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.