Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Pie Pizzeria

Address: 273 S 1300 E, SLC, UT. 801.582.5700.

Review: The great thing about pizza is its versatility. It is, in essence, nothing more than a blank slate, a canvas as it were. Italian pizza artists are all about balance. The dough is the star, and the toppings are few. American pizza artists are more about toppings than dough. In fact, dough is usually a mere afterthought, a vehicle used to introduce toppings into one's pie hole. I'm not a terribly big fan of American pizza, but The Pie is an exception.

The Pie is about toppings, lots of them. For example, when you order any pizza with black olives, you are left wondering, "Is there some pizza with these olives"? Likewise, the meat pizza is about meat.

Thankfully, it's good meat. The salami is peppery and fatty. The canadian bacon is as good as you can realistically expect canadian bacon to be. The pepperoni is classic and quality. The sausage is uncomplicated and savory. Couple all this with good-but-nothing-special mozzarella and some savory sauce and you have a darn enjoyable pizza. (And a note on the crust. Many have said it's soggy and greasy. Hogwash. The crust is thick and crispy and works well with the exceedingly many toppings.)

My personal favorite The Pie pie is the stromboli. Peperoni, onions, green peppers, sausage. It's a good combination of meat and veggies that keeps the pizza from becoming too heavy in your stomach. The green peppers are fully cooked, but not bitter (a tricky feat). Anyway, it's good stuff, man.

Where the Pie falls down a bit is the plain cheese pizza.
There's lots of cheese. Lots of cheese. Unfortunately, as noted before, the cheese is so-so. Without any adornments, the cheese falls flat and the dough is too much.

In the end, the Pie is very good American pizza. In fact, it's probably my favorite non-New York American pizza. (Sorry Chicago, your butter-crusted-gut-busting-gargantuan-meat-pie-thingy-you-call-pizza ain't terribly tasty.)

Rating: 7.5/10 (5/10 is average)

The Pie Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crown Burger

Address: 3190 Highland Dr., SLC, UT 84106. 801.467.6633.

Review: Okay, okay, I have to admit something: I have lived in Utah for years and never tried a crown burger. The idea of putting pastrami on a cheeseburger just doesn't sound particularly tasty. Yeah, I was completely wrong.

There's something utterly satisfying about peppery, paprika-y pastrami nestled atop a cheeseburger. (I wish the burger patty had been a bit thicker and more medium rare-ish, but this is a fast food joint, so you can't ask for the moon.) What really puts the crown burger over the top though is the interaction of the meat with the creamy, ever so quotidian american cheese. The juice of the pastrami and the fat of the patty melt into the cheese and make a wonderful, tasty liquid that tickles the taste buds. And there is just enough of tomato and greenery to cut through the meat and cheese; although this vegetable matter is honestly not much more than a backdrop. In all, a quite enjoyable burger experience.

Then there were the fries.

There are any number of awards in the restaurant touting Crown Burger's fries as the best in SLC. This is a bit of an oversell. The fries are good and crispy, but they are a little heavy and not as crispy as many other fries I've had in SLC. Now, don't get me wrong, the fries are solid, just not quite as good as Crown Burger advertises.

Ultimately, me likely. Certainly one of the better fast-food burgers I've had thusfar in Utah.

Rating: 6.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Crown Burgers (Mill Creek) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sammy's Cafe

Address: 27 N 100 W, Provo, UT 84601. 801.805.9208.

Review: Provo being Provo, there aren't many funky little joints. Sammy's tries to break that mold. The outside looks like a hippie rolled one too many doobies and then decided to paint. The inside is about the same, except the wall is covered head to foot in photos of past patrons. And not past patrons such as President Clinton or Deron Williams. Nope, these past partons are the regular Toms, Dicks, and Harrys that frequent Sammy's. Anyway, 'nuff 'bout the exterior and interior design; let's get to the food.

The food is decidedly low-brow burger and fries. I had the Sammy's Masterpiece and the seasoned fries. First, the fries. They were a cross between steak fries and shoestring fries. Crispy. Good seasoning. Lots of them. Second, the burger. The beef was pretty good. The toppings (bacon, cheese, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) were taste and pretty standard. While there was nothing here that'll knock your socks off, the burger, like the fries, was solid.

