Nothing's funnier than people heatedly arguing over the authenticity of pizza. For instance, I bet you know someone - and it might be you - who can get hilariously worked up into an unhealthy froth over the impossibility of finding real New York-style pizza in Columbus. You know, as if all NYC slices were wonderful and somehow standardized.
For the record, I've had dozens and dozens of Big Apple pizzas. Some live up to or even surpass the hype - Co., John's and Grimaldi's come to mind. But in the end, most are just decent and cheap snacks providing enough warm and filling, delightfully crispy and gently chewy sustenance to see you to the next bar.
Recently, two new tomato pie shops opened up in Columbus claiming to bring it Empire State style. Here's my notes from a little tasting of their specialty meaty pizzas, simple salads and all-important slices of cheese. Brooklyn Pizza
The pizzeria: There's more kitchen than dining room in this to-go-focused place, which has been drawing big pie-picking-up crowds since opening New Year's Day. If you do eat here, know there's only two tables, oldies music (probably) and not much else.
The house salad: No big whoop - mixed greens, pale winter tomato wedges, lots of banana peppers and croutons that had gone soggy from time spent with the salad in the fridge. The best part was its balsamic emulsion.
The slice of cheese: Extremely light on the cheese, it was decidedly ungreasy. The sauce was quite nice - lightly sweet and a bit garlicky. And the crust was top notch - thin, light, really crispy and with a terrific "chew" to it. The attractively browned edges were airy, puffy, crackly and a pure delight to bite into.
The meaty pizza: Pretty great. Called "Massimo's Porko," it came with discs of good-quality spicy Italian sausage, zesty pepperoni, slices of sweet ham and chunks of herby, parmesan-cheesy meatballs. Though slightly greasy from the sausage and pepperoni, the toppings and cheese were properly applied with restraint, allowing the grade-A crust to still shine.
The verdict: Excellent. This is the kind of pizza a savvy New Yorker would bother to travel a couple subway stops to get. New York Pizza Department
The pizzeria: Big, modern and roomy, it's outfitted with several separate dining areas, flat screens, a fireplace and even its own espresso-drink-focused coffee shop. Soporific, Weather Channel-type music plays.
The house salad: The greens could've been drained more, but were fresh and crisp. They were accompanied by big cucumber shards, red onion and carrot sticks. Its oregano-kissed, golden-Italian-style emulsion was housemade.
The slice of cheese: Nice, even though it was a bit greasy due to its blanketing of good cheese. Still, it arrived with a fine, thinnish, crispy and toasty crust with decent, oregano-y sauce.
The meaty pizza: Though quite greasy, the Four Meat Combo had crowd-pleasing characteristics from slices of mild, bratwursty sausage, salty pepperoni, black peppery clumps of ground beef, almost-thick slices of ham and a lot of cheese. The otherwise fine crust wasn't nearly as toasty and crispy as my single slices here were.
The verdict: NYPD makes good and totally believable NYC-type slices - in seemingly dozens of different varieties (amusingly even including Chicago-style). Its quality is comparable to the kind of solid, if interchangeable, "non-destination" pizza shops you find all over Manhattan - but NYPD's OSU campus setting is far more comfortable and accommodating.