Pizza Club sometimes wakes in the dead of night paralyzed by the terror of eternal recurrence. If there are a finite number of pizzas, and a finite number of pizza parlors, must not the same pizza reappear again and again in different times and places? Nietzsche suggests that there is no escape from this iron law of the universe and Pizza Club's function is to write this review over and over. Even as the mundane world is wracked by paroxysms of change and capitalism vomits up its bilious stream of innovations, we'll always be sitting at the same vinyl-topped table and eating the same pretty average pizza. Except at the new Maria's of Hampden, where there is no table.
We recently found ourselves once again in that basement corner of Keswick and 36th, a site once associated with Angelo's Big Slice, the "biggest" slice of "pizza" in Baltimore. The Big Slice died an ignominious death and now haunts the retirement tower on Roland and 40th. Its ghost is still tasty enough and they need your business so get up
there and support Angelo's while enjoying a fantastic view. Meanwhile, the corner shop at 36th and Keswick was commandeered by a Frankenstein's monster, 36th Avenue Pizza, stitched together from spare parts. We did not have the opportunity to sample this pizza before the venture self-destructed.
Currently Maria's, a dine-in/carryout in Parkville, is attempting to operate a Baltimore branch in the same accursed corner. First mistake, Maria, is that the space has plenty of room for seating but you have not obtained tables. We are used to sitting under the awning outside Angelo's to eat gross slices of pizza. Baltimore's memory is long. Go to Home Depot and buy a plastic table. The bereft interior, combined with the forlorn 36th Ave Pizza sign still hanging out front makes us think that Maria's is hesitant about making a commitment to the location.
Pizza Club has no reason to believe that certain pizzas in New York City don't taste exactly like the greasy, sweet, bready pizza produced in Maria's ovens. Indeed, one Pizza Club member compared the cheese pies to a recently-scarfed dollar slice obtained around Union Station. Thus, some will call it passable New York style pie, which they may use as a synonym for what Kate called "totally reasonable" fast-food pizza. Plain, pleasantly crisped, mild and inoffensive. The free pepper flakes, garlic salt, and parmesan are there for a reason, but you need to remember to take them with you in a little plastic container because there's nowhere to sit. The price is right -- Maria's wants you to embrace the circularity of the universe by buying one large cheese pizza and getting the second for a dollar. For good measure, Pizza Club did this twice.
We observed that the large pies look much less appetizing coming out of the oven than the smaller ones, perhaps a consequence of heat distribution challenges. Maria's friendly teenage workers humored our questions about the principium individuationis and helped us stack up the pizza discounts. We left them to their fate and marched up 36th Street in a ragged pizza procession to share our shame with the denizens of the mostly-empty Belgian beer hall where you're allowed to bring your own self-destructive food preferences.
The cheese pie, as noted, was chewy and bland but pretty reasonable for what amounted to like $4 per pie. A mushroom and pepper pie did not inspire much interest. The exotic entry, a Greek pizza, was laden with vinegary pepperonchini which gave it some spice and flavor interest but did not strike us as especially Greek. The white-bread style crust is sturdy enough to support numerous toppings. Ben speculated that this pie would be good next-day pizza, but we were not able to investigate this as we gave away the leftover slices to the crust punks encamped in the vestibules of the Avenue.
"This is not great pizza," said Ben. "It is rubbery and sweet and not too flavorful. It is good pizza." When in Hampden, Pizza Club prefers Bella Roma or an Indian pie at Philly's Best. We spent a lot of time discussing Maria's selection of the classic pizza box design that depicts a brutalist courtyard in perspective with a giant flaming pizza sun setting behind a restaurant. Or is the fiery pizza sun rising? We are indifferent.