Friday, November 15, 2013

Taste Test #8 - Picasso's Pizza

Let's take a moment to reflect on Chicago Pizza.

Over the past 20 years, pizza in Chicago has taken on a reputation of being all about a deep dish pie, with slices as heavy as lasagna.  Piled with cheese and overloaded with cardiac stopping toppings.

Well, it is true that there are several good restaurants and varieties that fit that description.  But I don't really see that as being real Chicago Pizza.

Those places are usually destination restaurants.  You go to Ginos East.  You go to Lou Malnati's.  You go to Giordanos.  They are fun, event restaurants where the server always delivers your pizza to the table with flexed forearms, full sized plates, and serves up the first piece to everybody.  But that's not the everyday pizza that you grab to take home to the game.

No, Chicago Pizza is much different from that.  The great thing about Chicago is that amazing pizza is located as far as the corner bar.  That's usually where you grab the pizza to take home.  (It helps that you can have a beer or two while you wait.)

True Chicago Pizza, in my opinion, is that thin, cracker-style crust, topped generously with items that create nice grease puddles on top.  And, it is always cut in squares.  Always.

I am reminded of this because today's taste test visits Picasso's Pizza, which has the closest Chicago Style Pizza in Madison.  It's not even the cracker thin crust and grease puddles that make it so (although those help).  No, it's the unmistakable aroma and hint of oregano in every bite.  It gives it a feel and a flavor that takes me back to my buddy John Hehl's house, where we'd walk to the corner bar and pick up the pizza before going back to watch the Bears play.

But we're not ranking pizza based on warm nostalgia, we're ranking it based on taste.

Overall Impression:  It's a nice neighborhood restaurant, converted over several years from being a takeout Chicago hot dog joint into a restaurant that puts out good food.  The service here is, well, serviceable.  They were busy with customers, but didn't acknowledge me until it was my turn.  I get it, but there's a recognition and eye contact missing - elements of the best customer service places around.  But, once they do make contact, they are generally friendly.  I was helped by Chadwick, who I know is the owner of the place.  In general, it's an average impression for the storefront restaurant.  Nothing bad,  nothing great.  Score: 3 out of 5

Crust:  Stands up for the type of pizza it is.  It's cracker-thin throughout.  It crisps apart on the edges when bit and the center is softer and chewy.  Even so, it hold up to the toppings, which were generous but not overboard.  Not a flimsy crust, despite its thin nature (see it's cross section in comparison to the cardboard it is sitting on).  Score:  8 out of 10

Cheese:  The cheese has a smooth quality with a buttery flavor.  It's very well spread throughout the pizza - check out how it hits the edges!  Score: 4 out of 5

Sauce:  Spread thin, but flavorful throughout.  Hints of garlic with a steady oregano seasoning to the tomato sauce.  Really great for this type of pizza.  Score:  5 out of 5

Pepperoni:  Modest in quantity, but fine in that respect.  The slices have just the right flavor, I think.  If you eat one on its own, it has a spicy snap.  But that spiciness nicely blends into the pizza so that it doesn't dominate as a flavor.  It works with the other ingredients quite well.  Score:  4 out of 5

Price/Value:  No slices here, so I had to order a pie.  Not that I'm complaining.  So, for a quick lunch it might be on the costly side, but there is a chance of leftovers!  Ah, who am I kidding?  The thinness of the crust keeps it from being too filling.  I paid $13.19 for a 14" pizza.  If this wasn't so good, I'd give it a lower score.  Score: 3 out of 5

Overall Score: 27 out of 35.  We have a new leader in the clubhouse!

Scorecard so far:

1.  Picasso's = 27 points
2.  Ian's on State = 26 points
3.  (tie) Falbo Brothers = 25 points
     (tie) La Fortuna = 25 points
4.  Pizza Pit Extreme = 21 points
5.  Costco = 19 points
6.  Pizza di Roma = 17 points
7.  Rocky Rococo = 14 points

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Warehouse Pizza - Costco

Once this exercise is done, there won't be a pizza stone unturned.

