, and this bad boy was ready for a test taste. My mouth seriously salivated as I drove the pizza over to Castro’s house, with the aroma of garlic and olive oil flooding my nostrils and car. Once there, I practically kicked his disgusting neighbors out of the way to get inside and get a look. Oh what a glorious sight it was! For having so many toppings, the crust wasn’t weighed down. The pan shaped crust at Johnny G’s combines the thinness of Italian crust with a hint of Greek crust, allowing for a thin, yet sturdy canvas to work with. When I first read the menu and saw the toppings, I knew that the bacon was gonna steal the show and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Every bite led to a bacon aftertaste. I really don’t think I have to say much more. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been to a lot of pizzerias lately. But of all the ones I’ve visited, I think Johnny G’s is the one that I won’t mind going out of my way to get to again. If you have the option for delivery or pickup, I say you stop in and meet Johnny himself.