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Pizza Review

Rockaway Pizzeria Offers Authentic New York Style Pizza Without Compromise

Pizza Review, Pizza EssayDan TallaricoComment
Rockaway Pizzeria in White Oak PA

The Road to White Lodge of Rockaway Pizzeria

Driving to Rockaway Pizza in White Oak, PA, there’s not much. From Pittsburgh you leave the city and pass town after town that is slightly more economically depressed. You pass up a few strip malls that are hanging in there, dilapidated buildings, and strips of absolutely nothing. It’s only a 30 minute drive from the city, but whatever renaissance Pittsburgh is going through has yet to hit the surrounding areas. 

Eventually, you’ll arrive at Rockaway pizza. Which, if you didn’t know it was open you’d think it was another broken down building waiting to be bulldozed. Somehow, the Rockaway sign is old and faded despite being in business for only two years.

But pizza making isn’t about fancy architecture, building an ostentatious building signaling how great your pie is, or decadent signage. It’s about pizza. A temple built without frivolity. And Josh Sickels, an ex-drummer turned Pizza Shop Owner, focuses his energy on what’s important. Making great pizza.

After touring around New York City as a drummer in The Takeover UK and 1,2,3 (both Pittsburgh bands), Josh absorbed the regions pizza. Mostly from Queens. Those years of research and the attention to devouring a number of pies and reverse engineering their structure have paid off. Josh picked up on what makes N.Y. City pizza better (it’s not just the water) and has taken a deep dive into the process and fundamentals of recreating that pizza outside of Pittsburgh. He likes a wet dough, he uses a unique blend of cheese (Rockaway might be the only pizza place in Western PA that doesn’t use provolone in their blend) and, what he seems to be most proud of, are the 20 inch wire cloth screens he bakes certain topping-heavy pizza on. 

Josh called around and found a guy in Queens who makes these screens for the classic pizza places in Queens. Again, he might be the only person in Western PA with access to these thick wire cloth screens.

“The Queens style of New York pizza has more cheese on it, they figured out that the bottom would cook before the tops were done because there’s so much cheese,” Josh says. “The traditional pizza screen sucks because it makes the undercrust soggy. So they started using these ‘wire cloth’ screens.”


These screens are thicker, raise the pizza a bit above the surface of the oven so steam can escape and slow down the cooking of the undercrust so the top of the pizza also bakes through. Both top and bottom come out perfectly baked and it reduces that soggy-swamp that sometimes forms at the center of larger pizzas. 

It’s a small tweak, but makes a huge difference on the quality of the pie. And Josh’s process is full of these small tweaks that optimize the flavor and quality of the pizza. Tweaks that on their own don’t seem worth doing, but build up throughout the process to make a large impact.

He even cuts the pizza on an elevated wood cutting board after they come out of the oven so the cold steel countertop doesn’t steam up and tarnish the pizza.

This attention to detail and uncompromising vision is admirable, but he is at times playing for an audience that doesn’t quite understand the magic.

The most beautiful pizza from Rockaway. It covers the bases - from plain to the outrageous.

The most beautiful pizza from Rockaway. It covers the bases - from plain to the outrageous.

Waiting for the Ranch Dressing Horsemen 

Josh’s elevated taste results in delicious pizza with ingredients and flavors that are (maybe) ahead of the curve and foreign to the Western Pennsylvania way of pizza. His menu is vast covering a variety of toppings, meats and sauces. But what’s left off the menu is the sacred buffalo chicken pizza. There’s no deep fryer and the sides are practical spinoffs of what’s you’d expect - hoagies and garlic knots.

During my short time at Rockaway, ranch dressing was the subject of a number of conversations. A customer early on Saturday grabbed their pizza and, after paying, asked for a cup of ranch dressing. Josh froze. He should be used to this by now, but still he struggles with this request. He says “sure” and goes to the back to grab a small container of ranch. Hardly enough for more than one or two slices. She should be happy she gets that amount.

“Why am I aging my mozzarella when you’re just going to cover it in ranch?” Josh says after she leaves. He plans to hang a large “no ranch” sign behind the counter someday soon. 

A customer hears him explain this to me and he shouts from his booth, “Hey! I agree with you - no one should be putting ranch dressing on this pizza. It’s great the way it is.”

This might sound obnoxious and snobby, but this is someone with an uncompromising view of their pizza. He spent most of his life as a musician creating his own music. Owning a restaurant is an extension of that artistic vision. None of the pizzas on the menus are there by accident, it’s all very purposeful and thoughtful. Someone asking for ranch is akin to someone at a show yelling from the crowd that maybe he should consider playing the drums just a bit slower, maybe take it easy on the kick drum.

You don’t ask a musician to change their lyrics to fit your life. Their lyrics either resonate with you or you move on. 

Josh Sickels has some iconic people hung above his pizza making station.

Josh Sickels has some iconic people hung above his pizza making station.

When This Kind of Fire Starts, It’s Very Hard to Put Out

Rockaway Pizza is a gateway to New York City pizza. I don’t think Josh would categorize himself as a pizza missionary, but he doing his best to spread the pizza gospel. In the 22 months he’s been open he’s cultivated a following of loyal pizza fans.

