Monday, March 21, 2011

Pizza Tower

A couple of weeks ago we had to push pizza night to Friday night because Kevin and Nik had a work engagement, so Kevin decided that we should take a field trip North, to Pizza Tower. You can tell immediately when you walk in that this is a very family/kid-friendly pizza place. We were able to stake out a table where we could watch the game while enjoying our dinner. We started out with the garlic breadsticks, with cheese, and then moved on to 3 pizzas: 1/2 Cheese & 1/2 Pepperoni (no meat for Kevin that Friday), Spinach Artichoke, and Captain Pesto's. While waiting for our food, Nik entertained himself with the dough that they give kids:

{snowman - it started to fall over}

{go reds!}

{the eiffel tower}

Then came our food (please excuse the low quality of the pictures, they were taken on my phone):

{Spinach Artichoke - we didn't read
the description close enough to
realize it had bacon...}

{Captain Pesto's}

And here's what we thought:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 3.75
Aroma (overall): 3.75
Taste (overall): 3.67
Crust - 3.50
Cheese - 4.17
Toppings - 3.92
Sauce - 3.67
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.67
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 4.08
X-factor: 4.42

As I mentioned, we started off with the garlic breadsticks, with cheese, and with the spicy cheese sauce. The breadsticks were good; Kevin thought that they were fairly generic, but not bad. The spicy cheese sauce was good, but is something you can easily get at the store. I would go with the marinara in the future, although it wasn't my favorite either. The tomato sauce was a little too tomato-y and oregano-y, yet without much flavor, but the pesto was great. The pesto on Captain Pesto's Pizza really helped boost the sauce score for me.

And the crust? It was a good edge crust, but under cooked in the center. Nik wants to know if this is a Cincinnati thing? Because we seem to encounter this a lot, and I can't say that I've ever had this be a problem before (of course, I wasn't eating as much pizza and evaluating it in the other places I've lived). Just simply letting the pizzas cook a little longer (mainly the cheese/pepperoni pizza) would've really made a difference. Kevin and I both really liked the cheese and there was a lot of it, which I never complain about :) And the (good) shrimp bumped up the toppings score for Kevin. The Spinach Artichoke pizza, however, was a disappointment. It was basically their Spinach Artichoke dip on a pizza crust, but the Spinach Artichoke dip just wasn't very good.

Overall, the Pizza Tower has a great pizza and menu selection, even if the pizza is "meh," as Kevin put it. The beer selection isn't great, but hopefully you'll get there in time to try their 1/4 pound chocolate chip cookie! We saw someone walking out with one when we got there, but by the time we ordered one, they were all out. The brownie sundae with (lots! of) soft serve and chocolate and caramel sauce was a pretty good substitution though.

If you have kids and live closer than we do (they're all the way up near Kings Island), this is definitely a family-friendly place you don't want to miss out on (they even have a rewards program too!).

Pizza Tower on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where they all fall

Look, there really is someone besides Melissa doing Pizza Nights! Nik and I really aren't made up people that Melissa created just so she doesn't look like a glutton eating 2 pizzas in a night (actually I'm the resident glutton who eats the most pizza).

So a few weeks back, Melissa put up a top ten list on the sidebar. She explained how she came up with the overall rankings on a post when the top ten list debuted. This got me thinking about my sole prior contribution to the blog (besides of course the fact that I eat pizza and write down some numbers) where I made some graphs of our rankings. So I thought it was time to make some new graphs. Behold the rankings of all 33 places we've blogged on (we had pizza night last night, but I don't have the numbers to include number 34).

Let's kick it off with the overall rankings. As a reminder the breakdown of how we get our overall ranking:

Appearance - 10%
Aroma - 10% (remember I don't contribute to this one because my sniffer doesn't work well)
Overall Taste - 30%
Pepperoni Pizza - 20%
Specialty Pizza Options/Menu - 15%
X-Factor - 15%

Nothing surprising on the top here, since that's what's on the sidebar. I was a little surprised at first to see Hyde Park Pizzeria and The Rookwood so low on the list here. When I went back and looked though, we didn't have rankings for pepperoni pizza, so Excel put in a zero for the 20% of the ranking that gets attributed to pepperoni. In reality, they are much higher. The Rookwood isn't really a pizza place (we went because we thought they had a pizza special, but it really ended the week before). For Hyde Park Pizzeria, perhaps that's a sign that we need to revisit for a more accurate ranking.

