Pizza Redux



Robb,

First, let me establish my credentials. I was born in the Bronx in 1966 and lived there until 1983 when my family moved to Manhattan. I know pizza. I can even tell a Bronx pie from a Manhattan pie on a good day. (Of course, here I'm made fun of simply for using the word "pie.")

We (my wife and I) came to Austin in 1995 already knowing about Reale's thanks to a friend. Heaven on 183. Not just the pizza but the atmosphere. We love it. Unfortunately, when we moved south, Reale's became a luxury we were no longer willing to pay the price for. But now our problems are solved. Since you didn't include it in your rankings, you clearly must not have heard of Aljon's Pizza on East Oltorf.

Located about a mile east of I-35, in the same lot as Austin Gourmet Market, Aljon's is a revelation. It is Nirvana South, also owned by real Italian NY transplants. You don't get the restaurant atmosphere of Reale's, but you do get the NY pizzeria feel and, most importantly, the pizza, which is at least as good, if not better than, Reale's. I do not lie. Get there today. I work at St. Edward's University so I have become a regular. Do yourself a favor. This is the real deal. Yours in crust,

Dennis Poust
St. Edward's University
Editor, St. Edward's University News



Robb:

What is this obsession you have with crispy crust? Noticed it in that infamous article you wrote five years ago. Pizza crust is supposed to be wiggly, you flip the tip back, fold the slice in two, and you can polish it off in three or four bites max, before the olive oil dribbles all the way to your elbow. Real men do this all one-handed, needless to say.

For real "New York" pizza, try Aljon's on East Oltorf, a couple of blocks east of I-35 just past the Whataburger. But for god's sake don't tell anyone about it, or all these Texans will ruin it -- make 'em put pineapple and Canadian bacon and other non-pizza shit on it -- and complain that the crust is wiggly, etc.

I suppose it'd be redundant to mention I'm from New Jersey.

Peace,
William Geronimo Bohrer



Robb:

As a recently transplanted New Yorker, I, too, know what it is to yearn for pizza done right. Try Aljon's on the corner of Burton Drive & E. Oltorf.

Its the real thing! Superb!

Caitlin Kelly





After my first pizza survey for the Chronicle in 1991, I wrote a follow-up column that began like this:

"My lawyer is not a Samoan. He is a member of an even fiercer tribe of island warriors. So when he grabbed me by the shirt and insisted in his Manhattan accent that I immediately reconsider my ratings of New York style pizzerias, I agreed to listen. "Aljon's is the best New York-style pizza in Austin," pleaded my attorney, Peter Kreisner. As a card-carrying member of the ACLU, Kreisner has impressed upon me the need to respect dissenting opinions. So I tried Aljon's pizza and I have to admit it was excellent. The crust was very crispy with the thin, irregular texture only a thrown pizza crust possesses." (The Austin Chronicle, September 20, 1991).

You'd think I would have remembered to visit Aljon's in the latest pizza survey, but again, I left them out. A recent visit confirmed that their dough is still hand-thrown and the pizza is still outstanding. Not quite as good as Reale's, but close. The crust wasn't rotated enough during cooking and one side got a little more well-done than the other, but that's a minor quibble. Apologies to Aljon's fans everywhere.

And in other apologies -- the owner of Marcello's called and he was none too happy. First of all, his name isn't Marcello, that's his grandson's name. His name is Sabro Sukalic; he is half Yugoslav, half Italian and I interviewed him five years ago when he was at Niki's. Sabro points out that while the Marcello's location had a convection oven when he moved in, he had the oven changed, so my comments about ovens were off-base. Sorry, Sabro.

Norman Garrett at Fix-a-Wreck called to point out that the pizza at Marcello's is better than the other delivery-only pizzas in the area, but next time, he suggested I order the incredible eggplant parmesan sandwich. I immediately called and had one delivered and I have to say, Norman was right. It was outstanding.

The following letter also set me straight on my misconceptions regarding the alligator skin pattern on the bottom of many pizzas, which I always assumed were made by a pizza sheeter.


Dear Robb,

Regarding your February 28 article on pizzas, etc. I can't help but point out that the "telltale alligator skin pattern" on the bottom of a Milto's pizza crust is not from a belt dough roller, or "pizza sheeter" as you referred to, but rather from the metal pizza screens that they cook their pizzas on.