Today, we dip down into the world of mass produced warehouse food with a trip to the Costco Food Court.  I am confident that the Costco experience will be consistent across their stores, so you could probably apply this review to the Costco in your own town!

As you can see . . . a slice of Pepperoni is $1.99.  That's on the less-expensive side of what I have been eating, for sure.  IF the pizza slices were a comparable size.

This is a behemoth slice of 'za.  It's a two-hander as you carry it to the plastic picnic bench.  So, they are off to a good start.

Plus, the smell of this slice was amazing.  I was eager to eat it, with the distinctive Italian food aroma wafting up to me.  It smelled spicy.  It enticed me with the aural blend of spices. This just might be the best value yet.  Maybe.

The taste, well . . . it jumped down into the "serviceable" realm.  Not bad, but ... let's just walk through it.

Overall Impression:  Well, it's a bustling warehouse.  With efficient, but not special, service.  Counter jockey takes and fulfills my order.  That's actually fine with me.  But, you are sitting on smooth plastic benches under massive lights.  So, you don't go to Costco for the unique dining atmosphere.  Score: 1 out of 5.

Crust:  It featured a chewy crust that was the right size under the toppings and quite bready at the edges.  It was not bad, but not special. You will certainly get full if you eat it all, although you may elect to leave some of the crust edge behind unless you are famished and need a full belly for a while.  It gets extra points because it can hold the weight of the toppings pretty well.  Score: 5 out of 10

Cheese:  The quantity is fine, but the only word I could come up with was "unremarkable."  The score would go up if either the cheese seemed like a higher quality or you got a massive quantity.  They sell their pizzas as bake-at-home, too, and I'd probably add some flavorful mix to the pie before baking.  One interesting note - as I ate it, I felt like I was eating a greasy pizza, but my fingers and face weren't greasy at all.  Curious . . .
Score: 2 out of 5

Sauce:  Slightly bland.  Accessible for all.  Not the reason to buy the slice, but not a major detraction.  Score: 2 out of 5

Pepperoni:  There is a slightly smoky char flavor to the pepperoni slices, which is very nice.  I like the spiciness of what is the best feature of this pizza.  Score: 4 out of 5.

Price/Value:  Based on sheer weight alone (the photo of the pizza is on a full size plate, not an appetizer-sized plate), this is a winner.  $1.99 for mega-pounds of junk food?  Good deal.  The full pie is 18" and they get 6 slices out of it.  That's a big slice.  Score: 5 out of 5.

Overall score:  19 out of 35.  Yep.  If you happen to be in Costco and don't like Hot Dogs, this is an okay choice to get real full, real fast.  But you wouldn't seek it out. (Their Hot Dogs are the best deal in fast food - better than gas station deals!  $1.50 for a 1/4 pound+ Hot Dog and a 20oz refillable soda.  Crazy.)

Scorecard so far:

1.  Ian's on State = 26 points
2. (tie) Falbo Brothers = 25 points
    (tie) La Fortuna = 25 points
4.  Pizza Pit Extreme = 21 points
5.  Costco = 19 points
6.  Pizza di Roma = 17 points
7.  Rocky Rococo = 14 points

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Taste Test #6 - Pizza Pit . . . Extreme

Today we're stopping at the Pizza Extreme on Fish Hatchery Road.  Well, it used to be Pizza Extreme, but they merged with the local chain Pizza Pit a few years ago to become the Pizza Pit Extreme.  I was never a fan of the Pit, but always liked the Extreme.  This is my first try of the new hybrid pizza company.

Pizza Pit Extreme offers lunch specials for $4.99 as well as sandwiches, gyros, and other items.  Pizza by the slice is a big seller here, and when I walked in there were 4 thin pizza and 4 stuffed pizza varieties to chose from for slices.  In keeping with the comparisons, I went with the thin crust pepperoni.