As Josh puts it:

No one else in the city is really doing this style except for Slice on Broadway and Badamo’s. I figured that yes, I use good shit, yes I have a deep knowledge of pizza. I make this style of pizza as a testament that New York style pizza is the best pizza there is. 

Lots of people haven’t been exposed to that. This is an economicly depressed area. They haven’t been to New York to try the pizza, but they can get a taste of that here.

Josh’s uncompromising vision bridges the gap between dirty unceremonious yinzer pizza shop with the technically superior style of New York pizza. He wants to expose as many people as possible to what he thinks is the best pizza.

And so far, it seems to be working. 

While I was in the shop there was an entire family who drove to Rockaway Pizzeria from Brownsville, about 45 minutes away. According Jason House Rockaway enthusiast, “This is the closest thing you can get to New York pizza around here. You can tell he loves what he’s doing, but everything is top of the line.” Jason had a pizza with pepperoni, peppers and sweet sausage. His girls love the white pizza.

Despite the low-key nature of Rockaway Pizzeria, enthusiasts seek out Rockaway like the religiously inclined travel to see those miraculous weeping statures of the Virgin Mary. In some ways, there’s a soul-stirring reaction to eating at Rockaway the first time.

Biting into Rockaway pizza compels you to tell friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers about it. Since my visit I’ve showed off the photo of my pizza to dozens of people. I tried to tell them how each bite was somehow better than the last, that the flavors kept building and that the whole pizza was perfectly cooked. I was crazed with pizza. Days later I’m still scrolling back through my photos and thinking about when I can get back down to the shop.

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the environment and the high quality pizza. Maybe it’s the 40 minute drive I took to get to this place, but Rockaway Pizza feels somewhat miraculous. It seems like this pizza shouldn’t exist, but the forces of nature have conspired to bring this perfect pizza to White Oak. 

The Italian Italian Hoagie at Rockaway Pizza. A textbook hoagie with elevated meats.

The Italian Italian Hoagie at Rockaway Pizza. A textbook hoagie with elevated meats.

What to Order at Rockaway Pizzeria

Everything is good here so please explore the menu at your leisure.

While I was there I had a sausage slice, pepperoni, plain and prosciutto with arugula. Each of the slices were top-notch. There is a vodka pizza on the menu—while I didn’t have a chance to try a bite of that I did get a sample of the homemade sauce. Good lord it was rich and delicious. It’s certainly at the top of my list when I venture back.

While Rockaway isn’t known for its hoagies, the Italian hoagie was textbook. Great meats, drizzle of sauce, and the perfect partner in crime to the pizza.

There’s nothing of waste on the menu. Josh made plenty of Frankenstein’s while I was there (a sampler pizza, very clever idea) and I’m dying to try the Sicilian. While they use the same dough as their traditional, they do “something special” to it to make it different. Stay tuned for whatever that means.

Book Your Mission Trip to Rockaway

If you’re a pizza fan you need to start planning your trip to Rockaway. It’s a small spot, so get their early. Bring some friends, make a day of it and get ready to reflect on some high quality pizza. You can find more information about Rockaway Pizzeria at their website.

Tallarico Toast: A Pizza and Avocado Toast Mashup from Michigan & Trumbull

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

A whole tray of the fabled, hard to find, Tallarico Toast by Michigan & Trumbull

When it comes to food I often find myself falling into specific patterns. Pizza, for example, is a dish that makes up a healthy percentage of my intake. But that's more of an evening meal for me. On the flip side, under the morning sun I've gotten into this great habit of munching on Avocado Toast every morning. 

Avocado Toast and pizza seem like complete opposites but have a lot in common. Obviously, both have.a base of bread, some sort of spread, followed by.a sprinkling of toppings. And even more obvious is that they're amazingly delicious. If pizza is the king of the Friday night family meal then Avocado Toast is the queen of a weekend breakfast. Which means these two foods rule of the entire Kingdom of Food?

So, where is this all going? If you are what you eat and I was suddenly turned into a type of pizza I guess that means I would be turned into what Michigan & Trumbull calls Tallarico Toast. 

Tallarico Toast is equal parts pizza and avocado toast. The base is the same as their Packard Pepperoni or other, more traditional, Detroit style pizzas. A crunchy and soft crust. On top of that is a proprietary avocado spread made from the essence of pure avocados. It's thick and creamy and sticks loyally to the crust. Now this would be enough to be considered avocado toast, but Michigan & Trumbull does not settle or shy away from innovation. 

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Michigan and Trumbull's excellent Tallarico Toast

Topping the avocado spread are pickled onions, radishes, and watercress greens. After a bit of R&D they swapped out regular olive oil for olive oil infused with a bit of lime. The zest makes this next-level stuff. 

The chef's behind Michigan & Trumbull are true alchemists that absolutely understand the fundamentals of pizza. They're able to bend the rules, experiment, and create hit after hit. The Tallarico Toast is a temporary alien addition to their menu, but it fits into their lineup of pizzas perfectly.