In the end, if you want a good burger in a funky atmosphere in downtown Provo, Sammy's is your place.

Rating: 6/10 (5/10 is average)

Sammy's Café on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cucina Toscana

Address: 307 Pierpont Ave, Salt Lake City, UT. 801.328.3463.

Review: First things first: get ready to drop some coin at Cucina Toscana. It's an expensive place, and you have to embrace that before entering. Of course, as the price goes up, so do the expectations. Likewise, expectations are high when an establishment touts itself as an authentic Tuscan trattoria. Having eaten at many a Tuscan trattoria in Tuscany over the years, I was interested to see if Cucina Toscana measured up. Let's see.

I must mention up front that we had a reservation at 6.30 p.m. We were seated promptly at 6.30. (I mention this only because many people have complained about not being seated on time, notwithstanding their reservations. This probably happens, but it wasn't our experience.)

We began our meal with two antipasti, both carpacci oddly enough. I had the carpaccio di tonno (tuna carpaccio), and my wife had the carpaccio di bue (beef carpaccio).

The carpaccio di tonno was served with shaved fennel and cherry tomatoes, and was quite good. The tuna was high quality and melted on the tongue. The fennel was nicely sweet, as were the tomatoes. The carpaccio di bue was thin like Nicole Richie, served with a salad of crunchy greens (including sectioned asparagus stalks) and parmigiano reggiano. Both carpacci were served under seasoned, so the first taste was a bit listless. (I think they did this on purpose so each diner could customize the dish to his or her own preference.) In any case, once we applied the correct amount of salt, the meat came alive, as it were. In all, very enjoyable.

Next, we each had the gnocchi all'arrabbiata (spicy gnocchi in simple tomato sauce).

The gnocchi were spot on -- light, fluffy, well seasoned, beautifully cooked. This is a real feat since most gnocchi are dense and without character. The sauce, on the other hand, let the dish down a bit. It was a simple tomato sauce with pretty good flavor, but there was too much of it and it wasn't tight enough. The sauce's tightness makes a difference because it was so watery it (1) tasted watery, and (2) didn't adhere well to the gnocchi. So, while the gnocchi made this dish enjoyable, it was only good and not great.

Next week had the scaloppini di vitello tabaro (scallops of veal and sausage in a mushroom and wine sauce). It was served with a side of oven-roasted potatoes and green beans.

The veal was fork-tender and not overcooked. The sausage was high quality, made in house, with an earthy feel to it. The combination of the two work relatively well, even though they are entirely different types of meat. The sauce was rich with mushroom flavor and complimented both the veal and the sausage. The green beans were simply prepared with just the right amount of crunchiness. The potatoes were alright, but somewhat dry inside. This was a very earthy dish, chock full of glutamate. I could have used slightly more acid to brighten things up a little, but it was very good.

We finished the dish with two desserts. First we had hot chocolate and lemony biscotti. The hot chocolate was thick, rich, chocolate that would satisfy the most prominent of chocoholics. The biscotti (a treat I usually don't enjoy) was crunchy but not dry, with a hint of fruitiness and lemon. It was a nice contrast to the hot chocolate.

Second, we tried a selection of gelati -- pistachio, basil, chocolate, and lemon. All were relatively good, and some were very good. For example, the pistachio contained the entire pistachio experience. You picked up different parts of the pistachio as you ate the gelato. The chocolate was rich and chocolately. The basil certainly had the taste of basil, but it was muted. Likewise, the lemon was more about the milk and sugar than the lemon. I'll certainly have the pistachio and chocolate again, but not so much the basil or lemon.

So, in the end, where do things stand? The service was fantastic, and the food, overall, was quite good for Italian food in America. There are things that should be improved, but this is almost certainly the best Italian dining experience you will have in Utah.

Rating: 8/10 was the original score, but after eating in Italy over the summer and finding food twice as good as 1/3 the price (in the middle of nowhere), I have to revise down the score to 6.5/10.

Cucina Toscana on Urbanspoon