Halifax Pizza Quest: South End Halifax
Round 2 of the Halifax Pizza quest proved to be just as thrilling and surprising as the last. For those of you just tuning in, my food team and I are doing monthly Pizza Quests in Halifax neighbourhoods. Basically we get a medium pizza with pepperoni and green pepper delivered from each pizza shop, and critique them all in one sitting. First we completed The Battle of Quinpool Road. This week we conquered 7 pizza shops in south end Halifax.
There were 7 participants for this round. My long time food questing companion, Aaron (a.k.a. MGyver) was the score master. This guy is truly magical at rounding up data and configuring it so that I can take the credit. We rated each pizza out of 5 for these categories: sauce, crust, toppings and cheese. This adds up to a total of 140 points (5x4x7, ya dig?) We also gave a separate score for our overall impression.
I am starting to realize that pizza appreciation is drastically subjective. Whereas there may be an objective criteria for the quality of ingredients, at the end of the day this takes a back seat to pizza preferences. Composition, crust-style, and cheese allotment are the subject of much debate. And it gets ugly. Just watch Jon Stewart TRASH Chicago deep dish pizza in this video.
Ready? I’m not…
Contestant #1: Xtreme Pizza
Xtreme Pizza excels in the late-night provision of novelty pies, like the celebrated “Thanksgiving Pizza” or the lesser-known “Big Xtreme” that mimics a Big Mac with Thousand Island dressing, hamburger, pickles, and cheddar cheese. I have always been impressed with the variety, but less than pleased with the quality.
On this occasion I was pleasantly surprised at this plain ‘ol pep ‘n’ pepper pie. The cheese was generous. The sauce was tasty. However, the crust gave it the semblance of a frozen pizza. The consensus? This is decent pizza, but nothing special when stripped of all the novelty toppings. It is worth noting that Brothers pepperoni is available as an extra cost item, and that it makes an appearance on the “Double Brothers Pepperoni”, and is coupled with donair meat on the “Hero”.
Score: 82/140 – (59%)
Contestant #2: City Pizza
City Pizza had more of a thin crust, but not the coveted Neapolitan crust, nor a foldable NY crust, nor even a Midwestern tavern crust. Nah, it’s just dough that didn’t rise all that much. The cheese kind of clung to the dough, furthering this impression. Yet one of my guilty pleasures is cheap cardboard pizza, (and I don’t think I’m the only one), so this pizza actually scored pretty well.
Score: 82/140 – (59%)
Contestant #3: Rugova’s Pizza
Rugova’s arrived next, and was certainly the cheapest of the bunch. It also tasted cheap. One reviewer wrote that the crust “tastes like dust” and the toppings…. well, they were “itchy”?… no wait, “icky”. Yes, icky. It seems we are an eloquent bunch, with fine hand writing to boot. True professionalism is at work here, folks!
I noticed that Rugova’s menu is strikingly similar to Alexandra’s, and that the pizza is almost a mirror image. It’s almost like Rugova’s is a cheap knock-off of Alexandra’s? Does anyone know anything about this?
Score: 62/140 – (44%)
Contestant #3: Tomavino’s Pizza (a.k.a. Tomasino’s)
When Tomavino’s arrived it became obvious that I am unable to repress my biases. I had already decided that Tomavino’s is the best pizza in the south end. It is the closest thing you can get to an Italian pizza for south end delivery. So I was shocked and bemused when this pizza did not get the reception I had anticipated. Participants complained that there wasn’t enough sauce. Some claimed that the presence of Parmesan cheese was overpowering the other toppings. Some eaters were brazen enough to openly dislike the crust!
Yes, the sauce was more scant than I remembered it being. Most participants remarked that the sauce was tasty, but still deducted points due to its under-abundance. Tomavino’s redeemed itself with a solid score for toppings, but opinions on the crust were mixed, with some participants ranking it as low as 2/5, and others ranking it as high as 5/5 (yeah, that was me). It may not be the best crust in all of Halifax, but I stand by my opinion that it was the best crust of our south end deliveries.
