Tag Archives: pizza

NYC Food Adventures: John’s of Times Square

pizza

Did it convert me to New York style pizza?

New York City is known for many things: cheesecakes, hot dogs and pizza. While I haven’t known many New Yorkers who rave about it, my friends from New Jersey are enamored of the large, thin, flexible slices and they seem to seek it all over the Bay Area (here is a hint, if you do like this style, Bluebird Pizzeria in San Leandro makes a mean NY/New Jersey style pizza). I, however, am not a fan. I love thick pizza, the thicker, the better. My favorite in the Bay Area is Zachary’s, which serves a stuffed pizza, where cheese and dough melt into an incredible combination. Beyond that, I’ll go with Chicago pizza and deep dish pizza. The only pizza I like less than New York pizza are Italian pizzas, with their often paper thin crusts.

Still, we were in New York and we had to have pizza – even though this is probably my husband’s least favorite meal. Alas, I didn’t want to go out of our way to have it, but John’s of Times Square was conveniently located next to the St. James Theater, where we had tickets to see Spamalot (amazing play, btw, totally worth going to).

John’s of Time Square is an offshoot of John’s of Bleeker Street, itself an offshoot of Lombardi’s, New Yorks’s first pizzeria. The Time Square location was opened in 1997 by Madeline Castellotti, the estranged wife of Peter Castelotti, Sr., then owner of the Bleeker St. location. Madeline Castelloti saw the potential on an abandoned church and turned it into a 400 seat restaurant. As the area around Times Square cleaned up in the 2000s, the restaurant took off and it’s now a popular – and affordable – dining location. Peter and Madeline’s children, who inherited the two restaurants, have been in some juicy family drama for the last twelve years, which is still going on and might be worthy of an Amazon Prime miniseries, but none of that is important to the enjoyment of the pizza.

And the pizza is pretty good as far as thin pizza goes. We got it with sausage and mushrooms, one of my favorite combinations, and we fully enjoyed it. The thin crust was pleasantly chewy, the sauce did its job and got out of the way, and the toppings were fresh and tasty. I really had nothing to complain about. If I had to have thin pizza again, I’d definitely go for this one.

As much as I wanted to try New York style pizza, it turns out that the pizza served at John’s of Times Square and many of the older New York pizzerias is not actually New York style. Rather, these are American-Neapolitan pizzas, made in the Neapolitan style but baked in coal rather the wood ovens they use in Naples. New York style pizza, meanwhile, is baked in gas ovens. I wonder if the difference might be on the crust – with the latter being spongier anf more flexible. In any case, we didn’t try it, so I can’t comment on it. John’s didn’t convert me into American-Neapolitan pizza, but it gave it a good try.

In addition to pizzas, John’s of Times Square serves pasta, and they sell their jarred marinara and vodka sauces. Our waitress let us try the marinara sauce and it was very good, it had a bright, fresh flavor. If I was a local, I’d buy it.

As hinted above, even more impressive than John’s of Time Square’s pizza is its building. Located in the a converted church amphitheater, John’s features an impressive stained glass ceiling. It wasn’t that much to look at in the early evening, but photos of it during the day are breathtaking. If I were to go again, I’d make sure to hit it during the day.

In addition to the stained glass windows, John’s features a beautiful, huge mural. But the restaurant itself is a very casual affair, no tablecloths here.

There are no reservations, but we were seated promptly when we arrived around 5:30 PM on a February weekday night. A line did start forming later on – but we weren’t rushed to leave. Our waitress as efficient and pleasant, and service as very good. She recommended the right size pizza given our level of hunger.

John's of Times Square


260 West 44th Street

Manhattan

212.391.7560
​
Sunday - Saturday 11:30AM - 11:30PM

Decades later, Zachary’s still serves the best pizza in the Bay Area

A review of the Downtown Pleasanton location

The first time I went to Zachary’s – at its Solano Ave. location, I was a freshman in college. I think my college friend Gina took me, she was an upper classman and had a car, pretty rare for Cal students. I fell in love. I’d never been to Chicago and had never experienced deep-dish pizza, much less stuffed pizza. I fell in love – and I’ve been in love ever since.

