It was my first day at a brand new job. I was meeting new people, sharing details about my life, and planning some great stuff with an exciting new company. Within the first few hours I exhausted nearly all topics of conversation dealing with pizza. My coworkers knew I was obsessed with the combination of crust, sauce, and cheese. So, on my inaugural lunch outing the question wasn’t if we were going to eat pizza, but where.
I had to impress these people. I’d be working with close proximity with them and any irritation I caused now would come back to haunt me weeks later. By choosing the wrong pizza place, I would not only forfeit my chances of getting a ping-pong table in the office, but I would face a similar fate to the nazi soldier who chose the ornate chalice in the Steven Spielberg classic film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Without hesitation I chose Bella Notte. Bella Notte sits in the middle of the strip and is surrounded by every ethnicity of food and the leading supplier of Italian goods. I had confidence that their ingredients would be fresh and the Italian expertise would have invaded their kitchen via osmosis. My pizza fantasy faded as we walked through the door greeted by “Top Forty” music that had as much business being in a pizza shop as a horse riding on an asteroid to Horseopolis.
After looking through the menu my coworkers decided it would be best to venture in our separate directions, like officers of the law searching for an escaped convict, and order individual slices. The slices cost more than you’d bargain for in Pittsburgh, but you’re actually purchasing an “investment slice” (that’s what I call a slice of pizza so large that it keeps your stomach occupied until dinner).
The special that day was the margarita and who was I to turn down a pizza that claimed it was made with fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella? When the pizza arrived I was confused as to why the basil looked so wilted and forlorn. Whatever basil flavor once inhabited the leaf had evaporated in the ovens. Why they cooked the basil in the oven is beyond me. Shame on these people for treeing such a delicate herb with reckless abandon. I was then stuck with a pizza coated with thick mozzarella that was topped with weeds that my grandmother would be embarrassed to have in her yard.
Supporting the cheese and sauce was a sturdy crust that crumbled with a single bite. The brittle and charred flavored of the crust wasn’t advertised, but certainly played a large role in the pizza. It was hard to taste the elements of the pizza while my tastebuds were dealing with the blackened debris that could just as easily exploded out of a volcano.
My one partner, Justin, who ordered a slice of pepperoni, could not finish his. I’m not sure if it’s because of the stick of pepperoni they shredded atop his slice, or he wasn’t mentally prepared for the colossal triangle on his plate.
I applaud their effort to provide Pittsburgh with “investment slices,” but the pizza fundamentals can use a bit of work. As far as the Strip goes, this may be the best in the area, but it’s not worth traveling away from Bloomfield or Squirrel Hill for a slice.
Three pizzas out of five.