During its one-week stay I'm sure Tallarico Toast broke records —most times the Tallarico name has been uttered in one week, most delicious brunch pizza without an egg cracked in the middle or most avocados used in a pizzeria — but let's hope it makes its return one day to show how versatile and beautiful of a pizza canvas is.

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

Pizza Journalist Dan Tallarico Eating Tallarico Toast

The Quintessential Rust Belt Pizza - Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
An aerial view of Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

An aerial view of Michigan & Trumbull's Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pittsburgh sits in the center of the famous Rust Belt. It’s the belt buckle that keeps that whole belt together and coexisting as one. Because of the location, Pittsburgh absorbs influences from all along the belt, as well as any passing trends. Yes, Pittsburgh may be behind certain fashion trends and culture, but the city excels in bizararre amalgationa of food. The latest culinary masterpiece is Michigan and Trumbull’s Buffalo Chicken pizza. 

I’ve delivered pizzas at various spots across this great state and I’ll tell you that 90% of the pizzas I delivered in Pittsburgh were some concoction of buffalo chicken. Oddly enough, when disaster struck those numbers would increase. I had the privilege of delivering pizza when Roethlisberger had his infamous motorcycle accident. Citizens were devastated and the only thing that could fill that Roethlisberger shaped hole in their black and gold heart was buffalo chicken pizza. 

I met a lot of sad men in XL #7 jerseys that afternoon.  

Anyways, this is all to say that if you own a pizzeria in Pittsburgh and you don’t have a Buffalo chicken pizza your market cap is 50% what it could be. This pie has woven itself into the Pittsburgh food tapestry and Michigan & Trumbull has taken it to the next level.

A nice side shot of the Buffalo Chicken Pizza

A nice side shot of the Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Meet their Buffalo Chicken Pizza. It takes the best part of Detroit Style Pizza (the caramelized cheese, the thick crust) and adds a hefty dripping of hot sauce and chicken tucked under the cheese. The end result is one of the most delicious, comforting and flavorful pizzas on the market.  

As a bonus they provide their own ranch dressing which is full of zing. You’ll want to grab a cup of this to drizzle onto your own square or to dip leftover crust in.  

Whats special about this pizza is that the structure of the Detroit Pie begs to be encumbered. This buffalo chicken pizza is the perfect stress test for the dough. And it holds up beautifully. Maybe next time it’s available they’ll add some of their zesty waffle fries to this creation.

This Buffalo Chicken Pizza is a limited edition item that shows up on the Michigan and Trumbull menu periodically. Keep an eye on their Instagram for the latest in Detroit Style Pizza in Pittsburgh.  







Badamo’s Pizza on the North Side: A Delicious Combination of Passion and Perfection

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

Let me tell you when I first ran into the Badamo’s crew because it contextualizes their aura.

I was at the Michigan and Trumbull pop-up at the Vandal, an event that was packed with people pushing to the front for Detroit style pizza. I was helping to take orders for the evening, bustling around, weaving between people when someone from the kitchen shouted they were out of takeout boxes. A critical component was missing, we needed to fold pizza boxes stat.  So, the Badamo crew, who are waiting patiently to try this pizza ( who have probably spent all day prepping dough, getting restaurant in order, and all the other things that come with making pizza) and these dudes just start folding boxes. Like box folding addicts, they can’t stop. No shrugging, no fussing, they were eager to lend a hand and help out. 

And their pizza is a personification if that sentiment. Friends building some great. A family of pizza makers, a pizza that you want to share. 


I visited their newly opened location on the North Side. It's a small joint, but full of charm. The waiting area was filled with soon-to-be-regulars waiting for their Friday night order of pizza and hoagies. In their display case were an assortment of specialty slices. Perfect if you want to mix-and-match some slices to accompany your evening hoagie. 

I stuck with a fresh pie which came out piping out from the oven and appeared to be expertly cooked. I mean, look at that crust!

Above you can see a practically perfect in every way pizza. The crust is the right kind of brown, charred in the right spots, and you have an even layer of cheese that covers the sauce just so. 

Above you can see a practically perfect in every way pizza. The crust is the right kind of brown, charred in the right spots, and you have an even layer of cheese that covers the sauce just so. 

Like a fool I grabbed a pizza and a hoagie to eat by my lonesome. The life of a pizza journalist.

One bite in and I was already dying to tell my pals about the pizza.I was enjoying. The sauce was tangy, not too sweet, and the cheese masterfully held everything together. Half the pizza contained sausage and green peppers. Both these toppings were fresh and fairly distributed without stealing the pie spotlight. 

The pieces folded easily, but I noticed the bottom was a bit too pale. It could've spent a minute or two on the hot side of the oven. I reached out to Badamo's and they confirmed that this happens sometimes saying:

A lot of times with the deck ovens if you're blasting the ovens with pies all night the stone cool down and you get more top heat than bottom stone heat. Therefore, it didn't get it's color. Normally if I notice that, I'll slide it to a spot that hasn't had a pie on it to get the bottom dark as well.

With a new oven on a busy night, there's a learning curve to baking pizzas. I'm really impressed with the insightful comment they sent back too. The folks at Badamo's really get pizza. They're in the pursuit of perfection but know that there are bumps along the road. Sometimes that's a pizza that's not perfectly cooked. And that's a-okay.

