Friday, November 7, 2008

Pizza the Hut

In my quest to introduce Bug to a decent AND authentic (as possible) deep dish pizza joint in Cleveland, we landed at Angelo's while doing a Google search for "deep dish pizza Cleveland."

A little history...

I don't like pizza. After years of eating Pizza Hut's super supreme pan pizzas every Sunday with my family, it ruined pizza for me. I despise buttery, thick pizza crusts. I hate raw onions. I can't stand raw bell peppers. These weekly torture sessions further reinforced my dislikes, since I was forced to eat the raw onions and occasionally gagged when I wasn't able to fully swallowed them. Once, I had to pull a particularly long string of onion, 3/4-swallowed, from my throat because it wouldn't go down.

Despite my disdain for pizza, for the past few months, I've been fondly describing to Bug the amazing deep dish pizzas we used to eat when I was a child. There was an awesome Chicago-style pizza place in Niu Valley that disappeared not long after.

I have a feeling that people back then were boxed into their definition of pizza, with only Pizza Hut and Shakey's pizzas as the major pizza joints in Hawaii, and Pizza Hut's now infamous "pan pizza" had not yet been marketed anywhere, which led to the demise of that Chicago-style pizzeria. I had never been to the restaurant, since we always ate it at home. I have no recollection how they got to the house -- delivery or pick-up. Magic?

Their deep dish pizza was filled at least 2" high with intertwining vegetables, cheese, and meat. It was like a baked casserole, except with a thin breaded crust on the bottom and sides. It was so massive that, even ordering a small, our family of three had leftovers. Eating it was like struggling in quicksand or watching Pizza the Hut (Spaceballs) talking, but more pleasant. Oodles of gooey cheese and vegetables all over the place. While they probably had onions in them, these are, after all, "fond memories" so that trauma has been smudged from memory.

A few years after my memory of the pizzeria faded, I found myself eating at a bustling pizza place in California with my mother and her friend -- Uno's. It was packed. Apparently, reservations were required. We still had to wait to get in. I remember being told this was a famous place, which was rather redundant by how frenetic it was.

There was a large party of people who were near our table. I would occasionally catch a stray murmur against the drone and clanking of diners that it was the LA Lakers. *shrug* I wouldn't know the difference. It's not like pro basketball players wear their jerseys while they're out and about. And in the unlikely chance I recognized someone and they wore their jersey, I'd roll my eyes. These people were really, really tall, really, really big people. Plus, people were pretending to not notice them and stealing glances occasionally, so the story seemed plausible.

Fast forward over 25 years later with Bug and I sitting at Angelo's in Lakewood. I wanted to check out some pizzas that probably sound utterly disgusting to most people...

- Seafood pizza: "lobster cream sauce, shrimp, crabmeat, fresh spinach and provolone cheese"
- Artichoke pizza: "roasted red pepper pesto sauce, artichokes, red peppers, roma tomatoes" -- hold the red onions

Bug, the pizza fan, wants to try:
- Bourbon chicken pizza: "chicken marinated in bourbon sauce, traditional sauce, provolone cheese and roasted veggies"
- Taco pizza: "taco meat smothered with Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, topped with black olive and onion, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream on the side"

The Bourbon chicken pizza actually scared me, since I had this feeling it would taste nothing like the awesome bourbon chicken at all the cajun places at malls run by Chinese people. And if it did, I don't know if I'd like it without rice. I ordered a small deep dish bourbon chicken pizza anyway.

Bug loves taco pizza, so he ordered a small deep dish taco pizza. He retells his adoration for taco pizza that he had back home - back when he ate taco pizza at Pizza Hut every week with his buddies.

We ordered battered, deep fried mushrooms as an appetizer. They were pretty good. The mushrooms were molten. Their marinara sauce wasn't bad. It was a little peppery and umm tomatoey. From what my scalded tongue detected, the breading was tasty. Without setting it aflame and making a Cirque du Soleil show of it, or using a variety of gourmet mushrooms, it's impossible for deep-fried mushrooms to be memorable.

30 minutes later, a large taco pizza and a small bourbon chicken pizza arrive. I looked at the taco pizza and then our server quizzically. She confirmed that we ordered two small pizzas and amended the check to reflect the order.

The bourbon chicken didn't taste like bourbon chicken at the mall. It tasted like marinated brown sauce chicken. The crust was doughy, not too different from "pan pizza." The pizza wasn't particularly bad, but not being a fan of chicken to begin with set the bar impossibly high to be satisfying. Stuff wasn't slithering around in my plate oozing to escape. I quietly ate 1 slice of my bourbon chicken pizza.

The taco pizza was not bad. I took a small slice and ate it. I like lettuce.

Bug was disappointed. I'm not sure if anyone will ever make a great taco pizza to match his fond memories. I keep nudging him to make his own pizzas, since he adores them.

Based on the marinara sauce from the breaded mushroom appetizer, I'd be tempted to try their spaghetti. I'm really not sure if I'll get that chance. The more we try other pizza places around town, the more Donato's solidifies its place in Bug's heart as the best, most consistent pizza place in town...even though they don't have his beloved taco pizza.

- Cassaendra

13715 Madison Ave
Lakewood, OH
Tel: (216) 221-0440

1 deep thoughts:

Michael V of Seattle, WA 30 November, 2008 23:41  

If you want a deep dish pizza, try something Chicago Style. I heard that there is a Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due in Cincinnati. Here is a link from Wikipedia:

The CEO of the consulting firm I work for took me to the original one. We waited about 45 minutes for a table but it was worth every single slice.

In my opinion, Chicago Style pizza is the only way to go.


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