Pizza (Side) Quest: Greco’s Double Decker

I have already talked about Greco, but recently they had a special that was so ridiculous I had to try it.  As expected, it proved worthy of its own post.

Behold the Double Decker:

Greco's Double Decker
Greco’s Double Decker

From the photo, I’m sure you’re all thinking, “That must be a stuffed-crust pizza.” And you would be right. But also so very, very wrong.  For look upon what is revealed once a slice is removed!

Double Decker Cross Section
Double Decker Cross Section

That’s right. It’s a stuffed pizza pizza.  The entire inside of the pizza has toppings throughout, and then it’s like another pizza was slapped down on top.

It should come as no surprise that I went for the six-meat variety of Double Decker pizza.  Much like the oft-maligned KFC Double-Down, this was so ridiculous that I had to try it.  And like said ridiculous foodstuff, it turned out to be a bit disappointing.  I mean, it tasted good in my mouth, and I’m glad I tried it, but I probably wouldn’t do it again.

My Double Decker experience did offer some crucial insight into pizza, however.

Its key drawback, I felt, was the drastically imbalanced ratio of toppings to crust.  There were bites where all I could taste was ground beef, because the middle toppings leaned heavily in that direction and the top and bottom layers of crust were so very thin—I might as well have been eating a hamburger instead of a pizza.  Now, I loves me a hamburger, but it is not pizza and not an equivalent experience.

That was the insight.  The importance of balancing all the aspects of the pizza: crust, sauce, cheese, toppings—if any one of these drastically overpowers the rest, then it doesn’t really come across as pizza.  The delicious awesomeness of pizza is in the balancing of those factors against each other.

(To be clear, even pizzas with those main factors imbalanced can still be—and usually are—delicious, as was the case with the Double Decker.  Such concoctions do not achieve the pizza perfection that I seek, however.)

All in all, I would have preferred a regular Greco pizza to the Double Decker, but now I know.  And knowing is half the battle.

Pizza Quest 11: Hobo’s

After the tragic Stoggers fiasco at work (where we ordered at 11:30 AM, the pizza didn’t show up till 3:30 PM, and they only offered a 10% discount) we had to cut them from the Pizza Friday rotation.  The first viable alternate suggestion was Hobo’s Pizza, and so we tried that.

It… wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.  As I recall, the crust didn’t have much flavour to it on its own, but with the toppings the pizza was okay.  The key attraction of Hobo’s—and the reason it has stayed on the list—is the crucial value-for-money proposition.

We got a ridiculous amount of pizza for significantly less than our normal price.  The pizza may only be okay, but it is cheap and plentiful.  That can be a potent combination.  While it is nowhere near being a favourite, you do get some decent bang for your buck.

Pizza Quest 10: Greco

During one of my recent (increasingly infrequent) visits to the gym, I noticed that a new pizza place was rising from the ashes of a former Blockbuster video location: Greco Pizza.  In this context, “new” is a relative term—I seem to recall that there used to be a Greco somewhere else in St. John’s, but there hasn’t been for a while.  They do appear to be a fairly significant chain, however, with over 100 locations throughout Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

Anyway, I took advantage of a current special (a large with 3 toppings for $15) and got a pizza for dinner tonight, with cheese, pepperoni, bacon, and ground beef.  Initial impressions were good: the toppings were abundant, I saw it come out of the oven so I knew it was fresh, and it was not overdone.  asting it was just as encouraging—it was a good pizza.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it was the right kind of pizza.  Greco pizzas are pan pizzas reminiscent of Pizza Delight or Pizza Hut.  As such, it was a little greasier than I’d care for in my perfect pizza, with a soft crust where I tend to prefer a little bit crispy.  Furthermore, they tout their “edge-to-edge” toppings, whereby the toppings are spread over the entire top of the pizza, and indeed this was the case.  I, however, like a bit of firm crust accessible around the edge so I have something to hold on to.

The restaurant site itself was clean (not surprising, giving that it has been open for less than a week), with a lot of people in the kitchen efficiently producing pizzas.  While I expect this would bode well for the consistency and reproducability of Greco’s pizza, it also homogenizes the experience a bit and makes it feel just a tad too generic.

Looking back, I realize this sounds rather negative, and that is certainly not my intent.  The pizza was quite delicous, and I had six slices eaten before I realized that I should probably not eat six slices.  It is good without being the type of pizza that is my ideal, but I can hardly fault it for that since it aspires to be something different.  While the Pizza Quest will continue, I will still be happier now that there is a Greco nearby.

Pizza Quest 9: The Big Cheese

This entry has been a source of great consternation for me.  My cousin—an avid follower of my quest—had suggested trying The Big Cheese, but as it was located a bit far away from me, I hadn’t gotten around to it.

Then, one Friday, lo and behold, it came up as a suggestion when another place was unable to deliver, and so we went for it.  The results… were mixed.

