1, 2, Pizza23! 

Justin Price with Bleu Burger pizza
BY: Mark Hancock

Why are foods always trying to be other foods?

Pizza is the worst offender.

Every pizza burger I’ve ever had is a cheeseburger with mozzarella, pepperoni and some marinara on top. Pizza tacos? Same thing in a shell. It tells you a lot about what people think pizza really is.

On the other hand, pizza can masquerade as so many other foods because it’s a wide-open canvas to combine flavors. And that’s why I looked at the menu at Pizza23 with hope — hope that was quickly rewarded.

Part of that comes from 23’s greatest asset — the crust.

I’ve heard it called a butter crust by friends, but until you’ve tasted it, you won’t understand.

Think
about a compact biscuit. It’s not tough, but there’s a little chew.
It’s buttery and layered, a little crisp and oh so very rich.

Put
the best ingredients you can find on cardboard, and it’ll still taste
like cardboard. But with that crust, Pizza 23 sets itself up to succeed.

One
way to sample the crust is to try the Rumble Bread ($4) — a small round
of dough, brushed with garlic and olive oil and topped with Parmesan
cheese. It’s not the cheesy bread of our youth, all gooey and greasy.
This is delicate and flavorful, and that’s before you dip it in
marinara.

Get any of
your old favorites at Pizza23 by picking your own toppings from its list
of 23 — including that old standby pepperoni. Or you can let the pizza
place do what it does best and put together some combinations.

I
do not worry about skimpy toppings at Pizza23. I worry that the
multitude of toppings will fall off before they get to my mouth. These
pies are packed.

The
Mediterranean ($13 for a small, $18 for a medium, $22 for a large)
starts off with that oil and garlic sauce on the crust with a layer of
spinach and mozzarella under chicken, sun-dried tomato and feta cheese.
Feta is a dangerous topping. Too much can be overpowering. Too little
and you won’t taste it at all. But this is a good mix that blends
nicely. No one ingredient dominates.

The
same can’t be said for the Margherita ($11/$14/$18), which is a good
thing. With just the oil and garlic base and mozzarella tying it
together, the real draw here is basil. It’s a basil punch in the mouth,
and it’s excellent. Add in a tart and sweet bite from halved cherry and
grape tomatoes that have been deliciously scorched in the oven and
you’ve got an all-time classic done beautifully.

Cheeseburger
pizza is ...sigh. Look. Why not just get a cheeseburger? It’s not like
they don’t sell them almost everywhere. But the Bleu Burger
($14/$18/$23), at least, does something different. Honestly, other than hamburger
meat, I don’t think this deserves that moniker. The marinara base and
the beef take a back seat to the powerful trio of bacon, avocado and
blue cheese. Actually, I think you should eat a slice of this one after
you eat a slice of The Carnitas ($13, $18, $22).

Oh, this is a real
cultural mix- ’em-up right here. Pizza is Italian. The pulled pork and
the house-made pico are definitely Latin. If that’s all there was, that’d
be fine. But take the owner’s suggestion and put some Sriracha (aka
Rooster sauce) on top. That Asian chili sauce not only adds heat, but it
adds a lot of flavor. The pork crisps up nicely in the oven, so it’s a
melange of flavors and textures that I found intoxicating.

Speaking of intoxicating: Pizza 23 has 23 different beers, as well. Perfect for enjoying on that lovely patio.

Pizza23
isn’t reinventing the pizza wheel, but it is doing something better.
It’s elevating the game. It’s an improved product, and that’s a big plus
for those looking to get away from the ubiquitous pizza mega-chains.

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