Our little group from the office is pretty understanding. I always remind them that if you go out for pizza with me, you’re taking your chances. Indeed, we’ve had some memorable highs, and unforgettable lows. And rather than just eating, I pick the pizza apart, analyze, and encourage them to do the same. Don’t just tell me you like it or not, tell me WHY! But they don’t seem to mind. If a few weeks have passed since our last pizza trip, they keep prodding me to set up another!
“Normal” people have a favorite place and they keep returning, but our group is always going somewhere different. How do we decide where to go? We’ve generally been brainstorming based on personal experience or the recommendation of a friend. Table service is a plus, because it is more convenient for a group. Some other possible factors, not all of them completely serious:
1) High ranking on UrbanSpoon;
2) Restaurant in business a long time;
3) Owner and/or namesake on premises;
4) Name ends in “o” or “i”.
I checked UrbanSpoon for the top 10 list of restaurants which serve pizza, and noticed that one of the few I hadn’t reviewed was Luigi’s, in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood (across from Gannon’s Isle Ice Cream). Founded in 1954, Luigi is still the owner and proprietor, and he is usually present and involved in the operation. So, with high hopes, we made the trek to Luigi’s for lunch. Luigi greeted us at the front door, and ushered us into one of the dining rooms. We arrived right at noon and this particluar dining room was empty, but it quickly filled. Our server was prompt, attentive, and experienced. We went with our typical order – one with everything, and one with half pepperoni.
These pizzas didn’t look like anything we’ve seen before in Syracuse. Although they appeared thick, they really aren’t Chicago deep dish style. The crust was what I would call medium-thick, 1/2″ to 3/4″. Baked in a pan, the crust was rather stiff (didn’t droop much when picked up), crisp at the edge, and had the usual fried dough characteristics of pan baked pizza. I don’t think it was a pizza shell, but one person in our group said it was similar to school lunch pizza crust.
The cheese half of one pizza looked like a dull, spongy, yellow mat. I think most pizza restaurants use one of two or three commonly sold pizza cheeses (Grande, Empire, etc.), but this cheese did not taste familiar – nor good. Both the taste and texture were strange in a way that defies explanation. One of our group said it was like “linoleum.” The mushrooms were canned, but the rest of the toppings (onions, peppers, pepperoni, sausage) were very good, and very abundant.
Finally, the sauce. Given this restaurant’s pedigree as a long time operation run by the same man, I was expecting a tasty sauce; any decent Italian restaurant should have an excellent sauce. Alas, the sauce on this pizza was seriously overcooked and very bitter. It had a brown tinge, rather than a fresh red color, and essentially no tomato taste. Instead, it had very strong and overpowering bitter and acidic characteristics. We couldn’t ignore it, because it really dominated every bite. Was this an accident, a pot left on the stove for far too long? It doesn’t matter – it never should have ended up on our pizza. And before you criticize me for making such a big deal about the sauce, you weren’t there, and those that WERE agreed with me.
As the meal drew to a close, I asked around the table for each person’s ranking on the Pizza Geek scale of 0 to 5 slices. There were three at 2.5, and one 1.5. The general consensus was that the toppings saved the day from complete disaster; there was nothing else positive to say about the pizza. The service and the atmosphere were fine. If I focus on the terribly burned sauce, I lean toward 2.0. If I give some credit for the tasty toppings, I lean toward 2.5. I feel somewhat badly about giving a poor score to someone who has spent his entire adult life (since before I was born) feeding people, but I have to be honest about what we were served. Since 2.5 falls in line with several from the group, that’s what we’ll use for the official Pizza Geek rating.
UPDATE (Sep 9, 2011) – After much thought and discussion with others in the group, I have decided to change the rating to 2.0. It really was that bad.
Summary – Pros: tasty toppings. Cons: horribly burned sauce, cheese like linoleum, “school lunch” crust.
What do YOU think? What has been your experience at Luigi’s? Did we have a bad day at Luigi’s, and they’re really better than that? Click the comment link and tell us about it!