I look forward to going back to see how they've grown.


Badamo's pizza is reminiscent of the local small-town pizza shop, but with a level of perfection. It's an elevated version of the pizzas I grew up eating (Luciano's and Monte Cello's to name a few). It's comforting in its shape, but has a depth of flavor that those suburban flagships are missing.

I bet these guys grew up eating similar pizzas and thought, "Hey, we can do this." Add in a unique level of passion and a pursuit of perfection and you have one of the tastiest pizzas this side of the Allegheny. 


Pizza Review: Roberta's Airt-Tight Wood Fired Margherita Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

Roberta's pizza has thrived in Bushwick on a foundation of quality and freshness. Their business infrastructure was built organically over the course of a year where the Roberta's crew had nothing but close friends and family to rely on. In the Roberta's Cookbook there's a rambling introduction that tries to tell the Roberta's story (they note that it's a story still being written). While trying to capture the spirit they write, "To experience Roberta's, you have to visit it." And now you can purchase a vacuum sealed pizza of theirs in the freezer section of a local Whole Foods.

It's curious that a pizza place that relies so much on experiencing the environment of Roberta's would be one of the first to have their Margherita pizza sealed and sent across state lines. If so much of what makes Roberta's great is the atmosphere and making memories with friends, what good is a pizza divorced of that? 

While it may seem like a cash-in you'll be happy to know that this pizza actually holds up. Most frozen or reheated pizzas have a lingering taste about them. It's the taste of age, or a lack of freshness, that is entirely edible but in a different pizza class of its own. This Roberta's pizza came bubbling back to life after a mere three minutes in the oven. I let it loiter in the oven for a minute longer for extra crispiness. While the pizza was missing that pop of freshness, it is a solid Neapolitan pizza. 

Here's the pizza after spending a few minutes in the oven.

Here's the pizza after spending a few minutes in the oven.

The puddles of cheese held dribbles of olive oil, the sauce was simple and tangy. The pizza was a near perfect facsimile of the one that comes out of a Roberta's oven. Which makes sense as these pizzas are cooked and immediately packaged, freezing a pizza in time until you're ready to open the delicious time capsule. The Margherita is a perfect canvas if you want to add your toppings and doctor up the pizza. The pizza is perfectly balanced as is, and the sauce shines through, but feel free to add a sprinkle of meat.

They did their best to put a quality Margherita pizza into the wild. But the question remains: if you need to visit Roberta's to experience Roberta's, why package the pizza? The Roberta's cookbook was written a while ago and maybe they wised up. Maybe they want to spread their passion for pizza and open up the opportunity to gather with friends and make their memories in their homes. Or parks. Or wherever. The pizza is what draws friends and family together. It doesn't matter where it's eaten, as long as it's eaten with your pizza pals.

Roberta's air-tight Margherita is the king of the freezer section pizza. If you need a Neapolitan pizza in a pinch you can't go wrong with this package. It retails for ~$10 at Whole Foods or you can spend $70 to have it shipped from your door from Gold Bely's

Villa Reale Pizzeria: if Yinzers Founded Italy

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

The classic sausage and green peppers pizza. This pizza was perfectly cooked, sturdy, and toppings evenly spread out. 

I imagine that there's fan fiction out in the world that describes in detail what would happen if a rag-tag crew of Pittsburghers traveled across the Atlantic and settled onto the fine country of Italy. They'd call their vibrant land "Yintaly" and their flag would flutter in Southern Italian Wind boasting colors of black, gold, green, red and white. And their pizzas and pizzerias would be modeled after the fine bar/pizzeria of Villa Reale in downtown Pittsburgh.

Villa Reale is a hidden ball of mozzarella in downtown Pittsburgh, nestled next to Weiner World on Smithfield Street, it's an unassuming pizza parlor. When you first enter you notice how unbelievably long this building it. There's a bar in front of the ovens that extend as far as Italy until it opens up into a dining room. I would not be surprised if the blueprints show that this building is modeled off of Italy's boot-shape.

Me and my pizza crew sat in the dining room, but I'm interested in going back for the bar experience. I have a hunch that that's the "right" way to enjoy Villa Reale because you can sip beer and get a front-row seat for the pizza making. That's a tough combo to find in Pittsburgh, but a huge plus for making the trip to Villa Reale.

This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

This half plain, half capicolla was a bit of a mess. Cheese flooded the center and it was unruly. I think it was because this was an XL, a troublesome size. 

My pizza crew had two pizzas: a sausage and green pepper and a half-plain half-capicolla. These pizzas may have been made on opposite sides of the world by random strangers. The plain/capicolla had enough cheese for four pizzas while the sausage/green peppers was slice after slice of perfection. How do they do it? How do they churn out such different pizzas?

It sounds like a bad thing, but to me it's comfort. With the boom of artisan pizzerias, it's somewhat refreshing to be served a gloopy moat of cheese and a crisp, crunchy medley of sausage and peppers. It adds an extra layer of mystique and yes, of course we ate all but one slice.