Zachary’s, for my husband and I, has been a place for special occasion dinners. We lived fairly close to the Solano location when we were first married, but we couldn’t afford the expensive pizzas very often. Later, the Rockridge location became the closest one to our house, but finding parking anywhere near was a pain. The San Ramon location, which came with a larger dining room and the ability to make reservations, opened up around the time our kids started to eat pizza, and we have gone there many times over the years – but it’s 20 miles from our house, so it’s not an every-week sort of thing. This is all to say, that Zachary’s continues to be a special occasion place for us, which is why I chose it to celebrate the start of my Birthday Week Extravaganza (TM).

This was my first visit to the Pleasanton location, which has replaced the now-closed San Ramon location. It’s located in the middle of downtown, and has a large parking lot in the back so parking is easy. In addition to the indoors dining room, this Zachary’s has a fenced-in sidewalk patio at the front (but you enter the restaurant through a side door), with a view of other downtown businesses and restaurants and, of course, the street. This was nice, except for one particularly super-loud car which decided to cruise back and forth and annoy everyone.

Servers wore masks and though the tables are fairly close together, the entire patio is outdoors so it felt quite safe.

The menu is pretty much the same as all other Zachary’s, consisting of stuffed pizzas, thin pizzas and salads. The stuffed pizzas are just as great as ever – I have to give it to Zachary’s, they’ve been wonderfully consistent since my first visit almost 35 years ago. In all of these years I’ve never had their thin pizza, so I can’t comment on those ones. Stuffed pizzas have abundant cheese and the toppings of your choice stuffed between two layers of pizza dough, the top layer melts into the cheese when cooked and it’s topped with stewed tomatoes. The results are just incredible. I, personally, prefer a plain pizza (with extra cheese, but my kids don’t like that) and we usually get one of these for the kids (and me, as leftovers), but my husband likes toppings. We have both found the carne pizza (sausage, pepperoni, salami & bacon) to be too salty (though he still likes it), but we are both big fans of the chorizo pizza (chorizo, green chilies & Monterey Jack), though at some locations – Pleasanton included – this is a special rather than a regular part of the menu. This time, as often, we went for the Zachary’s special (sausage, green pepper, onion & mushroom), which was very good. There was a time when the San Ramon location added very thick slices of green pepper which I didn’t like, but this wasn’t the case this time.

The Pleasanton location serves “signature cocktails” and I had a Rico Rico (aka piña colada). It was quite good, as piña coladas usually are. Nothing exceptional.

Service was efficient and friendly and we had a great time.

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza 
337 Main St, Suite B.
Pleasanton
925.600.0089
M-Th 11 AM - 9 PM, F-Sa 11 AM - 9:30 PM

Little Caesars Pan Pizza Deserves a Thumbs Up

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of Little Caesars‘ pizza when my daughter brought me my order a couple of days ago. Indeed, when I decided that I had a hankering for pizza, Little Caesars was far from my first choice. I don’t think I’ve had it for at least twenty years, since the days my husband and I were childless and broke – not that that has changed much -, had no transportation and Little Caesars was the closest pizza joint to our rented apartment. Still, as I wasn’t particularly particular as far as my pizza hankering went, I acquiesced to my daughter’s insistence that we order from there. I’ll admit it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Little Caesars offers four different types of crust (original, think, stuffed and pan), cheese and a very limited number of toppings. This is not the place to order anything fancy. They do have plant-based pepperoni, but not plant-based cheese, which sort of ruins it for vegans. The pizzas are cheap to reasonably priced, and you can walk in and pick up a ready-made large pepperoni for $9 – or so says my daughter.

I had their deep dish supreme (a “large Detroit-style deep dish pizza with Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions and Green Peppers,” $16 at the San Leandro franchise) and loved its thick, spongy, flavorful crust. The toppings were also good and well balanced; I liked the somewhat sweet tomato sauce and the onions in particular. I had hesitated before ordering this pizza as often meat toppings make the whole pie taste too salty, but fortunately this wasn’t the case here. The rectangular pizza wasn’t particularly large, but it was thick and seemed relatively fairly priced.

My daughter was happy with her stuffed crust regular pizza, but then again, she’s the one who wanted to go there.

I also got their cookie dough brownies ($3.70 for 4 small brownies), which are pretty average soft (undercooked?) brownies topped with raw mini M&M cookie dough. I promptly forgot about them, but just tried one for this review. They’re OK – not as sweet as they could be, but still too sweet for my taste (and my blood!), and definitely not worth the calories.