Overall Impression:  The place is kind of a hole in the wall, which adds to the attraction for me.  As my cousin noted once, our family has a passion for meals wrapped in paper.  My pizza slice cost $2.37 with the tax, so it was a good value.  The styrofoam box wasn't all that heavy, though . . .  Score: 2 out of 5

Crust - The crust was interesting.  It works, I think.  It was a thin crust that had a compact quality where the toppings were but an airy quality at the edge.  This was a nice contrast which added to the experience.  I was disappointed (and took marks off) for the big crust bubble that grew near the edge.  A closer photo of my pizza bubble is included later in this post.  The pie wasn't topped well enough to keep the crust down, so it slid them away from where it rose while baking.  Score - 6 out of 10

Cheese - What was on the pizza was in the "fine" category.  spread a bit thin . . . thinner than I recall  from the old Pizza Extreme.  I'm suspecting that they kept the Pizza Pit recipe/method for the thin and the Extreme recipe/method for the stuffed.  Score - 2 out of 5

Sauce - The sauce was quite serviceable, with a good herbed tomato flavor.  It did have a slight sweetness, however, which held it back for me.  Still, in the category of average and good pizza sauce. This really must be the "Pit" sauce; Extreme was always more tangy.  Score - 3 out of 5

Pepperoni - They get high marks for this pepperoni.  Just what you want, a nice cured Italian flavor with a nice, crisp edge from the baking.  I liked this quite a bit.  Score - 4 out of 5

Price/Value - The price was just right, at $2.37 for the slice.  But it wouldn't fill up anyone but the smallest child, I think.  They do offer a deal for 2 slices plus a drink for $4.99.  That, also, is a good deal.  So, they get some good marks for pricing.  Score - 4 out of 5

Overall score - 21 out of a possible 35.  Fine for a quick lunch, but I wouldn't make a special trip to Madison to eat it.

It's worth noting that I plan to add the stuffed version to this review list.  I have full confidence that that slice will achieve a higher score than this one did.

Scorecard so far:

1.  Ian's on State = 26 points
2. (tie) Falbo Brothers = 25 points
    (tie) La Fortuna = 25 points
4.  Pizza Pit Extreme = 21 points
5.  Pizza di Roma = 17 points
6.  Rocky Rococo = 14 points

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

La Fortuna Makes the Taste Test List

Thanks to a reader of this blog, I was made aware of La Fortuna.  This company is a regular vendor at the Verona Farmers Market and also makes appearances at special events and parties.  I had some extra interest in an operation like this since my Uncle's friend Louie the Glove tried to make a go at selling Napoli-style, wood oven pizza out of a cart near campus a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, Louie left town before I could try the product out, but it looks like I'll get my chance with an operation with a solid track record.

They have a nice tent set-up, with a screened order + prep area, a sliding window to pass out the assembled pizzas, and a brick oven on wheels that is firey and hot and ready to cook a pizza in 90 seconds.

They have a nice menu of choices, featuring unique and fresh ingredients.  All are classically Italian, and their cheese is mainly layered thin slices of provolone and parmesan.  The result is a thin, flavorful melted cheese with an aged quality.  It comes out of the oven sizzling and quickly settles as it cools.

In keeping with the tenets of this blog, I ordered the "Bavarian," which was billed as "The La Fortuna take on a classic pepperoni pizza."  It features Organic Tomato Sauce, Provolono & Parmesan cheeses, and Red wine salami.  The salami were cut thin and were of a modest size, for a salami.  It certainly is close enough in flavor and size to be considered pepperoni for comparison purposes.

The pizza was made, and it went into the oven for a short time.

I should say that the people on hand working at La Fortuna are terrific.  Skillful, friendly, engaging, and funny.  They interacted well with customers and kept a lively conversation going with everyone.  It was clear that they have customers who come to the Farmers Market specifically for their pizza, and people in line were eager to suggest their favorites to us.