Speaking of pepperoni pizza, how do they stack up in that category?

We can see the missing Rookwood and HPP rankings here more clearly. It's probably not too surprising that the top of the list looks a lot like the overall ranking (even though the pepperoni pizza only contributes to 20% of the overall). I think one of the saddest things about this graph though is that the top ranked pizza, Balboa's is no longer in business.

Finally, for the X-Factor.

No surprise on the top 2 here, we all loved the mission of Venice on Vine and the atmosphere of Buona Vita (felt like eating with family even if it was in a bank valut).

Hope you enjoyed these as much as me!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mt. Adams Pizza and Deli

Last week Nik headed up the hill to Mt. Adams Pizza & Deli to use our Groupon for pizza night. He picked us up our usual Pepperoni pizza and a white pizza with chicken, sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese (and olives on half):

Here's how they scored:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 4.08
Aroma (overall): 4.00
Taste (overall): 4.42
Crust - 4.50
Cheese - 3.50
Toppings - 4.25
Sauce - 4.17
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 4.33
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 4.33
X-factor: 3.50

As you can see, Mt. Adams Pizza & Deli easily moved in to our top ten. Why? Because they're crust was fantastic! Kevin thought it was an excellent example of a very well done "doughy" crust - the bottom was well cooked, but the inside was nice and fluffy doughy. They also have a whole wheat crust, but Nik forgot to get it. The sauce had a great flavor as well - nicely spiced and perfectly spicy.

Mt. Adams Pizza & Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Venice on Vine

Venice on Vine has been on our list of places to try since the beginning of our quest for the best pizza in Cincinnati, and last week presented the perfect opportunity to give it a try. It was my turn for pizza night, and The Lackman, conveniently located right across the street from Venice on Vine, had a Bell's Brewery beer tasting. So after work I stopped in The Lackman to finally get a pint of Bell's Hopslam that I've been wanting to try for the last month, and it was delicious. I then headed across the street to order a Pepperoni pizza and a Sausage and JalapeƱo pizza.

For those of you who are not familiar with Venice on Vine, it provides on-the-job training to inner city residents who are trying to better themselves and their families, provided by the nonprofit “Power Inspires Progress”, run by two Catholic nuns. They work at Venice on Vine to learn the ins and outs of restaurant life to prepare for future job/career opportunities. So, as you can imagine, we really want to like the pizza. But, here's how they scored:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 3.33
Aroma (overall): 3.75
Taste (overall): 3.17
Crust - 2.33
Cheese - 3.58
Toppings - 3.50

Sauce - 3.33
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.08
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 3.00
X-factor: 4.75

Just practicing my photography... :)

The main reason for the low score(s) was that the crust was not done enough/the pizzas weren't cooked long enough. The middle of the pizza was basically raw dough, though the edge crust was nice and crisp and with a delicious garlic butter. Kevin thought that the spiciness of the sauce overwhelmed the pepperoni and the sausage, while I just thought that the sauce was too oregano-y (I guess not a surprise at this point....). I was impressed that their sausage is housemade, but I wasn't impressed with the taste. While Nik liked the sausage, I thought it didn't have any flavor and basically tasted like ground pork on the pizza, which I didn't care for.

We all stronly support the mission of Venice on Vine, which is why the X-factor score is so high. I would have given them a 5, but when I went in and ordered the pizza, I could hear them complaining about having to make them since the pizza ovens are right behind the ordering counter (it was 6:45 and they close at 8). If they took their time and cooked the pizza properly (and if I got something other than sausage), I think we would've really enjoyed the pizza and the scores would have been much higher. So support Venice on Vine and give them a try, I know I will again.

Venice on Vine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lucy Blue Pizza

....and we're back! After 4 weeks, we were finally all back in town for pizza night last Thursday. Kevin was up and chose a Pepperoni pizza and a Greek pizza (without the olives since Kevin and I aren't fans) from Lucy Blue Pizza (is it just me, or is the kid on their home page a little creepy looking?!). Lucy Blue Pizza has a few locations, but Kevin went to the Mt. Lookout location since it is the closest to all of us.

