Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We’re Back on 4th . . . ,

and this time we’re looking for pizza.

When we first arrived in Tucson, we went looking for the local Oregano’s Pizza Bistro. (See our blog on 12/13/2009 for a review of the Scottsdale Oregano’s.) We enjoyed our traditional sausage pizza and the white Margherita-style pizza, but did want to try a more local restaurant. When we saw that Magpies Pizza was among the restaurants participating in Tucson Originals (a group of local, independently operated restaurants), we knew that this was the place we wanted to go. Of the four local locations, we chose the 4th Avenue.

(We parked about three blocks off 4th Avenue and the photos below are scenes on the way to Magpies.)

Why do Tucsonans love Magpies? Is it because the food is prepared daily on the premises? Is it because the all natural cheese is grated fresh every day? Is it because the dough is kneaded by hand each day? Or that the sauce is made fresh daily using a secret blend of stewed tomatoes and fresh garlic? It’s probably (with one caveat) that these pies taste great.

Magpies is locally owned and operated and donates two percent of their sales to support the Tucson Community. They have been voted Tucson's Best Pizza 20 years running (they lost in 2009 to the Brooklyn Pizza Company) and have been honored as one of the top 100 pizzerias in the USA for nine years in a row by the pizza industry standard organization.

To plagiarize from an old fast-food burger commercial, at Magpies you can really “have it your way.” The dough comes as regular, sourdough, or wheat. Sauce choices are tomato ricotta, house pesto, spicy Juan Carlos pesto, tomato pesto, olive oil and garlic and, house red tomato sauce. There is an extensive list of cheese, herbs, meat, and veggie toppings. The sizes range from the ten-inch small to the eighteen-inch jumbo. And you can order the crust as regular, thin, and super thin. (This is a secret we didn’t know until we were about three-quarters through with our two pies. To make a large fourteen-inch pie with a super thin crust use a dough ball for a small ten-inch pizza.)

And, like most pizzerias, they have an extensive selection of combos. Under the heading of “Family Favorites” were: The Magnificent Giant – with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions, green bell peppers, black olives, and fresh mushrooms; The Beast – with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, beef, and bacon; Chicken Picante with spicy tomato pesto sauce, mozzarella and feta cheeses, oven-roasted chicken breast, cilantro, and fresh tomatoes; the Veggie with tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, bell peppers, topped with mozzarella cheese; or the BQ Chicken with BBQ sauce, lemon herb roasted chicken, red onions, mozzarella, Romano and cheddar cheeses, with a hint of fresh cilantro.

Or you are invited to taste the pizza combos that have become the talk of “Old Pueblo” (Tucson): the Pueblo with Southwestern Sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, ground beef, scallions, roasted green chilis, tomatoes, and black olives; the Pancetta with tomato sauce, Canadian bacon, fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes covered with mozzarella cheese; the Pesto with pesto sauce (made from Romano cheese, fresh basil, fresh spinach, and fresh garlic), covered with mozzarella cheese and topped with Piñon nuts; or the Juan Carlos Pesto with spicy pesto sauce (made from fresh basil, fresh spinach, cilantro, fresh garlic, and a hint of jalapenos), layered with fresh tomatoes, Piñon nuts, mozzarella cheese, and sprinkled with Romano cheese.

And if this isn’t enough, there are there are Lite “R” Pizzas (made with no cheese), subs, and calzones that can be made in almost an infinite variety of combinations. But, as should come as no surprise, we stuck with the tried and true – one small with sausage, red sauce, and mozzarella and one small with white garlic sauce, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. And for both, we asked that they go easy on the cheese.

Since, at the time of ordering, we hadn’t been initiated into the “Noble Order of the Secret of the Crust,” we thought that both pizzas had a slightly thicker crust than we like. Certainly not objectionable, just a little thick. The amount of cheese on each was just right. Magpies really does know how to cater to their customers’ preferences. The red sauce was just right. Not too thick and heavy, slightly spicy rather than sweet and containing just the right amount of herbs. None of this overdoing with the oregano that is prevalent at too many places. But I was not overly fond of Magpies sausage. To me it had a dry and crumbly texture. I would have liked a bit more fat and a bit more seasoning.

It was with the Margherita-style pizza that Magpies came to the forefront. We thought that Oregano’s was good, but this was even better. Even with the thicker crust. The olive oil sauce had just the right amount of garlic and the pie was generously topped with sweet fresh tomatoes. And Magpies didn’t skimp on the fresh basil. As we were eating, we concluded that this may be our favorite style of pizza. And this coming from two devoted carnivores.

In comparing Magpies with Oregano’s, Oregano’s gets the edge for their crust and imported (from Chicago) sausage, and Magpies gets the edge for their Margherita. Since we gave Oregano’s a 5.0 Addie rating, we’ll give Magpies a 4.5 Addie rating.

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