Monday, January 7, 2013

Green pies and other things that will come to bother you someday if you spend too much time thinking about pizza

641 S. Montford Avenue
classy lightbulbs
Many have suggested that Verde, new kid on the scene, impeccable, authentic Neapolitan, etc., is making the best pizza in Baltimore right now. A few weeks ago, Pizza Club went all-in, ordering almost every pizza on their menu to determine what the buzz is about. Since we tried so many pies (they are "personal" sized, enough for two moderately hungry people), I will simply present you with the anonymous findings of the individuals who ordered each pie (although there was much sharing, the person who ordered the pie must take ultimate responsibility for it). It should be noted that pies are divided into red or white sauce categories and cost in the $8 to $16 range.

this is a pizza montage


Padrino: "Lemony preserved olives, sharp sopprasetta, and a cheese I've never had before deliver powerful flavor. Sauce is delicious and thick, basil lovely. A bit floppy when hot."

Pizza Verde Rossa: "Really successful salad-on-a-pizza style pie with delicate prosciutto and arugula over buffalo mozzarella and red sauce - bursts of flavor from the basil and pecorino romano sprinkled throughout. Plenty of sauce, thinnish but not crispy crust."

Marinara: "This 'za was tasty though slightly bland. This is not to say 'bad.' I know that a lactard [editor's note: this blog has no position on the moral status of the lactose intolerant] should not be so critical of a slice without cheese, but this was essentially boring bruschetta. I would probably eat again though."

White Prosciutto: "Delicious crust and great ingredients, but the white sauce aesthetic falls flat."

Daily Special ('Risotto' sauce with squash and zucchini): "You see the squash but do not taste it. Savory/sweet, not enough veggies. The point of the crust was mush" [editor's note: many pies had structural problems due to crust thinness - the middle of the pie tended to collapse into mush. Some people eat pizza with a knife and fork, and this would be appropriate rather than laughable at Verde. I suppose it's not bad, but it doesn't seem like it's doing anything for the pizza. Also, this pizza was the group's favorite.]

Sorrentina: "Unique pizza with smokey cheese and lemon but TOO MUCH of one thing, should cut it with broccoli rabe or anything really. Furthermore, there were many naked slices with no topping."

Funghi: "Lameghi!"

Margherita: "Subtle, surprising, perfect balance of flavors."

Salame: "Salty at first, followed by a zesty-ness. Crust was ok. Improved as I got closer to the edge. Cheese was good but not a dominant feature."

no pizza was injured

After the ritual consumption of pizza, we regrouped to discuss the bigger issues at stake. Is Verde a standout among the recent crop of high-end gourmet pizza places popping up in Baltimore? In terms of the basics: we felt that their dough was promising but didn't deliver a good holistic experience. It was chewy and crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside around the crust, but under the cheese it succumbed to sogginess and disintegration. Such a slice cannot be lifted. Flavor-wise, however, veteran pizza-clubbers suggested that it was superior to the crust at Birroteca, a new restaurant comparable to Verde on almost every count. The red sauce was tangy and garlicky, an agreed-upon strong point, but many regarded the white sauce as bland in comparison.

In terms of the crass but very real value-for-money question, I have no doubt that Verde's ingredients are top-notch and worth the expenditure, but I'm beginning to wonder if you could make a good pizza that is more accessibly priced. The market seems to have settled on the $12-18 range for an 8-10 inch thin-crust pizza with a couple of toppings. Meanwhile, 7-11 suggests that we keep our new year's resolutions by "tightening our belts" which means purchasing their large pepperoni pizza for $9.99. Let us for the moment pass over the deeply troubling contradictions of this promotion; what I'm saying is that there should be a palatable middle ground.

No one in our group seemed to feel that Verde's pizza itself was particularly memorable, although the rustic-industrial atmosphere, some side dishes, and some nice Italian wine would make it a memorable evening out, unless you're Dan, who couldn't stop thinking about how the antique reproduction Edison lightbulbs are "massively inefficient." Heather speculated that perhaps high-end pizza will become a phenomenon similar to the corner bodega: "it becomes a matter of location, ambiance, etc. If I wanted this pizza would I go here? No, I'd go to Birroteca because it's closer. But this is good for the neighborhood." Perhaps the Baltimore pizza glut of 2012 is finally hitting home, and we can no longer recall the difference between one authentic Neapolitan pie with organic local toppings and another authentic Neapolitan pie with organic local toppings. Pizza Club is currently searching out the cheapest, most gut-busting fast-food pizza joint in Baltimore to recalibrate our critical machinery.

 5.5/8 slices