Since I was one of the many thousands of kids who spent many a sweaty night covered in souvlaki grease and that anchovy salad dressing (don't let Milto's tell you it's vegetarian, people, they lie) rolling out each one of those mothers with a big wooden rolling pin, I can tell you for sure that their hands would wither away before Milto's would ever spend the money on a dough roller machine.

W.M. Dave


And then there was this series of letters about a new pizzeria called Saccone's:


Dear Mr. Walsh,

I have just now read your article in the Chronicle on the search for real New York style pizza. I have just moved from New Jersey to open a true New York style pizzeria, "Saccone's Pizza and Subs." There is no other pizzeria as authentic to New Jersey or New York as my pie or my shop, I guarantee it!!!!!

I invite you to try the best pizza you ever had in your life. Bobby Reale is a great guy and makes a good pie, but take the advice of his customers who have tried my pie and have told me my pie is the best they have ever had!!!!! Note: I have only been open two weeks but word is out from Dominick's and Roppolo's on Sixth Street to Reale's. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon. We have a lot to talk about.

Sincerely,
Daniel T. Saccone
Saccone's Pizza and Subs


Robb:

I talked to Mr. Saccone of Saccone's pizza, and he tells me you haven't become interested in visiting his pizza emporium in Leander. Come on. Don't believe for a minute that The Austin Chronicle is tied to a little 20 or 25 mile circle with the capitol in its center. We're really out here, and some of us try to read the Chronicle on the bus (though your latest reformatting has made it kinda difficult... now where does that article conclude?)

You can take the LX bus out to the end of the line, or to Cedar Park, they might even bring your pizza to you at the bus stop! Check it out.

Joyce T. Snodgrass

P.S. (I have no financial interest or anything in this, except that I think you'd enjoy a nice bus ride once in a while.)



I made the journey out to Saccone's, which is at 2701A Hwy183, in the Osage Village Shopping Center in Leander. (And you thought Reale's was a long trek!) It's a great little sub-shop style pizzeria. The ingredients are perfect, the crust is handmade -- it's an excellent pizza. But it didn't quite have the crunch of Reale's or Aljon's and it had the alligator skin pattern of what I now know is a pizza screen on the bottom. Evidently, the idea of the pizza screen is to cook the crust evenly for some part of the baking time, but baking on the screen seems to sacrifice some of the crustiness that direct contact with the oven floor imparts. Saccone's pizza was very good, but it got a little too soft as it cooled. Watch out, though, pizza fans; Saccone's is a mere pepperoni slice from getting it right and they've only been open for a couple of weeks.

And speaking of the soft crust problem, I got a letter with some good advice on how to order a large pizza at Reale's.


Mr. Walsh,

I loved your article in the Feb 28 Chronicle. As a pizza fan constantly in search of the best in Austin, I found your commentary to be quite insightful. Reale's is a favorite of mine, too. And I've agonized over the gooey center crust. But we found a solution. Gino Reale, Bob's son, is out of the service and working at the restaurant now. He was running the place one night, and stopped by after we sent the large pie back due to the aforementioned gooey problem. His solution? Cook the crust a bit first, then add a reduced amount of sauce and cheese. Amazing! The crust was perfect, and the flavor retained the sublime quality that makes Reale's one of my favorites. Next time you're there, give it a try.

Thanks,
Albert Nurick


My curiosity compelled me to return to the Usenet site dedicated to Austin culinary delights where I heard about Reale's to begin with. There I found Albert Nurick's name again at the beginning of this string of messages:


Bravo to Reale's and bravo to Robb Walsh for discovering it.

Let's not give Robb all the credit... in the article, he mentioned that he was referred there by folks on the Net... i.e., us!

Subject: Re: Best New York Pizza/Bravo Robb Walsh From: Bill Finch

Sure ... I was just being polite to Robb ... I think it is worthy when a newshound actually gets it right, no matter what prompts him. Also, I'm always pleased when news guys report useful things. Too much time is spent on the obvious as if it were a great revelation, like Clinton begged for money to run for President... duh! Or, Clinton has an eye for the girls ... geez! For the most part the "news" is drivelrama. Bravo, Robb, you deserve a reward ... then again eating pizza at Reale's is its own reward!

Subject: Re: Best New York Pizza/Bravo Robb Walsh From: Thomas C. Clancy

Hasn't this guy already written this article two or three times already?


Yes, Mr. Clancy, and I promise you won't hear from me again on the subject of pizza until 2002 at the earliest.

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