The pizza came out sizzling with the cheese bubbling like lava.  It quickly subsided and was cut almost immediately.

The pizza was about the size of a paper plate.  It is a reasonable sized serving for one.  If you're hoping to share, I'd recommend getting as many pizzas as you have people and try out the other interesting combinations they sell.

Overall Impression:  This was a cool experience that really felt close to the community.  Everyone was happy, engaged, and truly proud of the food they were putting out.  Their signs suggest that they are focused on quality ingredients, and the end result supports that.  They make you want to come back.  Score: 5 out of 5.

Crust:  This was light and airy at the edge and thin in the middle.  They portion the toppings just right for what the crust can support.  It means that they understand how important the crust is, being the foundation of the pizza.  If there were more toppings, it would flop and sog.  Instead it holds up well.  It is a basic dough, with much of the flavor coming from the wood fire in the oven.  For my personal taste, there were a few too many large bubbles.  Yet, it worked.  The crust held up well in the center, and was easy to bite yet chewy at the edge.  Score: 7 out of 10.

Cheese:  The cheese was of high quality and thinly applied.  For the type of pizza it is, it works.  It had an aged and slightly pungent flavor that you'd expect from good cheeses.  It's hard to compare to others, though it's not my favorite.  I've always been a fan of buffalo mozzarella on this type of pizza, but I agree that La Fortuna made the best choice for the flavor combinations they are creating.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Sauce:  This was tomato sauce.  It had the slight tang that you would get in a freshly made sauce with a little sweetness from added ingredients.  It serviced the dish well, but was fairly thin.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Pepperoni:  This was nice, even though it was red wine salami and not pepperoni.  The super-hot oven gave the slices a nice crisp edge, yet it retained the chewiness you'd expect from salami.  As I noted before, the flavor profile is similar to pepperoni, so it can be fairly compared.  Score: 4 out of 5

Price/Value:  The pie was $7, but they were fresh ingredients made with pride. This is not the type of thing you can just get in any town.  Still, in comparison to some of the others . . . ahh . . . it's hard to say.  I believe that this is well priced.  Not a bargain, but not too expensive to put on your list once in a while.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Overall score for La Fortuna: 25 out of 35.  It's hard to compare La Fortuna with the other pizzas in this taste test because I'd put it in a completely different food group.  The blog is generally looking for that guilty pleasure, while the pies from La Fortuna make you feel glad you went there.  You feel good after eating them.

Scorecard so far
1.  Ian's on State = 26 points
2. (tie) Falbo Brothers = 25 points
    (tie) La Fortuna = 25 points
3.  Pizza di Roma = 17 points
4.  Rocky Rococo = 14 points

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pizza Time with Falbo Brothers

We're back on the Taste Test trail with a visit to Falbo Brothers on Park Street in Madison.  According to their website, they have 6 stores in Wisconsin, 4 in Iowa, and 1 in Colorado.

Like many pizza places, Falbo Bros offers lunchtime slices, so I grabbed a Pepperoni slice.  They had a tabletop display case with round shelves of various selections.  My slice had been prepared long before I arrived, so the pizza was not hot - not even close.  I won't mark them down very much for that as it was clearly made fresh and it's hard to predict how fast certain flavors and slices will go.

The piece itself was fairly thick, although I would not consider it deep dish.  The crust heel was built up at the edge, so this pizza is baked in a deep pan.  The resulting pie had a thin crust along the bottom.

Overall impression:  Despite it being on the cool side, I was impressed by the weight and appearance of the pizza.  Their restaurant on Park Street is more of a take-out counter, although there are 2 tables available if you choose to eat in.  Score: 2 out of 5.

