Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Search and a Surprise

Why is it so hard to find good pizza? I know that I tend to be a food snob, but I would have thought we’d find one good pizza since we left Duson, LA the end of November. But we haven’t.

A trip to Il Vicino in the Northeast section of Albuquerque seemed promising. Il Vicino is a small chain with two outlets in Colorado, three in New Mexico, and one each in Kansas and Missouri. Reviews on their website were complimentary, and they promised a thin crust wood-fired pizza. The restaurant was decorated in what I would call modern comfort. Seating along one wall was banquette style and there were a number of high bar tables with stools (thank heaven we got a low table – I hate these). I imagine that Il Vicino is popular with the after work, late twenties, early thirties professional set.

We ordered two twelve-inch pizzas – one Margherita (cheese, tomato, and basil) and one sausage. Both had just right amount of cheese and sauce – not too much not too little. And the sauce was neither too sweet nor too tart. The sausage was in pieces and not slices – just as I like it.

What was not to like about these pizzas? Well, two things to be specific. First, when I order a Pizza Margherita, I expect more than six little chiffonade slices of basil. Please, this was no Margherita. It was a cheese pizza and someone dropped a few basil slices on it by mistake. So what else was wrong? What is one of the key attributes of a wood oven pizza? A crisp crust, that’s what! And the bottom crust on both was soft and limp.

What was our conclusion? The pizza had promise but missed the mark and only warrants 3.5 Addies on our 5.0 scale.

So the hunt continued with JC’s New York Pizza Department (NYPD) in downtown Albuquerque. The owner is reputed to have installed a special water filtration system to make Albuquerque’s water closer to New York City water, which some think is the secret of the New York pizza crust. NYPD only offers one size of whole pie – and eighteen incher. Since we weren’t that hungry, we each ordered two slices; Chuck had sausage on both slices, and I had one sausage and one with just basil.

The thing with the water may have worked since the crust was perfect - thin and crisp from the outer edge to the center. But nothing else worked. Chuck thought the sauce was too sharp, and I thought it was too sweet – either way, this was not good sauce. The sausage was in slices and was coarse ground with large chunks of visible fat. And maybe it was my fault that I didn’t specify that the basil should go on the pizza after the reheating process, but what arrived was dry and shriveled.

Is 3.0 Addies too much if only the crust is good?

Now under the heading of unexpected pleasures. The day we visited the KiMo Theater, our guide pointed out a small restaurant kitty corner from the theater. He explained that, in the early years of the theater’s history, Lindy’s Diner was a favorite of actors and stagehands because of its low prices and proximity to the theater. So feeling the need to commune with the spirits of thespians past, we took ourselves off for breakfast. Lindy’s began in 1929 as the Coney Island Café, but the name was changed to Lindy’s in the 1960’s when the restaurant changed ownership.

We arrived at 9:30 a.m. and the place was almost empty. To me, not an auspicious sign. Maybe all of the patrons had gone to work? The breakfast menu included the standards: pancakes, French toast, omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and biscuits and gravy with eggs. Chuck debated between the chicken fried steak with two eggs and potatoes or the breakfast burrito with green chili sauce and potatoes. The latter won out. I didn’t venture too far out of the box and had the Huevos Rancheros (over easy) with potatoes, beans and a flour tortilla. I asked for red chili sauce on one egg and green on the other.

My eggs were served on two corn tortillas, and the roasted corn flavor complimented the eggs perfectly. But the test of Huevos Rancheros is the quality of the chili sauce. In a word, the red sauce was bland. But the green sauce, while only medium hot, had an almost tart, fresh flavor. The beans were good but too much with the potatoes. (As an aside, I realized this morning that since leaving Pennsylvania the only place we’ve been that didn’t include beans as a regular side was Louisiana. I am about “beaned” out.) The flour tortilla was no better than a commercial grocery store tortilla.

Chuck’s burrito was delicious. The eggs were cooked omelet style, laid on the flour tortilla, and then bacon was added before the tortilla was rolled. The green chili sauce was especially good with the burrito.

The papitas (fried potato cubes) were the best yet. Crisp outside, soft and moist inside. And, thankfully, they weren’t covered in sauce that would undercut the crispness. But they were excellent when dipped into the green chilies.

So we didn’t have any ghostly visitations but did have a good breakfast. Good enough to merit 4.0 Addies.

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