Little Caesars
1254 Davis St
San Leandro, CA
(510) 569 – 7499









Vegan Pizza at Home: Review of Parmela Creamery Mozzarella style nut cheese & American Flatbread Farmers Tomato Pie

Back in August we visited Las Vegas, where my daughter had the BEST VEGAN PIZZA EVER at Trattoria Reggiano at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes. It tasted so much like a real cheese pizza that we suspected it might be real cheese after all. After all, my daughter had had plenty of pizzas with Daiya cheese, including from great pizzerias like Zachary’s, and they’ve always tasted like vegan pizza.

The waitress at Trattoria Reggiano had suggested that their pizza was made with nut cheese, so when we saw packages of Parmela Creamery Mozzarella style nut cheese at our local Grocery Outlet, we had to try it. My daughter is very glad we did. While it didn’t work I tried to make an Alfredo sauce with it, it makes a mean vegan pizza.

Parmela Creamery’s cheeses are made with cashew milk, which is cultured and then aged – following a process similar to dairy cheesemaking. It’s not surprising that they taste considerably better than Daiya’s cheeses, whose main ingredient is tapioca flour.

A search online suggests that it’s not easy to find Daiya cheese in stores, though there are a couple of places that sell them online, so we need to stock up at Grocery Outlet and start looking for other nut cheeses to try. When available, a 7 oz package of Parmela Creamery shreds costs $6-7.

My daughter has been making her close-to-real pizzas by putting the cheese on frozen American Flatbread Farmers Tomato Pie. This is a thin pizza shell covered in tomato sauce with some veggies, basil and balsamic vinegar. She just covers it with the shreds and bakes it. I also found this product at Grocery Outlet, but it also seems hard to find in regular stores. Where available it should retail for about $8. I’m not sure why this product is not described as vegan – the only potentially non-vegan ingredient listed is yeast.

Rubiano’s – San Leandro – Restaurant Review

There are many positive things to say about Rubiano’s.  It’s located in a neighborhood that has long been desperate for good restaurants –  but which seems unable to keep them for long.  It’s very child friendly, one our visit there there were a couple of tables with toddlers and a guy with a friendly dog waiting outside.  The food and atmosphere are decent.  The prices are not outrageous.  And it has developed, very quickly, a large base of fans.

However, from the beginning I had heard rumblings about slow service and mediocre food, so I gave it several months to settle down before trying it.  When I finally did, last Friday night, my experience was pretty mediocre.  There is no compelling reason for going back.

We arrived at the restaurant after 7:30 PM. I had anticipated that we might have to wait to get seated, but fortunately there were spaces at the bar as well as a table for two where we could add an extra chair.  The restaurant soon got even more crowded, plus there were people waiting on the sidewalk.  The waitresses seemed to be rushing to attend to everyone.

The menu is pretty compact, which makes sense for such a small restaurant. It offers a few deep-fried starters ($6-10), a couple of salads ($5-8), simple pastas ($8-10) with your choice of marinara, alfredo or pesto sauce, stromboli sandwiches ($9) and, the piece of resistance, pizzas and calzones.  These start at $11 and $14 respectively for a small cheese, with extra toppings $1.80 to $2.40 each.  The prices are not low, but they’re in line with other local restaurants.

My daughter decided on the cheese tortellini with marinara sauce from the kid’s menu ($7), which included a drink and a scoop of ice cream.  Mike went for the meat’s lover small pizza ($19) and I ordered the meatball stromboli ($9).  What we got, however, was different.

It took me a while to conclude that there were no meatballs in my stromboli.  I had been surprised to not find them in the first few bites, but I figured they might have ended up at the ends. No such luck. The stromboli I got had cheese and tomatoes/tomato sauce, and some long, thin strips of something which I assume were artichokes.  There were no meatballs and no olives (as advertised for the artichoke heart stromboli) though there was some basil.  It tasted fine, though it was a bit too doughy for the amount of filling and the different ingredients weren’t completely harmonized.  The basil was a tad too bitter, and  yet it’s what gave the dish its fresh flavor.  I decided not to send it back because I figured that it would take another fifteen minutes to get the right stromboli, and I was pretty hungry.    Even without the meatballs this was a pretty messy dish, you need a fork and knife to eat it discretely.