Score: 85/140 – (61%)
Contestant #5: Snappy Tomato
The pizza from Snappy Tomato arrived and we ooo’d and ahh’d.
A pan crust pizza oozing with cheese! So much potential. Unfortunately, this pizza did
not come to meet our high hopes. It was lacking in sauce, and more than one participant complained of a salty taste. Personally, I found it had an unpleasant chemical flavour. Another participant wrote that it “tastes ploppy” (where do I find these people? Honestly…) Another person wrote, “Where’s the sauce? Mushy. Dull, buttery taste”.
There was one participant, however, who ranked this pizza #1. Jenna appeared a little late, so she was forced to critique all of her pizzas in a lukewarm state. We thought this would contribute an interesting perspective, and strangely enough, Jenna claimed that Snappy Tomato was soft and tasty at room temperature, whereas the other pies had chewy crusts and hard cheese (I should mention that Jenna has a particular aversion to hard cheese – Hey, we can’t all be perfect!)
Score: 79/140 – (56%)
Contestant #6: Peter’s Pizzeria
I have heard rumours that Peter’s Pizzeria is “the best pizza in Halifax”, particularly among homesick, pizza-obsessed Cape Bretoners. Seriously, what is the deal with Capers and their pizza? Peter’s is touted as an oldschool pizzeria with an abundance of toppings, as particularly manifested in the “Peter’s Special”. Despite the cult following of Peter’s, (and a flawless track record on Yelp), it was not warmly received among my pizza team.
There was a generous layer of pepperoni under a top-heavy layer of cheese. This expression of pizza totally reminded me of that thick Calgary style I know and love, with its mountains of meat and empires of cheese. It took me a while to acquire a taste for it, so I can understand why others may dislike this composition. The crust was very dry and bland, but seemed wholesome and clean. There was not enough sauce. The pepperoni was extremely mild, having a ham-like taste and rubber sponge texture that discouraged our enjoyment.
I was hardly discouraged. I thought this was a swell pizza. I guess you just love it or you hate it, and unfortunately for Peter’s, this sample group had a large representation of haters.
Score: 69/140 – (49%)
Contestant #7: Alexandra’s
See how Alexandra’s pizza looks pretty much identical to Rugova’s? Except this was $0.85 more and tasted a whole lot better. Alexandra’s has plenty of accolades in the Halifax Pizza Hall of Fame – but is it really that good? You can see that the crust is a little burnt, but it was still flavourful by virtue of the grease. Man, I don’t know what it is about Alexandra’s crust, but I find it has a weird after-taste, probably from the oil used in the pan. Despite being the last pizza to enter our exhausted stomachs, the group consensus was pretty favourable to Alexandra’s. Hey – it’s popular for a reason, right?
Score: 83/140 – (59%)
We scored pizzas lower this time around, and we definitely complained more. One theory is that the Quinpool pizzerias are simply better. Another theory is that we are growing more discerning of pizza.
I think we were just being a bunch of crankypants.
Those who severely disliked Peter’s and Tomavino’s tended to veer towards Alexandra’s or Xtreme. City Pizza somehow snuck in to tie for third place. Huh. The anomalous vote for Snappy Tomato was surprising, as was the low score for Peter’s. But what really blew my mind was the mixed opinion of Tomavino’s. My own opinions cast aside (but not far aside), Tomavino’s still managed to scrape by for the win.
The Rankings Based on Score:
First Place: Tomavino’s
Second Place: Alexandra’s
Third Place: Xtreme & City Pizza (tie)
Rankings Based on Overall Impression:
Ranking Based on Best Value (Score / Price)
2. City Pizza & Snappy Tomato (tie)
My Rankings (because I can):
2. Peter’s Pizzeria
3. Alexandra’s & Xtreme (tie)
I should also mention that if you ARE a fan of Peter’s, it has bang for your buck.