Monday, July 9, 2007

New Correspondent Brings 'The Quest' to TDT

Blogger: Natalie

Let me first say that, as a lifelong reader of Tasha Does Tulsa, I’m honored to appear on this blog. Now that’s out of the way, I’ll move onto my purpose here.

Those who know me know I love my pizza. The sweet marriage of melted cheese, bread and sauce makes any day better. Even bad pizza is still pretty good pizza in my book.

Recently, in homage to my favorite food, I formally announced The Quest for the Best Pizza in Tulsa. I solicited opinions and recommendations and set out, knowing full well the effect The Quest will have on my waistline. But, it’s a risk I’m willing to take if it means I am able to report back to you fine people about this important piece of culinary goodness.

The Terms
The Quest is serious. It’s relevant, important and all those other words one would use to describe such an endeavor. I’m looking for the best pizza in Tulsa - not just the pizza you have delivered from the franchises you can find anywhere in the country, though they, too, have their positives. I’m looking from the classy restaurants with cloth napkins to the hole-in-the-wall places where the vinyl booths are taped with duct tape. No place is too good or too sketchy. If it comes highly recommended, I will go.

I’m looking for traditional, old-fashioned pizza, not specialty pizzas with unorthodox toppings/sauces, though those, too, have their place (shoutout to the Little Kahuna at Hideaway). Because the best pizza is subjective to the diner, I will consider the opinions of others. Ultimately though, for purposes of The Quest, my own verdict is final.

Since I have officially begun The Quest, I have visited Hideaway at multiple locations and Pie Hole, 2708 E. 15th St.

The Quest to Umberto’s
I set out on a Quest mission last Thursday with my good pals Party Brenda, Kyle, Aaron and Tasha to Umberto’s, 3228 E. 21st St., which came highly recommended by family members and several coworkers.

Umberto’s serves up New York-style pizza. If you’re going for the décor, you’re out of luck. Even Party Brenda, our resident interior designer extraordinaire, declared it a “lost cause.” But if you’re going for the pizza, then you’re in luck.

It’s pretty simple. The menu is above the counter, and you can order pizza and its variations with all your basic toppings, including Canadin (sic) bacon. No need for salad, sandwiches or pasta dishes here, folks, which is just fine by me. Personally, I appreciated the simplicity. In my mind, it shows a dedication and an intense focus on great pizza.

So, we girls approached the counter to order while the men discussed how one gets a saxophone to stick to a brick wall like the one that hangs in the restaurant (“really strong super glue,” says the engineer of the group). Deciding on the 10”, which is the smallest you can buy, Tasha and I ordered pepperoni/jalapeño and sausage, respectively. Party Brenda changed it up with a supreme calzone. All three of us ordered a side of the Garlic Knots, which came highly recommended from other folks in the place, most of whom seemed to be regulars, as I noticed some of the staff greet them by name.

After eating here, I kind of want to be a regular.

The immediate response after the first bites was excellent. The sausage pizza, I noticed, didn’t have your average crumbled sausage, but instead appeared to have been sliced thin like pepperoni. I found I really liked it that way, and Party Brenda agreed, as she occasionally reached out to pluck a slice from my pizza. I found this pizza to be a little chewier than one might expect from New York-style, but not enough to declassify it as New York style.

Aaron and I agreed the crust was excellent, and because the crust is a vital factor in my decision, this earned points for Umberto’s in my book. Kyle declared the sauce “a little too thin,” while a lively discussion on the merits of thick vs. thin sauce ensued. I was on the thin sauce side, and I said too much sauce can really ruin a pizza. Kyle agreed by saying too much sauce was a downfall of Chicago-style pizza. We decided comparing New York-style and Chicago-style pizza during The Quest would be a little like comparing apples to oranges.

The food was fairly prompt, though our Garlic Knots were forgotten until Tasha politely requested them. Service is sparse, but I didn’t mind.

Now, I understand that they are called Garlic Knots, and one would expect to taste some garlic in there, but wow. Be prepared for a literal garlic explosion in your mouth. Cancel your vampire-repelling plans, because you won’t need them. And, don’t plan to kiss anyone for a couple of days. These suckers are literally covered in garlic. Don’t misunderstand – they were tasty – I just feel I should prepare everyone for the garlic-ness that is the Garlic Knots at Umberto’s. Needless to say, we were passing around the Orbit gum afterwards.

Fully expecting to take part of my pizza home, as I do not have a husband with whom to share my pizza, I was surprised to find only two pieces left on my plate, one of which Party Brenda snatched up at my request after she and Kyle made quick work of the calzone. Miserably full, we stumbled out the door.

Arrivederchi…For Now
All that to say this: Umberto’s is highly recommended in my book.

The pizza is excellent. The ingredients taste fresh, it’s incredibly reasonable in price and the crust is superb. These people know how to make a pizza (and they deliver!). The atmosphere is pure hole-in-the-wall, but I think it adds to the experience.

So far, Umberto’s is my frontrunner in The Quest for the Best Pizza in Tulsa and is certainly ahead in the New York style category.

Next up on the list (after I take a short break to step up my exercise routine to work off Umberto’s): keeping the New York style theme with a visit to Mario’s. Stay tuned.

Correspondent's note: If you have a recommendation for the Quest, please feel free to submit them here, as all recommendations are welcome and appreciated. If you would like to participate in a Quest mission, please submit an application listing prior pizza experience, three letters of recommendation and a statement as to why you love you some pizza. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Editor’s note: Natalie is a public relations professional living and working in Tulsa. She actively helps to make Tulsa a better place via her involvement in TYPros and the Tulsa chapter of PRSA. All requests for a life of pizza-sharing with Natalie should be forwarded to Party Brenda at her blog for screening.

1 comment:

ted said...

I used to go to Umbertos frequently until I discovered Pie Hole. I may date myself here, but I preferred Pie Hole because it, unlike Umberto's, offered salads (has Umberto's started serving the green stuff yet?). With one exception (when the crust was burned on the bottom) I've always bought a pie at Pie Hole that was fabulous.

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