The stromboli came with a side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, green peppers and croutons with your choice of dressing.  I was pretty good.

My daughter’s troubles with her food actually started earlier.  She had ordered a raspberry iced tea, but what she got was a plain, unsweetened ice tea.  It turns out that they don’t actually carry the raspberry tea advertised on the menu.  The waitress happily substituted it for a diet-pepsi.  She did get her order of tortellini right, though instead of bringing her a kid’s size portion as she had ordered and billing accordingly, she brought a regular portion.  Thus a $7 meal, which included a drink and dessert, became an $12 one. She didn’t charge us for the ice-cream, however.   Not a big deal, but yet another mistake that shouldn’t have happened.

Mika liked the tortellini, she thought the marinara sauce was fine though she left most of it on the plate.  The adult-size serving was fine for an adult-size appetite, but not particularly generous.  She didn’t have leftovers to bring home.

Mika and I were almost done eating our meals by the time Mike got his pizza.  The meats had a very nice smokey flavor, though the saltiness in them pretty much overwhelmed the rest of the pizza.  This, of course, is a problem for meat-heavy pizzas, which is why I personally don’t order them.  He liked it well enough.  I thought the dough was pretty nice, a bit tough and a bit chewy but with a good flavor.  I prefer thick-crust pizzas, however.  I couldn’t taste much of the cheese and sauce because of the flavor of the meats.  The pizza didn’t keep that well, however. By the next day the smokiness on the meats had become much weaker and, eaten cold, it wasn’t particularly compelling.

Service was rushed but friendly.  There were obviously two pretty major mistakes.  The fault on the stromboli lies with the kitchen, it appeared correctly on the bill.  The other mistake was the waitress’, but I can’t really blame her because the place was very loud and she seemed so rushed.  We paid the bill – after all, she had consumed the food and we were ready to go-, but I would be careful of examining it and the order carefully if we returned.

As a final note, before writing this review I included a brief summary of the experience on my San Leandro Talk Facebook page.  One of the cooks from Rubiano’s chimed in to say that I should have either spoken up then – though he did recognize it would have taken at least 10-15 minutes for me to get the right stromboli if I had done so – and should “shut up” now.  He also made some comment about how I am not a San Leandro native.    That type of anti-customer attitude makes me doubly-reluctant to return to the restaurant.

Rubiano’s

600 Dutton Ave, Unit C
San Leandro, CA
(510) 553-1000
http://www.rubianos.com/
M-Su 11 AM – 10 PM

Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta – Red Bluff, CA – Restaurant Review

Mike, the kids and I have now gone to Luigi’s for dinner twice – once, in May 2012, when coming back from the Redding area after watching the amazing lunar eclipse, and more recently, last November, when coming back home from Oregon.  Both times we had quite a good meal.

There are two words to describe Luigi’s (OK, maybe they should count as tree): cheap and large portions.  Indeed, Luigi’s has the largest variety of pizza sizes we’ve ever seen.  You can get a 10″ mini – but also a 30″ “Big Luigi”.  It’s big enough for a large crowd.

I can’t recall exactly what we’ve had in those two occasions, but I know we’ve sampled both the pizza and the pasta and we’ve been happy with both.  The pasta seems freshly made (but I’ve only had their beef ravioli, $4.60), their huge meatballs are quite tasty and the pizza features fresh ingredients.

There is another pizza restaurant in Red Bluff I want to try, but this one is conveniently located by the freeway and easy to find, so I’m sure we’ll stop by again.

Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta
75 Belle Mill Rd.
Red Bluff, CA
530-527-9227
Su-Th 10:30 AM – 9 PM
F-Sa 10:30 AM – 10 PM

Marga’s I-5 Restaurant Reviews
Marga’s Restaurant Reviews: Outside the Bay Area

Papa Johns ( the best ever!!!)

I am not Marga I am Mika her ten year old daughter and I think Papa Johns is amazing,  their crust is soft and fluffy, it has yummy cheese and wonderful sauce I have no idea why my mom would write such plain reviews on them I would give them a million stars if the rating chart went up that high. I can’t stop eating their pizza and the slightest whiff of it is mouth watering! Their pizza is sweet and savory at the very same time, I give them a thumbs up to building more and more pizzerias and over the entire pizza businesses in the worlds! I want pizza now!

