Tuesday, January 11, 2011

“Live 8 Years Longer . . .

By Eating Pizza.” So proclaims a framed article found at Giovanni’s Pizzeria in Albuquerque. (It’s all about the lycopene in the tomatoes.)

A few years ago, Albuquerque was named the fourth best U.S. city for local food in a survey taken on huffingtonpost.com. This doesn’t surprise us. Albuquerque is one of my (our) favorite restaurant cities, and we are always anxious to visit old favorites and find new soon-to-be-favorites. But there is one category in which we have found the city lacking—pizza.

We have had some OK ones and some really bad ones, but have never found a really great one. Determined to try again, I went on-line and googled “Best Pizza in Albuquerque.” Up came Giovanni’s. But I wasn’t content to stop there. I needed confirmation from my source on all things food in Albuquerque—Gil Garduno. And on his blog I found a review from last month which was quite complimentary. Since Gil has never steered us wrong, we decided to pay a visit.

Giovanni’s is an unassuming spot located in an unassuming strip mall located in an unassuming neighborhood of Southeast Albuquerque. It is not far from Kirkland AFB which probably accounts for the number of patrons we saw in camo. (Or is it called fatigues?) Citysearch.com probably describes the décor best: “With red Formica booths, signed movie Mafioso photos on the wall, and hard rock blaring from the kitchen radio, Giovanni's atmosphere is reminiscent of a Roller King snack bar circa 1984.“

The booths and table tops are covered with red and white checked plastic covers which mimic the red and white tiles on the floor.

One wall displays Broadway playbills and theater advertise-ments just below an array of New York Yankees’ pennants.

On another wall is a photo of Jay Leno posing with what we assume are the restaurant’s owners.

Not being modest about their accolades, the owners have decorated most of the walls with magazine and newspaper reviews all praising the quality of Giovanni’s pizza.

Pizza Today has named them one of America's Top 100 Independent Pizza Restaurants. They are constantly named the Best Pizza in Albuquerque.

And “Giovanni’s made it to the national spotlight. USA Today asked local experts to name just one great pizza parlor in each state and the District of Columbia. The New Mexico selection was none other than Giovanni’s Pizzeria. According to USA Today, ‘local foodies agree that Giovanni’s Pizzeria in Albuquerque makes the best pies. This is New York style thin-crust pizza, crispy with a blackened spot or two and a good, yeasty taste... Both dough and toppings are made fresh daily in house'” (Gil’s Thrilling [And Filling] Blog).

Pizzas come in Neapolitan (small, medium, and large) and Sicilian styles. You can “make it your way” from a standard list of toppings—pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, black olives, tomatoes, onions, green chile, Canadian bacon, pineapple (Yuk!), anchovies, extra cheese, jalapeños, ground beef, garlic, meat balls, and chicken. And you can order from an extensive list of special pies. Reviewers rave about the White Four Cheese.

We decided to order the large (eighteen inch) Neapolitan with sausage. And we asked for light cheese. The young man who took our order asked “How much cheese would you like? We usually use fifteen ounces for a large pie.” We asked for half that amount, and believe me—it was plenty.

After two-and-a-half years, I have said all that I can say that is original about pizza. Giovanni’s is described as “New York Style,” and it was a very good example of that method of pizza preparation. The crust was thin, semi-crisp, and would be foldable if that is your thing. It’s not mine. Fortunately, the crust was crisp enough that you could pick up a slice without the pointed end flopping downward and spilling the toppings into a saucy cheesy pile on your plate.

This was a cooked and herb seasoned sauce, but it hadn’t been simmered so long as to turn sweet. A definite taste of tomato was still present. The sausage had been applied in clumps rather than slices (I like it this way) and was peppery with a light fennel taste.

Certainly, this pizza cannot compete with our two favorites—Settebello in Salt Lake City and Pomo in Scottsdale. But it certainly was the best we have found in Albuquerque and earns a 4.0 Addie rating.

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