Crust:  The crust was a cross between a traditional recipe and a Chicago-style crust.  What makes a crust "Chicago Style?"  Shortening, baby.  There was some sort of shortening or oil used in the crust, which adds weight and depth.  It wasn't quite like a pastry pie crust, but it had that kind of texture to it.  Score: 8 out of 10

Cheese:  Falbo Brothers piles it on - at least in the slice I got.  I was impressed that the cheese layer was slightly thicker than the crust beneath it.  Big bonus points for quantity.  It had cooled quite a bit, so it's hard to determine its quality when hot.  When only warm, however, it had nice flavor, a reasonable grease content, and served the pizza well.  Score: 4 out of 5

Sauce:  The sauce is salty with a tomato and oregano flavor.  I'm a fan of oregano on pizza.  It was a thin amount of sauce, which worked fine but was less than I would have chosen.  Still good.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Pepperoni:  Not special, but straight ahead pepperoni with good flavor.  Sliced thin.  If you looked up "pepperoni" in the dictionary, this is probably what they are talking about.  Score: 3 out of 5

Price/Value:  They charged me $2 for the piece.  Seriously.  It was a good price for a slice of this flavor and weight.  Score: 5 out of 5.

Overall score for Falbo Brothers: 25 out of a potential 35.  This is a worthy contender, and I was surprised.  I have happy memories of this largely because of the low price for what I got.  I'd do it again.

Scorecard so far
1.  Ian's on State = 26 points
2.  Falbo Brothers = 25 points
3.  Pizza di Roma = 17 points
4.  Rocky Rococo = 14 points

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pizza Time #3 - Rocky Rococo's

So, have you ever looked at a fast food item and say "that doesn't look anything like the photo in the advertising?"  Well, I would say that Rocky Rococo consistently puts out fast food that looks as delicious as it's photographs.

The appearance is pleasing, as you anticipate the melty cheese and savory toppings piled upon a bountiful crust.  Yep, it looks good.
 But it's not quite as tasty as it looks, sad to say.

Rocky Rococo is a fast food pizza chain specializing in slices all day.  They do make whole pizzas, too, and are fun for a party.  Several locations have a modest, but nice, salad bar.  They also offer appetizers and a couple of pasta dishes (mainly spaghetti).  As far as quality pizza goes, it certainly compares to great pizza the same way a Whopper compares to a great hamburger.  Good for what it is, but would rarely win a contest.

Overall Impression:  I ordered a slice of Pepperoni, which took no wait whatsoever.  My food was on my tray before I paid!  This is a trade-off, because it means that my item was cooked and boxed up well before I arrived.  So, the temperature was moderate, not piping hot.  On the plus side, I was able to eat it right away.  The restaurant had ample seating, but it was basic fast-food booths and tables.  Nothing special.  It was "fine."  Score:  2 out of 5

Crust:  The crust is the main event, always.  But Rocky's takes this to the extreme.  If my pizza weighed 10 ounces, it meant that there was 9 ounces of dough.  This is a very bready pizza.  It's not bad in and of itself.  It has a slightly sweet flavor to the dough, similar to a good yeast roll.  But it was heavy and dense.  When you look at the pizza, you see a thick slice of deep dish.  But, being from Chicago, the "deep dish" part of deep dish for me is usually cheese and toppings.  Not bread.  Score: 3 out of 10.

Sauce:  The sauce has a mild sweetness flavored with oregano and garlic.  Not my favorite, but good if you like you sauce on the sweeter side.  Score: 2 out of 5

Cheese:  Barely there.  Stringy cheese, but not much of it.  Enough to look ample when you look at it.  Until you bite it and you see that it's mostly crust in the cross section.  The cheese is deceptive.  (Note:  I have had Rocky's plenty of times at multiple locations, so I know their typical product.  This was their typical product.) Results improve when you get more toppings on a Rockys pizza.  The toppings help the overall product, and cheese is not a "main" ingredient . . . just another of the toppings.  Score: 1 out of 5

Pepperoni:  Decent pepperoni with a little zest.  They describe it as "spicy pepperoni," although I wouldn't characterize it that way.  Still, it had good flavor and a bit of a crisp edge to it, which I like.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Price/Value:  This isn't bad, priced at $3.25 for a slice.  It's a heavy slice, and you certainly get full on Rocky's pizza.  But that's mainly because of the heavy crust.  I would recommend ordering a whole pizza be made up, for freshness sake.  If you order extra cheese, you'll probably be happy.  If you need people to get good and full, you won't go wrong.  Score: 3 out of 5.