Thanks and keep eating Papa Johns pizza!

Mika!!!

Bellafoglia and California Pizza Kitchen Frozen Pizzas – yuuum

Tuesdays are a hard dinner day for me.  The kids have classes until late, so we don’t get home until 5:30, and then Mike has to go and rush to make it to his School Board meetings.  While I love cooking, I don’t like cooking when I’m rushed and I don’t particularly want to cook just for the kids and I (if I make what they want, I won’t be happy, if I make what I want, they won’t be).  So often times, if we have no leftovers, we rely on take out or frozen food.  Last night was one of those nights, so I headed to Grocery Outlet for some frozen pizza.

Generally, Grocery Outlet has tons of choices, but this time they were more limited.  The kids only like cheese pizza, so I went for this California Pizza Kitchen version.  I’d had the CPK frozen pizzas before, and I’d liked them.  Well, so did the kids.  While they still prefer take out pizza, they were perfectly happy to eat this one.  We got the version that comes with the flat bread appetizer, and the kids pronounced the bread the “best bread ever”.  It’s pretty good, and it tasted garlicky to me, but I didn’t tell them that :-).  I didn’t try the spinach artichoke dip as that’s not my thing.  This pizza was available at GO for $4. It’s think crust, so it pretty much only fed my two hungry kids.

For me, I got a Bellafoglia pizza with a bunch of toppings ($4).  I’d never heard of the brand, but I’m glad I gave it a try.  This was by far the best frozen pizza I’ve ever had.  The cornmeal crust had a lot to do with it, it was just crunchy enough, just salty enough and just very good.  The cheese and toppings were good quality and were well balanced.  I did some research when I came home, and found out that Bellafoglia is a product of Hayward’s Pacific Cheese Co. a cheese supplier.  Sizewise, this pizza may be enough for two adults, but probably if they eat a salad or something else as well.  I ate half of one, and was hungry later in the evening.

In all, I think I’ll keep a few of these pizzas in my freezer for nights just like last’s.

 

Round Table Pizza – San Leandro – Review

Last night we went to Round Table Pizza on East 14th.  I’d gotten a $24 worth of pizza for $12 gift certificate at Got Daily Deals, and I wanted to put it to use.  We got a large cheese pizza and a medium King Arthur supreme (a meats/veggie combo), a couple of drinks, and it come out to about $10 over the gift certificate. Definitely pricy, but we didn’t use any other coupons.

I thought the pizza was pretty good.  The cheese, in particular, was quite nice and there was plenty of it, specially in the cheese pizza.  The King Arthur pizza was a bit too salty for me, but that’s what happens when you get multiple meats in a pizza.  In all, we felt the pizza was OK, but only marginally better than Papa John’s, which is much cheaper (and closer to us). I may go again to Round Table, if there is a very good deal, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

The restaurant, btw, is a bit divish.  You order at the counter, and can seat in a booth or table. They have a TV showing sports and it’s sort of dark. It has no decor to speak of.  When we were there, a Saturday around 6 PM, the place was quite empty.

Round Table Pizza
15255 East 14th Street
San Leandro, CA
(510) 278-3002
www.roundtablepizza.com

Marga’s San Leandro Reviews

Marga’s Chain Restaurant Reviews

Red Baron By The Slice Pepperoni Pizza – Review

With the kids out of town I haven’t been cooking as much as I normally would, which means I’ve been relying on whatever frozen food I find at Grocery Outlet.  That’s very much of a hit and miss, but as far as frozen food goes, Red Baron by the Slice Pepperoni Pizza ($2 at GO) is a hit.  The pizza slices come in their own baking trays, so all you have to do is take them out of the plastic and put them in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.  Unlike most other frozen pizzas, these slices actually crisp up.  They have a medium crust, light tomato sauce, enough real cheese and pepperoni.  They are pretty tasty, not pizzeria quality, but quite good for frozen pizza.  At 360 calories and 15 grams of fat they’re not great for you, but they could be worse.  In all, not a bad choice for lunch.

Note: the box offers two ways to cook it, I went for the simple one, it may be even crispier if cooked the other way.