Monthly Archives: February 2012

Artigiano Pizza

Artigiano Pizza
3804 Morrell Ave.

Castro:

If you’re gonna ask me to recommend a pizza place to scarf slices in the Morrell Park area, chances are I’m gonna be clueless.  I’m at a loss for words with anything above Rhawn Street. So when Plic said we NEEDED to mack on an Artigiano’s specialty pie, I could only reply with a simple “m’kay.” Recently, I’ve been eating an abundance of your standard pepperoni and sausage combos on my down time. A fresh approach to my slice consumption was a definite must on this visit. I was advised by my counterpart that the Arty’s chicken, bacon, ranch and sliced tomato pie was our next opponent.

The inside of the Artigiano’s is nothing to write home about. Delivery drivers aimlessly walking around. Tables and chairs stacked up in the corner. The buzzing of the soda refrigerator seemed to drown out the obnoxious idiot talking about his upcoming tattoo appointment on his cell phone. I really thought today would just be another few notches on the 2012 slice count with no satisfaction taken away. I was dead wrong. This beautiful pizza looked nearly perfect as it slept comfortably in its temporary resting place before it hit the walls of my stomach. Word of advice…let it cool off before you bite into it. I made the classic rookie mistake of trying to eat a slice as I got onto 95. The roof of my mouth regrets such a decision. The chicken pieces were thick and juicy. I’d say probably a half-pound of it on the whole pie. The bacon crumbles were super chewy and super greasy. They complimented the chicken perfectly. I’m fairly certain you can add bacon to any topping collaboration and you’ll come out a winner. The creamy ranch dressing in lieu of red sauce couldn’t have been a better addition to an already star studded line up of toppings. My favorite part was the whole slices of fresh tomatoes. They made this pizza really stand out in my eyes. Time permitting, I’d also like to say a few kind words about the crust. It was fucking spectacular. Thin. Light. Crispy. Semi-charred. Just the way crust should be.

Artigiano’s blew me away with how precise this pie was constructed. I want to take this opportunity to thank the pie slinger in the back who fed me one of the better pizzas I’ve had this month. 5 slices down, 3 in the fridge for dinner. Next time, I’m gonna hit the craft beer outlet right down the street before hand. Nothing bad could come from such a night.

Plichter:

This isn’t the first time that I heard of a pizza with chicken, bacon, and ranch on it. And to be honest, I’m growing a bit tired of some places just recycling the ideas of others. The combination of these three toppings has become increasingly popular over the past 5 years on sandwiches and pizzas alike. This being the most intriguing “specialty” pizza on their menu, my decision was pretty much made for me. But what Artigiano lacks in originality they make up for in taste.

Odds are you’ve had thin crust before, especially since it’s a staple of east coast style pizza and only suckers eat deep-dish. But when I say that the crust at Artigiano is thin, I mean it is thin. Don’t let the photos fool you: although the handles look a bit thick, the base is anything but. Such a thin crust could barely support such a topping heavy pie. Me being an idiot, I attempted to go right from the box to my mouth. Warning: This should be avoided at all costs unless you prefer to eat your toppings off the box with a fork. After letting my second slice settle a bit, I found that the toppings had congealed and the slice was ready for liftoff. Whereas some pizzerias settle for a substitute, the bacon on this thing was real cooked breakfast bacon. That crispiness against the tomato gave it a true BLT taste, with the ranch adding a zing to it. The tomato sauce (if any) was sparse enough to make way for the ranch. This tasted more like a decent sandwich than a pizza, which I didn’t really mind considering I had eaten 12 slices in under 24 hours over the weekend.

The chicken, bacon, ranch pie was pretty decent, and I have to give credit where it’s due. That being said, I have to bash what I think doesn’t make the cut. I also ordered a half pepperoni, half plain pizza and it just sucked. Of course that didn’t stop me from eating about four slices of it, but it will prevent me from ordering anything but the chicken, bacon, ranch again.

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Big Ben Pizza

Big Ben Pizza
7726 Rising Sun Ave.

Castro:

This week’s review was kind of an off the wall place to try out. I’ve never even heard of Big Ben’s except for the utterance of a few mind-blowing words. “Thirty two inch pizza.” They produce arguably one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) Philly has to offer. I’ve seen everything from a personal pan to a 28” pie on our quest, but a 32” is just plain stupid. That’s legendary right there. Big Ben carries every size up to the 32” just in case you’re not man enough to attempt such a feat. The doughboys opted against the behemoth today and decided to battle the 20” giant. The last time we tried a twenty incher was at Pete and Elda’s in Jersey for our free t-shirt, and that ended with us feeling like what Whoopi Goldberg looks like on a daily basis. Here’s to hoping we leave feeling like champions.

Ben has some of the most creative toppings I’ve seen to date. Tuna melt, Fruitella, Shrimp Alfredo, and Boardwalk pizza. They’ve got them all. I counted over 30 specialty pies and countless variations of your standard toppings. The one that stood out to me the most was Veal Parmesan. As soon as I seen that on the menu, immediately I knew this was the chosen one. Nothing makes me feel more like a man than consuming a freshly killed baby cow. To compliment the veal, we kept the 2nd half in the parm family. Chicken parm. The gigantic pizza box covered half the table. It was an endless ocean of fried animals and marinara. The Veal Parmesan was love at first bite. The veal was tender, thin and super crispy. You can actually taste the delicious cruelty they endured on the farm! Ben even blanketed the pizza with heaping portions of it too. The sauce was sweeter than regular pizza sauce. It was perfect for the parm style pizza we went with. I thought the saucy equator that separated the two halves was great. Even the dough was lighter than usual which made it easier to fit 3 of these slices in my stomach.