Villa Reale's pizza is the kind of pizza that has a crust that is so volatile that some parts may shatter in your mouth and others are soft and chewy. It's the phenomenon that happens when air pockets form in the crust leaving behind bites that explode like landmines. The slight imperfections of this pizza is what makes it so classic and Pittsburgh-esque.  

I'd put Villa Reale up there with one of my lifetime favorites, Mama Lucia's. I love the mix of Italian heritage and Pittsburgh and they created an odd mish-mash of an environment that you can only find in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Here is an unfortunate slice of plain pizza that looks like Laura Palmer wrapped up in plastic on the side of a river.

Next time I go to work on my Pittsburgh x Italy crossover fan fiction, I'll do it at the Villa Rae bar. The perfect environment to chat with surly waiters and eat the finest food Italy has to offer. This is pizza that pairs well with a cold Miller High Life or whatever light beer of your choosing.

As a bonus, try to find the photo of a (younger?) Mona Lisa in front of a painting of the Mona Lisa. This really is the icing on the tiramisu. 


Michigan & Trumbull and Their Flavorful Pizza Labyrinth

Pizza ReviewDan Tallarico1 Comment
Michigan & Trumbull's Packard Pepperoni, complete with pepperoni, peppers, follows of sauce and that gooey cheese.

Michigan & Trumbull's Packard Pepperoni, complete with pepperoni, peppers, follows of sauce and that gooey cheese.

Nestled into the corner of the newly built Federal Galley is a piece of Detroit in the form of Michigan & Trumbull. Michigan & Trumbull is helmed by Nathan and Kristin who are Detroit Natives that bake delicious Detroit Style pizza. Detroit Style pizzas has started leaking out of Detroit and into other metropolitan areas the past five years.  According to Tony Gemignani's Pizza Bible, the rise in popularity is tied to Shawn Randazzo, cofounder of Detroit Style Pizza Company, entering and winning the International Pizza Challenge in 2012. Around that time fan favorites Via 313 popped up in Austin which stoked interest in Detroit Style pizza. With Pittsburgh host to two Detroit Style places I guess you can say that it's finally a thing. 

Michigan & Trumbull creates my favorite version of Detroit Style pizza. There's a fine line pizza makers have to walk between making a thick sicilian style pizza that's filled with oil and true Detroit style that is outlined by a caramelized crust filled with flavor. A quality pie has a hint of sweetness that blends nicely with the grease of pepperonis lined up on each square.

Up close with the Packard Pepperoni.

Up close with the Packard Pepperoni.

And biting into a Packard Pepperoni is complex. It doesn't taste like any other kind of pizza. The cheese, caramelization of the crust, pepperoni, peppers, and honey blend together to create a cacophony of flavor. A new species of pizza deserving of its own classification.

It's honestly a bit overwhelming and foreign at first. But, with each bite comes another shred of enlightenment. Between chews I found myself understanding the strategic profile of the pizza.

"Ah, okay, so that drizzle of honey is causing the sweetness which blends nicely with the goopy cheese."

"Those peppers add just the right amount of heat."

"The edges of this crust somehow don't even taste like dough, but as if someone laminated it in a sweet crunchy shell."

But keep eating and you'll completely understand each individual flavor in these squares. It's a lot to take in at once, but by your third square you'll find yourself craving more and accelerating towards the finish.

Eating the Packard Pepperoni is fun, almost like solving a brain tickling puzzle. With each bite I uncovered a new flavor which kept me yearning for more. I've actually taken breaks from writing this to take small nibbles of the piece I brought home to share with my wife.  

I look forward to trying each and every pizza that Michigan & Trumbull has on their menu. I see them adding a ton to the rich Pittsburgh Pizza Tapestry and I'm so glad they chose to bring their take on Detroit Style Pizza to Pittsburgh.

Looking forward to eating my way through the Michigan & Trumbull menu.

Looking forward to eating my way through the Michigan & Trumbull menu.

You can find them at the newly opened Federal Galley on the North Shore.



Can't Beat Driftwood Oven's Beet Pizza, The Beetza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Driftwood Oven Beets

In the midst of a summer heat session, sometimes the margherita doesn't feel like the right pizza. The goo-factor of the cheese can clog you up, slow you down, and pump the breaks one of those often sung about summer nights. Spicy sausage or pepperoni exacerbates the heat draining your body of useful liquids. Boy, just typing this sentence is giving me the sweats.

Driftwood Oven has taken in account all those variables and algorithms and created a pizza perfect for summer chowing: The Beetza.

Yes, pizza is perfect for every season, but the weather impacts the pizza nuance. And this Beetza is a quintessential summer pizza. Almost as refreshing as a sparkling spritz or an ice-cold High Life.

We'll get to the beets in a moment, but this pizza has a soft, creamy layer that blends perfectly with a summer evening. The mixture is made up of crème fraîche, ricotta and Old Gold cheese (basically aged cheddar). It's gooey and light, giving you the perfect lubricant to put down a couple of airy slices. Chives are scattered on top of the pizza like celebratory confetti. They provide festive flair and a bit of flavor. The star of the show is, of course, the beets.