Here's what the pizzas looked like and how they scored:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 3.92
Aroma (overall): 3.88
Taste (overall): 3.33
Crust - 3.25
Cheese - 3.58
Toppings - 3.33
Sauce - 3.00
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.33
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 3.42
X-factor: 3.25

Lucy Blue Pizza didn't fare quite as well as our other pizza ventures for a few reasons: the crust was bland and became "tough;" the Pepperoni pizza was too oregano-y; they had run out of spinach for the Greek pizza; thet have a very small, limited menu; and, overall it was just ok, not great. We did like that the sauce was a bit on the spicy side and the pizza boxes had cool art work.

I actually really like the Greek pizza, but was bummed about the no spinach thing. And I gave them a little higher score for the "Specialty Pizza & Menu Options" category than I would have if they didn't have as many veggie options (mainly, the mushroom and goat cheese pizza sounds good. Ofcourse, maybe we weren't eating this late enough. Nik's only comment was: "good thing whiskey Thursday was today, because I heard you have to eat this when you're drunk." So, maybe not the best sober pizza, but it might be your best post-drinking option at 2am.

Lucy Blue Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Top 10!

An anonymous commenter recommended we add a sidebar with our Top 10, which I thought was a great idea. But then I realized that we need to somehow come up with an "overall" score for each pizza place we've tried. In order to do so, we had to figure out how we would weight each category, and decided on:

Appearance - 10%
Aroma - 10%
Overall Taste - 30%
Pepperoni Pizza - 20%
Specialty Pizza Options/Menu - 15%
X-factor - 15%

Obviously changing the percentages could effect the overall score for each place, but I think this should accurately reflect our favorites as a group (Jean-Paul's Paradiso is in my personal top 10). I'll be sure to keep this updated with each new post too! And if you're wondering why there's a repeated number, it's because there was a tie.

Happy eating!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roc-A-Fellas Pizza

Well, it looks like pizza night is on hold one more week. But, I'll tell you about Roc-a-fella's Pizza, the last pizza night we had before this brief hiatus. Nik headed out to Sharonville to pick us up a Pepperoni pizza and a Sausage, Spinach, and Ricotta pizza. Unfortunately, they burnt one of the pizzas. They offered the burnt one for free, or Nik could wait for them to make another. Nik chose to wait for another, but that meant that the one pizza that was already done and not burnt sat there while they re-did the burnt pizza. Apparently the people working there were nice about the situation, but it still made it a little difficult to judge fairly since the pizza(s) was not very warm. In any case, here's how they scored:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 3.83
Aroma (overall): 3.75
Taste (overall): 3.92
Crust - 4.00
Cheese - 3.83
Toppings - 3.83
Sauce - 3.33
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.83
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 3.50
X-factor: 3.50

And here's what they looked like:

Kevin and I both noted how good the crust was since they brush a garlic butter sauce on the edge, so Kevin liked the wide edge to the crust. However, the really sweet sauce is holding the pizza back. I usually like a sweet sauce, but this was way too sweet. I was also disappointed in the spinach because it seemed to be frozen, not fresh. Roc-A-Fellas Pizza is a solid NY style pizza, but I'd have to say that I've had better NY style pizza in the Cincinnati area.

Roc-a-Fellas on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marco's Pizza

Sorry for the lapse in blogs! We haven't been able to do pizza night the last 2 weeks due to schedule conflicts, and we'll miss pizza night again this coming week since I'll be traveling for work, but we do have 2 posts that I've been lazy on getting up. So, here's the first one, from 4 weeks ago. I braved the snowy yucky weather to head up north a little bit to pick up a couple of pizzas from Marco's Pizza in Deer Park. I had gotten a Living Social deal for Marco's a couple of weeks before this pizza night, so I was able to use it and get and hardly pay anything! On top of that, Marco's always has really good coupons on their website. Despite a little slipping around, I made it up to Marco's safely. When I pulled up to the strip mall that Marco's was located in, I expected it to be you're typical take-out pizza place and was pleasantly surprised to see it had a nice, stone wall and a little sitting area where they actually served you.

