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