One other "experience" note.  They serve it with a fork and knife, which you'll need if the pizza is super hot.  Since it wasn't, I was able to use my preferred method: hands.  But taking a bite straight from the pie can give your face that "greasy" feeling after each bite.  Take plenty of napkins.

Overall, it is what it is.  Which is not a bad thing, just be aware of what you're getting into!  Their overall score is 14 out of 35.

Overall Pizza Standings
1.  Ian's on State - 26 points
2.  Pizza Di Roma - 17 points
3.  Rocky Rococo's - 14 points

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Round Two - Pizza Di Roma

It's time to grab a slice at a place that advertises itself as serving pizza NYC Style: Pizza Di Roma at 313 State Street in Madison.

This is a quick-service restaurant that has quite an extensive menu.  Their pizza menu lists several choices, ranging from cheese at $2.95 to Stuffed Spinach at $4.95.  In addition, there is an appetizer menu featuring all sorts of deep fried treats, a salads menu, and entree menu including most any traditional Italian dish you can think of.  Oh, yeah.  Plus gyros.  They do have a website, which you can find here

As you can see, they'll do just about anything you want to chicken.

In line with the SOP, I ordered a slice of Pepperoni, which was advertised on the board for $3.75.

Unlike some of the other varieties, they had run out of pepperoni slices and had a pie that was currently cooking in the oven.  They asked if a 5 minute wait would be fine, and I agreed.  In the end, the wait was only slightly longer than if they had the pizza available and put it in the oven for the traditional re-heat.

Overall impression:  The atmosphere of the restaurant is fairly utilitarian.  Several formica booths with a flat screen television on the wall in the back of the restaurant.  The pizza came out super-hot - a large slice served on top of wax paper on a paper plate.  When you order a slice of pepperoni pizza, this is what you expect it to look like.  Score:  2 out of 5

The crust is fairly thin at the point, growing larger to the crust edge.  One characteristic that is similar between this and NYC pizza is that you have to fold it in order to eat it.  Unless you want a large slice to droop down and potentially let grease and toppings slide downward.  

The crust was chewy and firm along the bottom, but not crisp.  It was easy to fold.  In fact, if you lifted it from the crust edge, it would fold itself naturally.  This is a convenient way to eat pizza, particularly if you are on the move or standing up.  That's one thing that makes it so handy in the bigger cities - portable food. Crust Score: 4 out of 10

Cheese:  The cheese was a modest amount and quite stringy.  The type that will pull along and snap you in the chin if you aren't careful.  Score: 2 out of 5

Sauce:  The sauce is thin with a very slight sweetness.  It matched up well in the finished product.  Score: 3 out of 5

Pepperoni: There was a good quantity of pepperoni which matched the cheese pretty well.  The flavor was fine and not very salty.  It was paper-thin and soft to chew.  However, combined with the other ingredients made for a well balanced product in the end.  Score: 3 out of 5

Price/Value:  Not bad at $3.75.  I'd put that at the fair price range.  Score: 3 out of 5

Both the cheese and the pepperoni were highly greasy, creating puddles that would turn into streams as you folded and ate.  I'm thinking that this pizza might be more successful after bar time.  I'm sure they do a solid late night business.

Overall score for Pizza Di Roma = 17 out of a potential 35.  Not bad, not great.  Serviceable pizza that I would get again . . . especially after a night on the town.

Taste Test Madison's Pizza Scoreboard
1.  Ian's on State
2.  Pizza Di Roma

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Round One - Ian's Pizza on State

Today, we check out Ian's Pizza, a downtown Madison landmark right off the Capitol Square at the top of State Street.