Overall I was extremely pleased with what Ben had to offer. The joint is extremely clean. They have ample seating and French doors so you can easily maneuver your potential 2 ½ foot beast out the door. I was impressed on how good the pizza was. I figured the abnormally sized pizzas were just a gimmick to get you in there, but they definitely put in work. Big Ben and Johnny G’s at the same intersection? Five points just became my new hangout to eat pizza and buy illegally prescribed painkillers.

Plichter:

I think it’s safe to say that whenever we hear about a pie that’s out of the ordinary, we have no choice but to try it. We ate at Pete & Elda’s solely because we wanted to prove we could eat their abnormally large pizza and walk away with free shirts. The unique specialty pizza combinations at Mojo’s were enough to bring us in the door. So when I heard about the 32 inch monster at Big Ben, I knew my fate was sealed.

As much as I would like to say that we ordered the “Big Ben” and destroyed it, I cannot. The size of the box alone would deter anyone from attempting such a feat. That doesn’t mean we didn’t indulge ourselves anyways. At 20 inches in diameter, the “Giant” pie was more than enough to feed our faces. Add chicken parm on one half and veal on the other, and you’ve got a combination that would piss off any PETA member. (Note: I have nothing but the utmost respect for all my vegetarian and vegan friends. I don’t even really like veal, but Castro insisted.)

They certainly weren’t kidding when they dubbed this thing the “Giant” pie. As soon as it arrived at our table, all the doubts that flooded my mind about whether or not we should’ve ordered the “Big Ben” were washed away. We had a hard enough time putting away this thing, let alone something that was a full foot larger. The slices of this behemoth put to shame any of those on South Street, in size and taste. If you’re into having a base that can support the amount of toppings they pile on, you might want to ask for your pie to be well done. The crust was a bit doughy and probably could’ve used another couple minutes in the oven, but it didn’t ruin the pie nonetheless. Whereas most chicken parm pizzas usually have strips, Big Ben uses diced bits of breaded chicken and veal that dresses the entire pie, which was a welcomed change. The sauce and cheese were also both pretty decent, which was more than I expected. To believe that this pizzeria relies on an overly large gimmick is a fallacy. To my surprise, they know how to make a pizza.

Don’t let the location fool you; Five Points has some decent pizza to be had. Once you get past the fact that the neighborhood resembles a Croatian ghetto, you’re sure to enjoy the surrounding pizzerias.

Manhattan Pizza

Manhattan Pizza
2900 Levick Street

Castro:

It seems only logical that after a 2-hour video shoot involving us making and eating pizza that one would get hungry. What better way to satisfy that hunger than with…more pizza. I decided we should go with a little home field advantage for this week’s review. Manhattan pizza. Nestled on the corner of Harbison and Levick, they’ve been saucing up slices for as long as I can remember. I can recall walking home from grade school, book bag up front like a nerd, and getting paper plated pizza from these guys. Since then, Manhattan has been on the receiving end of numerous drunken phone calls at midnight for one of their pepperoni pizzas. I gotta say, I probably order from here once a week. It’s my go to joint for a quick slice when I don’t feel like leaving the safety of my pajama pants or my video game chair.

Our topping choices seemed like they were pretty solid picks: Half steak and mushroom, half sausage and hot peppers. Even though Manhattan and I go way back, as a proud Doughboy I’m compelled to be honest with our followers about the pie we feasted on today. It fuckin’ sucked. I don’t know if they were having a bad day or what, but I was extremely disappointed with it. The sausage was easily forgettable and mediocre at best. The crust was barely up to par, lacking a certain level of much required crispness.  My favorite part was the not-so-special hot peppers, and that shouldn’t be the case. Usually I go with a straight pepperoni pizza and it’s almost always flawless. Let me let you in on a little secret. There’s two special words that when uttered, can change any pizza from just okay to legendary. “Well. Done.” If you get your pie cooked just a little bit longer, it can really make a huge difference in taste. I forgot to tell them and it completely shattered my cheesy hopes and saucy dreams. After we ate this pie, not a word was spoken between us. We just sat back and watched Robocop.

I don’t want today’s review to sway your vote in ever eating a Manhattan pie. Try it out for yourself. Get yourself a large pepperoni, well done of course, and come back to us with your findings. I’d put them up against any joint in the neighborhood and they wouldn’t go down without a fight. However, today’s pizza was a disaster.

Plichter:

In my opinion, you should never have to ask for your pizza to be “well done.” If you’re dealing with a pizzeria that knows what they’re doing, they’ll cook your pie to perfection. This was not the case today, as our pizza from Manhattan was easily undercooked.

I never had this pizza before, and it’ll be a decent amount of time before I give them another shot. The sausage looked like rat shit, the cheese was dull and the dough was barely cooked. If you don’t believe me, just check out the pictures of the pie. The tasty hot peppers are worth mentioning, even though it’s doubtful that Manhattan had anything to do with their production. The steak wasn’t bad either, but not good enough to deserve a decent review.

Honestly, I don’t mind eating shitty pizza and giving it a bad review from time to time. It’s a lot easier to put down crappy pizza than it is to praise perfect pizza. On that note, I’d like to thank Manhattan for making this a particularly easy review to write. At least Robocop didn’t let me down.