I picked us up a Pepperoni pizza (classic crust) and a White Cheezy pizza (thin crust, no bacon). Here's what the pizzas looked like (after sitting in the oven for 30 minutes since Nik & Kevin had to work later than they thought they would):

And it was mine and Nik's 4 year dating anniversary, so I surprised him with a (delicious!) Palermo torte from Servatii's (and he surprised me with flowers :)).

Here's what we thought of Marco's Pizza:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 3.42
Aroma (overall): 3.88
Taste (overall): 3.92
Crust - 4.33
Cheese - 3.25
Toppings - 4.00
Sauce - 3.83
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.75
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 4.42
X-factor: 4.08

While Marco's Pizza isn't our new overall favorite pizza place in Cincinnati, it is my new favorite "not too expensive" pizza place. I really like both of the crusts and the sauce, but unfortunately the cheese brought the pizzas down. Kevin agreed, saying that it was otherwise very good pizza, especially given that with coupons it's relatively inexpensive. I thought that the crusts were perfectly done, and Nik thought that the thin crust was like a Ritz cracker and that the cracker help up in the oven pretty well. I thought that the Pepperoni pizza was salty (in a good way) and a little greasy (but it did sit in the oven for 30 minutes once I got home). And I thought that the White Cheezy pizza was REALLY good with a nice crackery crust. What really helped out the Specialty Pizza & Menu Options and the X-factor was all the crust options and the on-line ordering system. The on-line ordering is super easy and you get to choose:
  • type of sauce
  • amount of sauce
  • crust topper: garlic butter, parmesan, or roma (for free!)
  • bake style: regular, well done, etc.
  • pizza side: garlic butter, marinara, ranch (for free!)

I would definitely pick up pizza from Marco's again, I just wish it was a little closer.

Marco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mellow Mushroom

Happy 2011! Now that we're past the holidays, we'll finally get back to our normal Thursday night pizza night schedule. This post is coming a few weeks late though as we ventured down to Mellow Mushroom in Wilder, KY the week before the holiday travel began. Mellow Mushroom was one of our (Nik and me) favorite pizza places when we lived in Durham, NC, so we were excited to take Kevin (Lilly's Pizza in Raleigh is our favorite!). We decided on the Pepperoni Pizza (I forgot the camera, so we had to use Nik's phone and the picture turned out blurry), Kosmic Karma, and Mellowterranean.

(Kosmic Karma, with the Pepperoni in the bottom right corner)


Here's how they scored:

(1-5 scale, 1=worst, 5=best)

Appearance (overall): 4.58
Aroma (overall): 4.38
Taste (overall): 4.25
Crust - 4.58
Cheese - 4.17
Toppings - 4.50
Sauce - 3.67
Pepperoni Pizza (overall): 3.83
Specialty Pizza & Menu Options: 4.33
X-factor: 3.58

Mellow Mushroom has one of our favorite crusts, our favorite toppings, and some of the most attractive pizzas so far in the quest! Here's a more in-depth look at what we thought of the pizzas - they looked like hand-tossed pizzas and we all loved the outer crust, which was covered in parmesan goodness. Unfortunately, the crust in the middle of the pizza didn't hold up very well and got pretty soggy. Luckily for Mellow Mushroom, the outer crust was so delicious that we forgot about the soggy middle. There was lots of cheese (always a good thing), so much that it would slide off (but that may have also been due to my hunger/impatience to start eating). The pepperoni were a little thick, not the typical really thin ones you get, but definitely good. Kevin thought that the marinara was on the sweeter side while I just didn't like it much. I thought that it had a weird, maybe metalic, flavor to it and needed more spices/herbs/(good) flavor. On the other hand, the pesto on the Kosmic Karma is delicious! They had run out of the tzatkiki sauce that was supposed to come with the Mellowterranean (we only found out because we asked, they didn't actually tell us), much to our disappointment. Nik and I still really liked the Mellowterranean though, while Kevin wasn't a big fan of the olive oil and garlic base.

Mellow Mushroom offers a good beer selection, which helped in their score a bit. Nik's last comment is DRUGS!!! Mellow Mushroom apparently was started by some hippies, and if you visit them, you'll understand :)

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon