I would not count Tronis since it is not in Cincinnati, but Dewey's is decently good, though usually a bit underdone
A Tavola in Over the Rhine is pretty good but is a different style than most are used to
I need to re-investigate Noce's, Pomidori's, Buona Vita in Bellevue, The Works in Loveland, and Pizza Paradiso in Anderson. Not sure if I mentioned it in an earlier post, but Tusculum Pizza on Kellogg is not good.
20111007 Newport Pizza Co - conveyor oven almost says it all. They consider basil a topping rather than a finishing herb, and therefore charge you for it. Little or no hole structure in the crust. Expensive. A larger than average selection of available toppings.
20111009 Pomidoris - decent sauce but very poor crust - soft, tasteless, little or no whole structure, and none of the crisping and/or charring that one would expect from a wood-fired oven. Lots of interesting toppings. Pricey.
20111010 Cincy by the Slice - DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH - a tiny, no-frills slice joint in Elmwood place. Slices are small (12 pie) but cheap (1 buck + 25 cents per topping). Perhaps the thinnest thin crust in Cincinnati, with a good hole structure and a satisfying crunch on the underside and edge over a slightly chewy interior. The sauce is fresh (uncooked) and is made with San Marzano tomatoes. The italian sausage is mild and flavorful, sliced not chunked . Mushrooms are sliced fresh. Topping selection is limited, with only one oddball - pickles. UPDATE 20111102:
the Elmwood location has closed up, they've reopened downtown at the old Rice Rocket location on Main: http://cincinnati.com/blo...e-slice-open-downtown/ UPDATE 20111114:
Tried the slices at the downtown location, and even though these were nowhere near fresh from the oven like the ones I got back on 10/10, they were very nearly as good. The slices downtown are about 2x the size of the ones sold in Elmwood and cost 2.5x as much - probably costs a lot more to lease space in Downtown than it does in Elmwood Place
20111010 Betta's Italian Oven - whole small pies only. Woodfired oven but not stoked to the heat it can be, ergo very little of the pleasant charring one would expect. Crust is so thin and toppings so sparse you may think your takeout box is empty. Crust has a nice light crispness to the outside but the inner crust despite thinness is doughy rather than chewy. Crust has little or no flavor but good hole structure. Two types of red sauce - fresh sauce used only on the margerita, and a cooked sauce used on all other pizzas. Many interesting topping choices, but applied so sparingly that you will get many bites without toppings (or sauce, or cheese for that matter). Charges full price for half toppings. Extensive non-pizza menu, incl italian beef and filo wrapped chicken.
20111013 ZZ's Pizza - Unique cooking method - started in an electric conveyor at presumably lower heat, then finished in a small presumably higher heat electric deck oven. The very thin crust is a weakness - little flavor despite being billed as "sourdough", little or no hole structure, no exterior charring or crispness, and doughy on the inside (to the point of being wet on the second of two 8' pies I tried this week. Recommend you ask for well done. The cooked sauce is a strength, full of good tomato and fresh (to my palate) basil and oregano herb flavor, with maybe just a little garlic. Maybe. The toppings include some interesting choices but the interesting ones all are huge upcharges - up to 6.50 per topping and lobster at 9 bucks. Even the plain pies don't come cheap - 16.00 for a large cheese pizza is waaaaay steep in my book. Another mistake is reducing the bacon and very good fennel-rich italian sausage to tiny pebbles rather than nice savory chunks. They have some predefined pies where you get multiple interesting/expensive toppings but the cost isn't a lot more than adding 1 topping, and those are by far the best value.
20111013 A Tavola - A truly unique pizza, not another one like it in town. Probably the very best crust in town on texture alone, with good inner chew, a little outside crunch, and the very best hole structure plus that wonderful leopard-spot charring that comes from a wood oven stoked to its full potential. That said, other than the char, the crust is nearly flavorless, and would improve much with a longer cold ferment and maybe a pinch of salt. The fresh sauce is a weakness, with little or no flavor. The toppings are good but like the pizza itself, spare and expensive; and they've already discarded their best - smoked pulled pork - from the regular menu. The place is packed at all hours it seems, but I am about ready to give up on the place due to constant breakdowns of one sort or another - like failing 3 out of 4 times to put fresh basil on a margherita pie, charging full price for halfpie toppings, and charging tax on carryout.....and no apologies for any of these and many other mistakes I haven't detailed here by any of the staff involved. They will not miss my business, and the throngs of their followers will be glad there is one less person in line, but I think this is a case where "good" pizza is good enough to attract crowds in Cincinnati, because we've never had "great" here, and so we dont know any better. Until A Tavola stops patting itself on the back,I dont believe they will make the improvements to move from "good" to "great", including doing the small things (like basil on a margherita) right consistently.
20111014 Buona Vita pretty good, with potential to be very good. Crust is as thin as it gets with nice leopard spotted charring (which I dont know how they manage in a gas fired oven, but they do) on the underside, but unlike A Tavola the crust has a crackery rather than light and chewy texture . Crust flavor is better than A Tavolas but still a weak. The cooked sauce is decent but needs more flavor, is not sweet like most Cincinnati sauces. Sauce, cheese, and toppings are applied with a light hand but still far heavier than Bettas or A Tavola. +1 point for fresh basil, but -1points for considering it a topping. Mushrooms are fresh, not canned. The list of toppings is (other than pickles) pretty much the bare pizzeria basics, but if you read the menu closely you find they make their own hot and mild sausage (you'll get mild unless you specifically say hot), so thats THE topping to get. I tried the mild sausage, and it was excellent with just a hint of spice heat, but unfortunately applied in small pebbles rather than good sized hunks. The menu offers a 16 pie and a "half" pie which is still a normal round pizza, but made with half of a normal doughball used to make the 16in pie. Many different of italian cookies and biscotti are available, plus a few calzones, pastas, sandwiches, and salads.
20111016 Jean Paul's Paradiso - in a word, this pizza is all about - toppings. Paradiso is a tiny bakery/cafe/pizzeria fairly well hidden on Clough Pike in Anderson, using their gas fired deck ovens to turn out a variety of excellent baked goods, including some truly outstanding breads and very tasty desserts. The pizza here is fairly expensive 20+ for some large pies) but well worth it. They do a deep dish style that I have not tried yet, but the bulk of their pizza menu is thin crust style. The crust is on the thicker side of the "thin" range, and is somewhat doughy and heavy, but with a good fresh yeasty flavor. If you demand crispness in your crust, you will be disappointed here unless (perhaps) you order your pie well done. The cooked sauce is decent, and could (or should) be more boldly spiced. I am told they use heirloom tomatoes to make the sauce, and I don't know of anyone else who does that. The toppings are definitely the strength of this pie, with the excellent high-quality mozzarella caramelizing atop the pie, and some of the best and freshest toppings I have ever had on a pie, including what was undoubtedly the best and most flavorful mushrooms I have ever had period, not just on a pizza but on anything. I had planned on eating a slice or two and saving the rest for later, but it was so good I finished the whole pie in under 10 minutes.
20111019 Taste of Belgium @ Findlay Market. Not good. Bonk posted about them having a good slice, and I readily admit that the sauce was very good and the crust had potential, but because it was made well in advance and sits all day in a circular glass hotbox, it suffers, it gets soggy, and just generally deteriorates. Also, at 3 bucks for a slice for cheese pizza, expensive. I know it is unfair to compare a slice sitting around for hours against a freshly cooked pie, but this is the only way (apparently) they offer it. I rather suspect their fresh pie is quite good, and that the slice Bonk wrote about was fairly fresh
20111020 Noces - sadly, an average pizzeria. I had high hopes for this place but after giving them chance after chance after chance they have failed to impress me. They mainly fail on overall flavor, so I feel a need to add some strongly flavored toppings to their pie to make it enjoyable. They do offer a thick-crusted sicilian style pizza in a large pie only, but I have only tried their thin crust pies/slices. The crust is the strength (although this is not saying much in this case) of the pie, with good outer crispness all over but inconsistent innards - some spots nice and chewy with good hole structure on the edge crust, but on most of the pizza it is spongey soft, like Papa Johns. The sauce is simply OK, doesn't really stand out, but at least it isn't overly sweet, which is a plus - it could and should be a lot more assertive The list of toppings is a bit more ambitious than the average pizza joint, with such interesting choices as capicola, feta cheese, and roasted red peppers available, but not nearly as exhaustive as some of the gourmet joints like Pomidoris. The thing I really like here is the calzones, which (in my experience) are made fresh at the time of order and include a generous portion of good quality ricotta cheese. At the original Westwood location, Calzones are 1/2 off on Wednesday til 5pm. Lots of coupons and specials available for this place, be sure to use them. All locations serve/sell slices, but at 2.50 for a plain slice it isn't (imho) a good value proposition.
20111027 Trottas - Unimpressive/mediocre, with no real strengths. I have only tried their "thin", not their sicilian style. The thin crust borders on fairly thick, is very soft and bready, no chew at all, and no added flavor. The underside has no crispness whatsoever. The edge is crisped well, possibly helped by being brushed with mild garlic butter before hitting the oven. Sauce and cheese are applied to within a quarter to a half inch of the edge, so there is very little edge crust and not much room to rise, so no hole structure to speak of. The cooked sauce is applied sparingly and has little or no flavor. The cheese is applied heavily, so much so that you will get the cheese strings off the side as you lift away a slice, but again, has little flavor even where browned. The toppings are the usual suspects plus a couple of interesting ones like goetta and capicola, but some toppings (meatball, capicola, bacon, and a few others) are charged as two toppings. I tried the sausage, which is fairly good, slightly hot, and applied in good quarter and nickel sized chunks, and is flecked heavily with fresh fennel. Never go there without a coupon - they have a ton of non-expiring coupons on their website and at the bare minimum you can get 2 bucks off any size pie
20111104 Cosmic Pizza - MY NEW CINCY FAVORITE PIE. I had never heard of this palce before when I noted it was picked 4th best Cincinnati Pizza by Cincinnati Magazine. Turns out it is a fairly new place, run in a tiny building on a side street of Vien in Hartwell that formerly housed the forgettable Capri Pizza, and is owned by a guy who is pretty darn serious about producing a top quality pie - chef hat and all. Aside from the crappy location, this place has all kinds of other strikes against it - weird dinner-only hours, really high prices (12 bucks for a 12in cheese pie? seriously?) in a relatively low rent neighborhood, and....and.....I almost left without ordering when I saw it - bakes in a conveyor oven. It gets worse. I waited 15 minutes to even get my order taken despite being the only guy at the counter, and then another hour to actually receive my pizza box. But oh my, what a good pizza it was. He started out doing a ST Louis style cracker-crust pie (he says he does not use provel because he claims no one likes it, not even the folks in St Louis), but later added the NY style pie I took out. The crust was as thin as I have seen with NY style, with a light crunch on the bottom crust and a good solid crunch on the outside crust, aided by an odd "twisted" texture to the edge crust which creates more surface area. The inner crust was light and chewy, not doughy at all, minimal tip sag, with a decent flavor. The cooked sauce was mostly savory with some light sweetness, and very good and flavorful on its own. The cheese was nicely salty and good quality. Cheese and sauce were both applied sparingly. I did not get any toppings, but the list is as extensive as any I have seen anywhere, including not only all the usual suspects but two different types of goetta, thai basil, pine nuts, artichoke harts, kalamata olives, and so on and so on. This is definitely a case of a pizza being greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts are all pretty darn good. I am almost grateful that it is expensive, way out of my way, and open such odd hours -- otherwise I might be tempted to stop in 2-3 times a week. If I had to pick a weakness for this pie - it is a terrible pure-value proposition. The crust is so thin and topped so lightly my 12 dollar box of pizza felt like it weighed nothing, and I definitely was not anywhere near full after I ate (smiling the whole way) the entire pie.
20111107 Emilia Enoteca - Cincinnati Magazine says it is the 2nd best pizza in all of Cincinnati, but I'm not sure it is really even truly pizza. It's more like a crispy puff-pasty flatbread with some pizza toppings. It's tasty, its interesting, it kinda sorta looks like a pizza, and at 12 dollars starting price for a pizza that if eaten whole would not fill up a 5 year old, I hope you really really REALLY like it. Value proposition (or the serious lack thereof) aside, they make a San Marzano-based sauce that only cooks down for 15 minutes or so on a nice flakey-chewy pasty crust that reminded me at times of really good phyllo, along with fresh mozz, plenty of finely chopped fresh basil, and some hard shredded cheese. The cook I talked to indicated that they actually grill the crust over an open flame first, then top it, then finish it in an oven. At 5 dollars, I'd really like this and get it (whether it is a pizza or not) a lot, but at 12 bucks they will not see my ugly face at the door very often, if at all. This is hipster bar food for the Hyde Park and OBryonville Crowd
20120109 Werkhaus Pizza - West Side - this is a former Mio's Pizza location that appears to serve pretty much the same pizza (both thin crust and stuffed) that Mio's serves. I am told they make their own sauce, but to me, the taste is identical to Mio's. Both counterpersons I talked to said they get their dough elsewhere, but did not know where from, and I would guess the Mio's commissary in (I think) Madisonville. If you like Mio's (as I do) you'll like the Pizza here, and if not, you won't. I think their overall menu is a bit expanded over Mio's. Nice, homey style location.
<message edited by TJ Jackson on Mon, 01/9/12 4:56 PM>