Last Friday after a morning spent blogging at Amici Espresso on Mulberry I had a yen for pizza and the desire to hoof it. Gusto and Flour were on the short list until I settled for La Pizza House on S.E. 14th.
If you recall, the 58-year-old La Pizza House closed last August after owner Russ Reel celebrated his 86th birthday. It turns out that retirement didn’t sit well with Russ. So with former KC BBQ restauranteur Bob Etzel II at the helm, La Pizza House returns, and Russ gets the opportunity again to meet and greet the generations of regulars who come for the classic postwar pizza pies La Pizza House is famous for.
If one can call it a fond memory, I remember an occasion where I almost choked to death on a La Pizza House pie when I was a wee lad barely past the age of ten.
I had bitten into a slice of pizza and most of the cheese atop came along for a ride. Being stupid I tried to swallow it all down but found that the mass of cheese was still attached to the slice by a thin, stringy strand of melted mozzarella. Finding myself unable to swallow or breathe, I tugged on the cheese strand for what seemed like an eternity until the chew-up cheese ball came out. I forget if I returned to the half-digested chunk of cheese or not.
Now that I’ve put off your appetite, I’ll get back to my quest for pizza.
Unsure if La Pizza House had lunch hours I Googled up the details and found they did not. I resolved to kill some time with a visit to one of my favorite neighborhood bars, L.C.’s Corner Bar at S.E. 4th & Jackson, for Jim Beam on the rocks and Walker, Texas Ranger on the tube. After another Jim Beam and a black & white episode of I Dream of Jeannie, I was ready to roll.
Arriving at La Pizza House as the doors opened for the day, I took a seat at the bar and ordered up a half-order of the famously orange-tinted onion rings and a small pie with pepperoni and onion. Noticing on the menu that the pizza came in three levels of spiciness, I ordered hot.
Look at the size of this half-order of onion rings!
A small pie: Pepperoni and onion with "hot" sauce.
The half-order of onion rings turned out to a plateful so generous that the rings hung over the sides and onto the counter top. Lightly salted out of the fryer, the crunchy rings needed no further seasoning for my taste. The average American palate will prefer and extra dash or two of table salt.
The oval-shaped pie I was served was a tomatoey delight. So many places offer up a scant amount of sauce, but here it took center-stage. As for spiciness it was a knockout! La Pizza House takes their sauce and adds crushed red pepper to it according to the level of spiciness you desire. I’ve had my share of pies with crushed pepper sprinkled atop in great portions, but when cooked in sauce, the flavor and heat blossoms. Chile-heads will love it. I’d eat it over enchiladas! The rest of you: AVOID unless you’re looking for a Maalox moment. And need I mention the next day?
I was rather taken aback by the generous portion of pizza sauce. I had not remembered La Pizza House pies as being this saucy. Perhaps a consequence of ordering spicy?
Another surprise was how well the crust held up. Normally, the crust on sauce laden pies tends to get soggy in the middle, as I find at my favorite south-side spots, Bordenaro’s [see blog post] and Tavern South [see blog post]. The crust I had this night was wonderfully crisp, but only slightly less so in the center. The leftovers had softened by the time I got back downtown, but what crust doesn’t.
Sweet-tasting onions stood up to the sauce, but the pepperoni was overwhelmed. I’d advise not wasting pepperoni on a hot seasoned pie. Stick with the regular sauce so the flavor can assert itself. If I did a repeat of the hot sauce, I’d go for crunchy vegetables like onion and green pepper. Meats and mushrooms would suffer the same fate as the pepperoni and be lost under well-seasoned hot sauce.
Cheese appeared to take a backseat on this pie. Unsure if this is another consequence of ordering it hot. I’d gladly go back to sample a more moderately seasoned pie to see if this was the case. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do in service to pizza posterity. Now if I were only paid for it.
|Photos from the Picasa Web Album: Reviewed Foods|