At our Friday pizza lunches, garlic fingers are typically ordered to accompany the pizza.  I usually have a couple of small ones out of a sense of duty, but they are really not my thing.  I am all about the pizza.  The garlic fingers we had from The Big Cheese, however, struck me as especially awesome.  Topped with cheese and bacon, they just totally hit the spot, the right mix of flavour and texture and deliciousness.  I think I had four large ones.

The pizza, though… the pizza was a disappointment.  It looked promising, initially: ample cheese, generous amounts of ground beef, pepperoni, and other toppings.  The crust appeared a little on the thick side, and a bit dark—perhaps it was a tad overdone.  Unfortunately, the taste did not live up to the looks.

The toppings tasted fine, but the sauce was not noticeable and the crust basically had all the flavour of cardboard.  I want to stress that the crust didn’t taste bad.  Rather, it seemed to have no taste at all.  Eating a slice of pizza was basically like eating a handful of pizza toppings with some flavourless filler material.

I just don’t understand how the garlic fingers could be so good—the best we’ve had at work, in my opinion—and yet the pizza could be so bland and dissatisfying.  I mean, they’re basically the same thing!  In an attempt to get to the bottom of this I may try them again in the future, on the off chance that it was a one-off bad pizza.  Of course, it being a one-off bad pizza would not factor well into its consistency rating—reproducibility is key to a good pizza place, and certainly to the place that will become “The One”.

Based off this one experience, I couldn’t recommend the pizza though the garlic fingers are great.  I reserve the right to change my mind, though, after a second tasting.  (If I wanted to be snarky, I could argue that I haven’t really tasted anything yet, so it might as well be considered a first tasting still.)

Pizza Quest 8: Pizza Empire

There has been a lot of pizza-related activity lately, thanks to Friday pizza lunches at work.  We have embarked on a Pizza Quest of our own, there, and so it has afforded me the opportunity to sample a few more new places.

Today’s entry is—I think—Pizza Empire.  (I had been thinking it was called Empire Pizza all along, but Google can find no such place.)  I am told that it is the best of the pizza places found in the Empire Avenue cheap pizza district, but—not having sampled the others—I cannot verify this.

I can verify that it was cheaper than most of our usual places.  The quality… wasn’t bad.  Toppings were reasonably generous, but I felt the crust was overdone and a bit tough.  The size of the pizza was quite generous and crust thickness was mid-range, neither too thin nor too doughy.

Overall, it tasted fine but didn’t stand out for me.  I would certainly eat it again, but there are several prior entries in the Pizza Quest that I vastly prefer.

Pizza Quest 7: Venice Pizzeria

It has, admittedly, been a while since I last updated the Pizza Quest.  This, in large part, has been because at work a bunch of us chip in for pizza lunch on Fridays, and so I haven’t been able to justify eating much pizza outside of that context.  For the longest time we were ordering from Old Town—a worthy option—but over this summer we started rotating through a number of other options.  Most are ones I had tried as part of the quest, but there have been a few new ones, including today’s entry: Venice Pizzeria.

Overall, the pizza from Venice was quite good.  Thick crust of the kind I prefer—though not as tasty as Stoggers—and heavily-laden with toppings.  This was both a blessing and a curse, however, since it led to structural integrity issues.  The toppings on occasion interfered with each other, leading to the dreaded “sliding topping” syndrome.  The mountain of meaty toppings also led to the particular pizza we consumed feeling kind of greasy.

That said, the pizza was delicious and filling.  It is definitely worthy of a repeat dining experience, though it has not distinguished itself enough yet to be my “one true pizza”.  I will be curious to see if the quality remains consistent, which is crucial in choice of a favourite pizza place.

Pizza Quest 6: Stogger’s Pizza

While the girlfriend was in town, we managed to try out a pizza from Stoggers.  I had actually tried to order one from there once before on a Saturday (or maybe it was a Sunday), but was told they were booked solid for the next 3–4 hours.  This made me hopeful that it must be good pizza.

On a Tuesday night, however, we had no trouble getting an order in.  Unfortunately, we were a bit late picking it up due to Stoggers being in the most inconvenient location ever.  (Okay, I exaggerate a little bit, but when you’re coming along the opposite side of the street and don’t know the area well, it takes a hell of an effort to figure out how to get to where you need to be.)  As a result, it was not quite as piping fresh and hot as I’d ideally like by the time we got to eating it.

That said, it was a really good pizza.  The girlfriend and I each scarfed down half the pizza in fairly short order.  The crust was decently thick but not too doughy, and the toppings were generous.  I think it is definitely a contender in my pizza quest, and requires further study.  I can imagine it would only be better when hotter and fresher.  When I get around to giving it a second chance, I’ll wax more eloquently on the details of its deliciousness.

