Sure, there's a Jreck Subs. For awhile, a Pizza Hut and a Baskin Robbins took up some space. Way back when I was a kid, the diner inside the Kmart on Outer Washington Street kept busy, and Shelly's Deli did a brisk business for many years just a few doors down from that property. I'm thrilled that Ives Hill Country Club provides a fine dining and lounge setting on this side of town, but a few more casual options have been sorely missing for years. With all of those professional people, close restaurants open for lunch were especially lacking.
Like magic, PieZano's Pizza showed up just a couple months ago in the Tops Plaza. And there was much rejoicing in the land! I've sampled PieZano's menu on three separate occasions, and I've been waiting excitedly to share my thoughts about this new gem with you all.
Our first visit, we shared a whole veggie pizza, and were immediately impressed by the tasty, chewy, golden crust - not cracker thin or Sicilian, but somewhere in between. It was hearty, flavorful, cooked at high enough heat to render the bottom crunchy, but balanced with the plentiful toppings. The vegetables were impeccably fresh, peppers still crunchy, mushrooms hand cut instead of from a can, and thin shards of red onion for sweetness sharing space with black olive slices for depth. The sauce at PieZano's is sweet and bright, and the cheese has good pull and that creamy, almost salty taste of quality aged mozzarella.
The second time, we got a pepperoni pie and brought it home, to see if it would get soggy during transport. Fear not! That toothsome crust had appealing, caramelized blisters around the edges, and remained a crisp base for the spicy, greasy pepperoni. It might seem odd that I'm describing the pepperoni - we all know what pepperoni tastes like, right? But I can't tell you how many times I've had slices of cheaper pepperoni without that telltale bite, the mild-but-exciting zing of Italian chile flakes that seem to be missing from bargain brands of this sausage. I only use Margherita brand or better at home, and I was pleased that PieZano's pepperoni - America's most popular pizza topping - was worthy.
This is not NY style or Chicgo style or gourmet pizza, but it's exactly what you might want to order on a Friday night after a long workweek: hearty, flavorful, simple, and delicious.
Our next visit, we dined in. PieZano's has a small dining room, but are not especially set up to accommodate eat-in customers. The flatware is plastic, and the salad we ordered was already packaged in a plastic to-go clamshell and had to be dished out onto a plate for us. Dressings are from little packets.
The garlic knots here are large and fluffy, with a lightly crisp exterior. They weren't drowning in garlic butter, like other local knots. They had garlic salt on top rather than fresh, minced garlic, so the effect was much different than most sloppy, super garlicky rolls, more like garlic bread made with pizza dough.
The vegetable beef soup, I didn't think was scratch made, but the menu asserts that PieZano's makes its soups in-house. It was very flavorful, bordering on salty, with big chunks of potato, green beans, peas and soft beef.
Medium chicken wings were coated in a bottled buffalo sauce, I believe, as it was more viscous than a simple butter and hot sauce combo would render. They were cooked perfectly crispy for my tastes. Dipping sauce and celery and carrots are extra, as is the trend these days. No gratis accoutrements, a la Wing Wagon. My suggestion would be to raise the price 50 cents and include blue cheese and celery.
The chicken parmesan grinder was lighter than I expected, dressed with a sauce smacking of fresh tomato brightness and lots of gooey provolone cheese on a light, airy bread. The fried chicken breast itself was standard, and didn't add much flavor to the overall works. Chips on the side were house-made, crinkle cut. Not greasy but aggressively salty. Order an extra cup of water for these babies, because PieZano's doesn't serve beer to wash them down with.
Stromboli with pepperoni and mushrooms was massive and absolutely delicious, as were its leftovers the next day. It was a hair on the greasy side, but not in an off-putting way. Again, the ingredients stuffed inside were high quality and flavorful, the sweetness of the sauce offsetting the earthy mushrooms and spicy pepperoni.
We tried two individual slices, a red and a white, which are available in addition to whole pizzas at PieZano's. They couldn't hold a candle to the whole pies, their flavor muted by too long a slumber at room temp, and the crust was dried out. My advice: skip 'em.
There are flashes of brilliance on the menu at PieZano's, along with some items that fell short, for us. I should note that they offer gluten free pizza, in addition to my preferred glutinous extravaganza, so for those our you looking out for such things, now you know.
I give PieZano's a seven on the BHS scale - an overall great addition to this side of Watertown, with mostly terrific eats. While the pizza can't beat Stefano's or Art's Jug, for me, it is something I've been happy to tuck into on several occasions. With a side of crispy wings and some of those massive garlic knots, you can sail away into your carb coma blissfully after a meal here. Mangia! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!