Hard to believe that our sojourn at the beach is almost over and in about a week of sleeps we’ll be trading our walks on the sand for the icy sidewalks of my home town. Well as Dorothy says, “there’s no place like home” even if it is a little blustery. But before we go, a promise is a promise, so I’m here to share with you what I have learned while at the sea. About pizza that is. Since I seem to have eaten my share of it this visit. And this year, unlike last, when the purveyors of donuts remained anonymous, I’m going to name names which I’m guessing might be somewhat more helpful should you ever find yourself down here longing for a slice. Because there are a whole lot of pizza joints in this neck of the woods, each and every one of them professing to be the best. But that’s not possible, is it.
Before I continue I have a couple of things to say, as this whole “review” thing is a bit of a departure for the Shallow Gal. The first is that pizza is my favourite food so I’m usually happy when I’m eating it. The second is, as you may have read in one of my “get to know me better” posts of the past, my relationship with food is somewhat pedestrian and I pretty much like whatever other people cook for me. And since other people always cook pizza for me there’s a good chance that I’m not only going to eat it, I’m probably going to like it. So, as you read this review you may discover that I’m not as discerning as some of those “Yelpers” you rely on to guide you through your dining deliberations. As a matter of fact, I myself employed their expertise to determine where to start and which shops to eliminate at the get go. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only so much ‘za you can eat without undoing the benefits of the long walks on the beach, not to mention the hours of tedious pounding on the treadmill to lose those extra few pounds that anyone my age knows are persistent, to say the least. There they are, the caveats. Now, for better or worse, here are my thoughts on a rather small but discerning sample of the local pies, in chronological order.
Our initial tasting, ironically enough, occurred the moment we arrived in our temporary home. You know what it’s like. You’ve been travelling for the better part of a day and the last thing you want to do is cook, especially when to do so, you’re going to have to stop by the local grocer and since you’re already hungry, you’ll likely fill your basket with a bunch of stuff you know you shouldn’t eat, but will. So instead, we stopped by Urban Pi, an eatery we had passed by many a time last year but never had a chance to visit. At least we knew it had been around awhile. I’m going to lump this one together with Blaze (surely you’ve seen that review) as they have a lot in common. It’s a great concept. Pies made right before your eyes. You walk down the line, choose from an array of fresh ingredients, and shortly after you find a table, your piping hot, wood-fired, thin and crispy crust pizza arrives. And here’s the kicker. Regardless of how many toppings you pick, and let me tell you, there are plenty, this pie’s going to cost you 8 bucks. No “extra cost premiums” in this place. You want “shaved organic carrot”? It’s yours. “Jidori free range chicken breast”? Just ask. Red sauce or white, this one’s worth a try. Lots of salads, soups and “sweetie pi” desserts to round things out. The downside. In an effort to get more bang for your 8 bucks you’ll be tempted to add one too many toppings. Remember, this is thin crust, and like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, add too much and you’re bound to find a pile of marinated artichokes smack in the middle of your lap.
Another night, another Zumba class and, for the sake of all, I need to take-out. We decide to stop by Bongiorno, which earns a consistent 4-5 star rating by the local food pundits, securing their place at the top of the pizza parlour heap. Like New York style pizza? Yearning for a slice you can fold? Then this is your place. Nestled in a rather nondescript strip mall, this gem shines and but won’t need me to tell you this. These are thin crust, oven-baked pizzas that will have you coming back for more. You’ve got some options here. Not famished? In true “big apple” style you can grab yourself a slice or two for the road. Hungrier? Build the pie of your choice and watch them pop it into the oven. Takes a little longer but worth the wait. Only medium and large here but it’s a no brainer. Go for the gusto. For an extra 2 bucks you’ll have lunch the next day. Just a few blocks from the beach this is an immaculately clean, retro diner (black and white checkerboard floor, red chairs, the whole kit and Kaboodle) that will make you think you are in California, back in the day.
Let me tell you, one of the problems with reviewing multiple eateries in one post is coming up with a variety of ways to refer to them. Our next “peatery” (my new term for a pizza eatery) was a direct result of reading the reviews in our quest for the best. A little down the road from us in Leucadia is Pandora Pizza, and even though we have driven by it many a time in our travels on Hwy. 101, this was our first time through the front door. To be fair, it is well liked by the locals so, just because it wasn’t my favourite doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try. Thin crust, wood-fired pies with both “in and out of the box” options (their terms and I suspect a nod to their namesake Pandora) that include toppings like duck confit, are named after a fine selection of Greek and Roman gods. Now I’m no expert on mythology but when Jupiter offers me avocado, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest and sea salt, I gotta say that’s my kind of pie. Unfortunately it was also my pie for a couple of hours after I ate it which reminded me that sea salt just isn’t the same without the chocolate.
Ok, we thought we were done. I mean how much pizza can a person eat? And yet, we found ourselves pulled, compelled actually, to make a final stop at what is perhaps the most iconic “grub and grog” stop in our little beach town, the Pizza Port. Where else will a “Laguna” come with olives, mushrooms, onions and artichoke hearts? Add a zesty tomato sauce and lots of mozza and you have yourself one heck of a meal. No fine dining here. You order at the counter, find a seat at one of the picnic tables and wait until they blast out your name over the loudspeaker. If you want the quintessential beach experience, and the chance to meet some really gnarly surfer dudes and dudettes while munching on a great piece of pie, this is the place for you. Oh yeah. Did I mention the fine selection of local brews to wash it all down? Just remember to brush the sand off your feet before you jump into bed at night.
So that’s it. We’re on our way home and it’s been a slice. Next year FroYo, or burgers, maybe bagels. You never really know, do you.