While beets are traditionally a delicious winter vegetable, there's no law against slicing them up for a delicious, bouncy pizza. Beets can be a flavor dead end. If they are not prepared well enough you get that wonderful earthy flavor in your mouth. The kind of flavor worms would die for. The Beetza comes corrects with the beet flavoring. 

Instead of that earth flavor, every bite of beets is a burst of delicious, "rooty," flavor. When combined with the crust, the cream and a bit of caramelized onion, you get a sophisticated flavor in the form of a pizza. 

Of course, the amazingly consistent Driftwood Oven crust plays host to these flavors and doesn't falter one bit under the heap of toppings. 

The Beet Pizza is a potpourri of fun and flavor that pairs perfectly with a well cracked cold one. For those that don't enjoy beets, check this out as I know you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

Finally, here's a photo of a non-beet pizza. Just for fun.

Bonus margherita Pizza

Pizza Shirt Review: Driftwood Oven's Old-Fashioned Baseball Shirt

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

When I'm not eating pizza I'm thinking about ways to showcase my pizza passion. While some say I wear my pizza love on my sleeve, that isn't good enough. I'm always on the hunt for tasteful, snug, and cool pizza shirts to pull over my body. Luckily for me, Driftwood Oven has hit the point of their success where they are selling t-shirts. A sure sign of a healthy business. Here's my review of the Driftwood Oven old-timey baseball t-shirt.

Graziano's Slice Investigation: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Here is a simple, sloppy slice of Graziano's buffalo chicken pizza.

Here is a simple, sloppy slice of Graziano's buffalo chicken pizza.

I admire Graziano's candor and excitement for their own pizza. I routinely visit their store for a six-pack, and occasionally I'll get a slice to take home with me. No use grabbing some beers without a pizza companion. 

There's always someone spilling their drama in the front of the shop, but behind the counter you'll find the same reliable staff of workers who have seen it all and dealt with more griping and antics than most people see in their lifetime. 

No one ever recommends Graziano's, and it rarely makes any "best of" list, yet their store is home to a couple of trophies. They participated in a few pizza competitions last summer and won consecutive "People's Choice Awards" for best pizza. The pizza in question: their buffalo chicken pizza.

I popped into Graziano's for a slice and one of the workers asked me if I wanted a slice of a fresh buffalo chicken pizza. I waffled, like a dope, then said yes. Most buffalo chicken pizza I've had starts with a crust, a gallon of ranch, french fries, fried chicken and a drizzle of hot sauce. 

This flipped the script on buffalo chicken pizza. Instead of ranch, their pizza is slathered in hot sauce. They admitted they "went a bit overboard." I'd beg to differ - if you're going to make a pizza that's 90% hot sauce, lean into it. Own the fact that every buffalo chicken pizza carries with it a tub of hot sauce. That's what buffalo chicken pizza lovers want.

On top of the buffalo sauce was a hunk of cheese and grilled chicken, not fried. I was shocked, but with the crunch of the crust you don't miss the fried chicken. In fact, it helps all the flavors blend in a bit better.

If you're in the market for a somewhat sloppy, delicious and fun pizza, try the Buffalo Chicken Pizza from Graziano's. It's worth the adventure at least once. 

Graziano's Pizza

Slice Highlight: Slice on Broadway & Their Delicious Tomato Pie

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie

Slice on Broadway is well documented for their craft and passion for pizza. Rico, the owner, routinely delivers a delicious pie. Whether he's playing around with artisan ingredients or serving up hundreds of slices to hungry Pirate fans, you can rely on Slice on Broadway's quality. When I saw they serving up sicilian pies at their PNC Park location I knew I had to stop down.

Sicilian Pizza is on the rise. I'm not sure if it's out of boredom, but I'm noticing more pizza makers experimenting with a dough that's ferments a bit longer and rises to the edge of a very deep pan. 

Rico is always tinkering around and his latest masterpiece is this Sicilian pizza that's only available on Fridays. 

Slice on Broadway Tomato Pie Closeup

Here's the Tomato Pie waiting to be plucked from it's habitat.This cross-section exposes every aspect of the pizza. The liquid parts of the crushed tomatoes have seeped into the browned crust, leaving behind a tomato laminate. On top of that is a healthy dose of parmesan cheese and oregano.

After one bite of this pizza you'll realize how flavorful a pizza can be without cheese. The sprinkle of parmesan offers a nice bite, but the crushed tomatoes mixed with oregano and savory crust fill your mouth with flavor.

Like any great sicilian, there's a nice crunch followed by a cushion of dough. Now, this isn't as soft in the middle of other sicilians I've had. It's actually quite hearty. It avoids tasting too much like a hunk of sourdough bread, which isn't easy to do.  As it turns out sourdough bread and sicilian dough are molecularly quite similar.

Tomato Pie Pizza in Box

I'd highly recommend the tomato pie to anyone that wanders into Slice on Broadway on a Friday. The crushed tomatoes are flesh and flavorful, and there's just enough seasoning to bring out bold flavors. 

Kudos to Rico and his team for delivering a delicious and well-rounded sicilian pie. I look forward to making Slice a part of my Friday lunch ritual!