While they can prepare custom pies, they are generally known for fresh made salads and a row of creative pizzas that are pre-made and ready to be re-heated for each order.  I call that a "NYC" model of take-out, and you are invited to correct me if necessary.  

In any case, you pick your choice and they'll pull what you want from the table and slip into the convection oven.

As mentioned in our previous blog post about Taste Test rules, I ordered a slice of Pepperoni.

The pizza at Ian's is a nice value, especially since they are located in the shadow of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building.  Most other restaurants surrounding Ian's are semi-upscale (even the "retro tavern" establishments will hit you for checks in the double-digits for lunch).  That makes Ian's an ideal location for families, students, and cheapskates like me.

The prices are $2.50 for a slice of Cheese or Pepperone, and $3.00 for a specialty slice.  Choices of specialties range from Italian specialties with basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzerella to sliced steak with french fries.  Plus, they feature a couple of creative slices a month.

You can check out their website here.

After a wait of a little over 5 minutes, I'm handed my hot slice of pizza on a thin paper plate.
I decided to take a "component" approach to these reviews.

Overall impression - the pizza was delivered super-hot, which is a mixed blessing.  You appreciate that it is hot and fresh, but you are a little annoyed that you can't eat it yet.  Still, it's a good slice. Score: 4 out of a potential 5.

Crust - it gets points for being a classic thin crust pizza.  The bottom is crispy due to the reheat process, yet the overall crust remains fairly chewy.  One danger comes when the crust bubbles up underneath the topping, creating an island of toasted crust instead of cheese.  Score: 6 out of a potential 10.  (This category is weighed heavily because crust makes the pizza, just like bread makes the sandwich.)

Cheese - had a pretty good grease level and was not overly stringy.  This is a good thing, since you don't want your toppings to pull away from the pizza with each bite.  Score: 4 out of 5.

Sauce - Accessible.  Not too sweet.  Decent.  Score: 3 out of 5.

Pepperoni - Modest in quantity and it was soft on top of the pizza.  (That's neither good nor bad, just an observation.)  It gets extra points for being quite "peppery."  Score: 4 out of 5.

Price/Value - Only $2.50 for a pretty prime piece of real estate.  Plus, the portion size is just dandy.  You really could eat just one slice for lunch, if you have that kind of discipline.  Score: 5 out of 5

So, Ian's weighs in with a solid score of 26 (out of a potential score of 35).  Pretty good showing to take the top spot so far.

Taste Test Madison's Pizza Scoreboard
1.  Ian's on State

Pizza Time!

We are resurrecting the Madison Taste Test, starting with Pizza.

Why not stick to Yelp?  Well, that's a good question.  There are many good reviews out on the internet.  I guess that I wanted to put my opinion forward in a way that will be easier for people to follow.   Easier, because you will get a sense for my taste in things and, therefore, have a good idea of what I am describing.  I will be comparing each item I eat to every comparable item.  

If it turns out that we have similar tastes, that helps target the places you might want to try when you come to the Madison area.

Okay, here are the Pizza Ground Rules:
1.  I will get a Pepperoni Slice (or pie, if slices are not available) at each place.
2.  When they offer slices ready to go, I will take it ready to go and not wait for a fresh one to be made.
3.  Rankings will be made in comparison to all others.
4.  When the restaurant claims a "specialty" in style or crust, I will order the specialty.  If they are famous for stuffed, I'll get stuffed.  If they pride themselves on thin crust, that'll be the choice.  For franchises, I'll order the "default" pizza crust style.

The first place to visit on my list will be a Madison icon . . . Ian's on State.  (You might have heard of them in relation to the protests that made national news a couple of years ago.  People from all over the world called Ian's to deliver pies to those in the Capitol Building.)

Even though Ian's was made famous locally by their late hours (past "bar time") and the resulting Mac & Cheese Pizza, I'll still get the basic Pepperoni Pizza Slice.