Pizza Quest 5: Big Bite Pizza

It has been a while since I have last updated you all on the Pizza Quest.  For this, I apologize; I know you must be waiting on these reports with bated breath.  Fear not, however!  I have been continuing to try different pizza places, and have merely been slack in making these posts.  I’ll shall try to clear the backlog and be more on the ball moving forward.

Much of the past few months has involve repeat tastings of our previously discussed pizza places, to assess reliability, but a couple of new ones have slipped in.  This post looks at the first of those: Big Bite Pizza, in Churchill Square.

Once upon a time some years ago, Big Bite had been our go-to pizza place.  They may have been supplanted when something decent opened closer to us, as I have no recollection of why we stopped going there.  And let me tell you this: their name is no lie.  Their pizzas are big and incredibly filling.

It is all thanks to the dough.  Big Bite has the thickest crust by far of any of the places I’ve tried so far in the Pizza Quest.  A large from them is both larger in diameter than most other places and at least half-again as thick, making it quite filling.  They’re also reasonably generous with their toppings.  The thick crust gives it strong structural integrity—I don’t recall any instances of floppy slices.  It also reheats well, and is delicious both fresh and reheated.

There are a few major drawbacks, however.  One is the kind of bacon they use as a topping—it is not the crispy kind I prefer.  Also, the ratio of dough-to-toppings is ultimately not quite what I’m looking for in the perfect pizza, as the crust tends to dominate.  Lastly, they are a little far away, and so the pizza cools off a little more than I care for while getting it home.  (The first slices are fine, but round two is often room-temperature.)

I have had Big Bite a few times, and it rates well for consistency.  While it doesn’t approach some of my desired qualities, it is a damn good pizza, and one that has potential to become a go-to pizza place.

Pizza Quest 4: Peter’s Pizza

I recently had the chance to return to an old favourite pizza place: Peter’s Pizza on Torbay Road.  At one time it had been our regular pizza place, but when it moved across the street my mother found it harder to get to (as she had to cross traffic), and so we stopped getting it quite so much.  I figured it was time to try it out again.

The pizza we got was a respectable pizza, with extremely abundant cheese.  The crust was nice and thick and doughy around the edges, but on this particular pizza I found it a little thin toward the middle.  This thinness—combined with the heavy load of melted cheese—led to a crucial structural issue: slice floppiness.  The bacon used as a topping was fine, but more the chewy rather than crispy variety.

As a result, this pizza had pros and cons in equal measure, roughly cancelling each other out.  I remember that one of the other reasons we had stopped going there back in the day was a lack of consistency—sometimes it is absolutely fantastic, and other times it is just okay.  I think that was the case here.  It was tasty, and I certainly ate too much of it, but there were a few little things I wished were a bit better.

The last time I had it—last summer, actually—it was much better than this most recent incarnation.  And that lack of consistency is the killer, really.  When I get a pizza from there that is not as good as I know it can be, it’s disappointing by comparison, even though the sub-par pizza is still fine of its own accord.  I think that takes Peter’s Pizza out of contention for being “The One Pizza Place” that becomes my default.

Pizza Quest 3: Mr. Jim’s Pizza

My decision to even bother trying a pizza place in Mount Pearl was entirely based off a friend of mine—jazz musician Patrick Boyle—writing a song about it: Mr. Jim’s Reels.  I figured song-worthy pizza must be worth a try.  The Superbowl viewing I attended in Mount Pearl gave me the perfect opportunity to try it, and to be a decent guest by bringing some pizza to the party.

Unfortunately, Superbowl Sunday had seen some poor weather, and thus my travel to Mount Pearl was somewhat hindered.  Since I had no idea how long it would take Mr. Jim’s to prep a pizza for pick-up (only about 15 minutes, it seems), I had ordered it far too early, and thus we were about 10 minutes late picking it up.  Coupled with another few minutes of travel time to our final destination, and the pizza may not have been at optimal freshness when consumed.

On the up-side, Mr. Jim’s pizza was good—certainly what I consider a proper sort of pizza.  The crust was thick and crispy, toppings were generous, and it was tasty.  I think this particular pizza had been slightly overdone, as the crust was more brown than golden in places, but it was certainly not drastically so.

The most significant drawback came when the toppings congealed together in a solid mass of cheese, pepperoni, and bacon (delicious, I know) that tended to slide off the top of the slices.  Of course, this made me nostalgic for similar pizzas of my youth, but it had been a while since I had experienced the phenomenon.  I would suggest that it may have been due to the lack of freshness by this point—if the pizza had cooled enough for the cheese to solidify in this matter, it would exacerbate any sliding tendencies.

As such, I think Mr. Jim’s definitely warrants a second tasting, to ensure my already-positive opinion is not of a sub-optimal pizza.  I do not think it is sufficiently stand-out from places closer to home to warrant becoming a regular pizza place, but it is definitely a good pizza.