Underside of Tomato Pie Pizza

Slicing it Up With Dan - VIA 313 Detroit Style Pizza

Pizza Review, Pizza VideoDan TallaricoComment

In this episode of Slicing it Up With Dan, I work my way through a "slice" of Detroit Style Pizza from VIA 313 in Austin, Texas. Now you may be asking yourself a couple of questions. What's Detroit Style Pizza? Is that a pineapple ring in the thumbnail of the video? How's the pizza in Austin, Texas?

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

A couple of pizzas ready for action.

Detroit Style pizza is famous for being cooked in square pans that are amazing at retaining heat. They push the dough into the oiled pans and heat them up. What you end up with is a sicilian-style pizza that's crunchier, a bit thinner and softer on the inside. The exterior of this pizza was my favorite part. It had a delicious, oily crunch that was very flavorful. Juicy in some ways. Like the interior crust was marinating in savory oils and cheeses all day.

VIA 313 has an eclectic menu, but they're most famous for their pepperoni pizza. There's two kids of pepperoni. One under the cheese (a shy pepperoni) and an extroverted pepperoni that sits atop the cheese. Despite the double-layer of pepperoni the pizza wasn't overly greasy. How they engineered that is beyond me.

VIA 313 The Detroiter

Despite all the tacos and meats I ate during my trip to Austin (a smoke turkey too!), I immensely enjoyed VIA 313. This is the kind of pizza that pairs well with an ice cold beer. The sauce is nice and zesty, the cheese is perfectly melted and that crust is divine.  Definitely check out VIA 313 if you get a chance. 

Fiori's Pizza - Revisiting Fiori's Pizzeria after a Four Year Hiatus

Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment
A bare, innocent slice of Fiori's pizza.

A bare, innocent slice of Fiori's pizza.

My first pizza visit of 2017 was none other than the legendary Fiori's Pizzeria in Brookline. Fiori's is one of the oldest, well revered pizza places in the city of Pittsburgh. So, when I asked Joey from the Vandal where he wanted to meet for a pizza adventure he said "Well, Fiori's." He also threw out Beto's, but let's be real, it wasn't a competition.

Four years have passed since I've been to Fiori's. Let's look at the slices of pizza side-by-side. A lot has happened in phone technology in four years, but dang do these slices look foreign.

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

Fiori's from 2013. Looks undercooked and sad.

Fiori's from 2017. Looks mega delicious with great lighting.

Fiori's from 2017. Looks mega delicious with great lighting.

2017 Fiori's is full of passion. That's a perfectly cooked pizza that's wearing a slightly charred bubble like a beauty mark. The cheese has browned nicely without losing any of its flavor. The 2017 pizza is what you see when you should see when you look up "Pizza" in the Pizza Bible.

Fiori's Pizza Brookline Pittsburgh

I'm not a fan of a sloppy pizza that can't keep its act together. I enjoy a pizza with confidence, and sturdiness that can support a myriad of toppings if put to the test. If your pizza collapses in half, creating a cheese avalanche and leaves you rushing for a fork & knife, you got a bad slice on your hands. Stability is key, else you spend time stuffing the guts back onto the pizza.

Last time I ate at Fiori's, four years ago, I wrote the following about its crust:

There’s some give to the crust, but not enough that leads to a complete pizza breakdown. You could build a house on this crust except you’d have to worry about a sinking foundation in about three years.
— Dan Tallarico, 2013

Fiori's still delivers a sturdy pizza. Hands down one of the most structurally sound pizzas I've encountered. I'm sure that pizza from my last visit would continue to be sturdy. You wouldn't have to worry about a sinking foundation with a Fiori's pizza house for ten years at this rate.

Last week I had Mineo's. The juxtaposition of these two pieces was a revelation. Mineo's delivered disappointed, flimsy slices that cried out under the pool of cheese and grease.  With Fiori's, the pizza is there to serve you. It is a finely built vessel that is capable of carrying cheese, sauce and toppings into its landing zone (your mouth).

Consistency is a hallmark of quality pizza. I can make a decent pizza in my kitchen 25% of the time, but to pull out a delicious, evenly topped pizza day after day, year after year is amazing. It's a testament to the craft behind Fiori's. They live to fix you up and I'm glad they're still fixing up Pittsburgh after all this time.

Fiori's pizza shines like the sun as a fluorescent ray strikes a small, quiet, pond of grease.

Fiori's pizza shines like the sun as a fluorescent ray strikes a small, quiet, pond of grease.

From crust to the tip, Fiori's delivers a complete pizza package. Last time I ate Fiori's, I remember the crust being a bit bland. That was not the case in this visit. After getting through the cheese and roasted red peppers, the crust was a delight to bite into.The carapace of the crust gave way to a soft cushion of dough. 

Fiori's is on the other side of the Liberty Bridge, not a bad drive. One of my 2017 resolutions is to visit Fiori's more than once every four years.

Get fixed up, get Fiori's. 

Slicing it Up with Dan! Episode 3: Mama Lucia's Pizza

Pizza Video, Pizza ReviewDan TallaricoComment

In this episode of Slicing it Up With Dan! I eat a slice from Mama Lucia's in Downtown Pittsburgh. Now, Mama Lucia's is an older pizzeria. If you walk a block in most directions of Mama Lucia's you'll stumble over the neapolitan and craft pizzas that litter downtown Pittsburgh.

Mama Lucia's is a bunker of nostalgia and authenticity. The pizza you begged to order every Friday night as a child is waiting for you in this pizzeria. They offer classic slices and Sicilian slices. I've been on the hunt for sicilian style slices of pizzas lately and couldn't resist chomping into one of mama Lucia's. 

The thicker crust was too bready and could have used more sauce. The chef may not have known that the thicker slice needed special attention. You can't treat it with the common-core of pizza education and expect it to come out as high quality of the thin crust. 

If you venture down the Sicilian path, pack a pepsi to wash down the dough. 

Mama Lucia's was a staple in my life growing up. My fondest memories are from visiting Mama Lucia's in the North Way Mall after seeing a $1 movie. I'd grab a greasy slice and dare myself to sprinkle as much parmesan cheese and red-pepper flakes as my body could digest. 

Here's a couple of slices from Mama Lucia's. 

Here's a couple of slices from Mama Lucia's. 



Pizza Review: Cappello's Gluten Free, Grain Free Cheese Pizza

Pizza ReviewDan Tallarico1 Comment
Cappello's Gluten Fre Pizza Review


Cappello's is a simple company with a simple mission - "To provide fresh, uniquely delicious options for gourmet food lovers, healthy eaters and people with dietary restrictions." It's with that mission in mind that they've created a suite of grain-free, paleo-friendly food, starting with the most important kinds: Pasta, pizza and cookie dough.

For Cappello's, that means throwing their hat in the Gluten Free Pizza Arena. A highly contentious arena full of peril and nay-sayers. But is their Gluten Free pizza enough to satisfy gluten free folks and pizza enthusiasts alike? Could this be the pizza that unites the world of pizza lovers? 

Here, we'll be talking about the Gluten Free, Grain Free Cheese Pizza. It's a frozen pizza that embodies simplicity. Inside the box you get a pizza that can feed one and is a great snack for two. On the box itself, you get a great drawing of a dinosaur in a suit. You can color or draw on this dinosaur while you're waiting twenty minutes for your pizza to cook.

Real quick aside about cooking times - obviously, times will vary with each oven, but I found the crust charred up much earlier than expected. Half-way through baking I moved the pie to the top oven rack which solved the problem, but keep an eye on the pizza.

Christa poses with the Cappello's frozen pizza.  As you can see, it's a nice size for two people to snack on.

Christa poses with the Cappello's frozen pizza.  As you can see, it's a nice size for two people to snack on.

Let's start with the crust. Some may say this is the most important part of the pizza. After all it supports the rest of the toppings, cheese and sauce. Without a crust you have a puddle of goo. The Cappello's crust forgoes traditional flour and uses arrowroot flour, coconut flour, honey and cage-free eggs. 

Eggs in a pizza crust is unusual. There's no need for eggs in traditional pizza dough and I'm guessing Cappello's added eggs in to hold the mixture together and provide a bit of protein.

Aside from eggs, you're missing out on yeast. While you have a bread substitute, there's no rise happening. You shouldn't expect a network of gluten, a soft crust, or a soft chewy cushion to accompany the crunch of a crust.

Nope - you're getting a crispy, crackers crust. There's a sweet flavor to the edge that blends nicely with the sauce and cheese. I'm not sure the crust could stand on its own, but with its teammates of cheese and sauce, you get a solid package that would be a comfort after a long day. 

Here's the Cappello's pizza fresh from the oven. It's charred in some places and tan in others.

Here's the Cappello's pizza fresh from the oven. It's charred in some places and tan in others.

The sauce is more line line with what you'd expect from a frozen pizza. It's not too sweet, but has a garlicky zest. Combined with a layer of melted cheese and you'd need to hire a pizza detective to pick this gluten free pizza out of a lineup of standard frozen pizzas.

The crispy, crackery Cappello's Gluten Free Pizza is a fine substitute for a gluten filled pizza as long as you're okay with thin crust. I prefer my pizza with a nice rise, but this gets the job done in a pinch.

Cappello's Pizza with added soppressata. No gluten network here, but nice and thin.

Cappello's Pizza with added soppressata. No gluten network here, but nice and thin.

It's a fine piece of pizza engineering that duplicates the fundamental pizza archetype. You get a solid crust, sauce and cheese that will fill a pizza sized hole in your stomach. Whether you enjoy gluten or not, I'm sure you'll enjoy a Cappello's pizza.

I'd recommend this pizza for when you're hosting mixed company of gluten-free / pro-gluten folks. Watch as each guests cautiously chews the pizza, wondering if what they're eating has gluten in it. It will forever be a mystery that perplexes guests as they leave your home. 

And that's a strange compliment to give a pizza. Perplexing. But for a product that is trying to be pizza without a key ingredient that we all recognize in pizza, Cappello's successfully imitates the art of pizza.