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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Di Giacco's, Lyell Ave.

Di Giacco's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Di Giacco’s is on Lyell Ave., a few blocks east of Mt. Read. It’s a small operation that’s been in business for some years now; I can recall it being there in the 1990s.
Though it opens pretty early most days, pizza isn’t always immediately available. I was told on one occasion when I tried to order a pizza that the pizza ovens wouldn’t be up and running until sometime that evening. I’m not sure if that’s a regular occurrence or if was a one-time glitch.
What is available early, most days, are hot dogs, which are cooked and sold from a cart outside, right next to the building. You don’t often find a pizzeria with a hot dog cart.
You don’t often find pizza like Di Giacco’s, either. I did catch them the other day when they had pizza available, and got myself a pepperoni slice.
I knew this wasn’t going to be your average, generic rewarmed slice even before it was served to me. The owner (I’m pretty sure he was the owner) put my slice on a screen and popped it in the oven. While it was warming, he got a box out, laid down a piece of foil, and sprinkled it with coarse salt. He left the slice in the oven for several minutes, then took it out, put it in the box, and shaved some parmesan over the top.
Upon examination, the slice was on the thick side, with a well-browned bottom that was dusted with salt and cornmeal. It had a crunchy exterior and a doughy, slightly gummy interior, which tended to separate a bit from each other. The outer edge was also thick, crunchy, and salty, and had a distinct toasty flavor and aroma.
The sauce was thick and very “herbal” in flavor. The cheese was baked juuust to the point of browning, and seemed to be a blend rather than just straight mozzarella, as it had a definite lactic tang to it that I don’t think came just from the parmesan shavings. It was thickly, but less than evenly applied, with a few bare spots here and there (not a problem, in fact a lot of people like it that way). The tasty pepperoni was thinly sliced and nicely crisped.
They didn’t have any menus handy on my visit, so I can’t tell you much about what else Di Giacco’s offers. They do offer subs and wings, and of course hot dogs. You could eat on the premises, but it’s pretty much a takeout place.
I know that I often say that rating a particular pizzeria is a hard call, but I have to say it again here. This was a very unusual slice of pizza, and one of the most distinctive I’ve tried around here. Lots going on here from a sensory standpoint: salty, crunchy, herbal, tangy - as I said, this was not your average slice.
I’m not sure, frankly, just how much I liked this pizza, as it didn’t quite fit my preconceived ideas about what makes great pizza. But I do like that it is so distinctive, and I like the care that went into it. For example, I’m not sure that I cared for all that salt on the bottom, but I like the fact that it was there, nonetheless, because that tells me that this is how this owner/pizzaiolo makes his pizza. I’ll even forgive the bit of blackened cheese that was stuck to the bottom of my slice because I noticed that after he took it out of the oven, the owner took a look at the screen, frowned, and tossed it aside, apparently deeming it not fit for reuse until it had been cleaned up (I would’ve liked it if he’d done that before my slice went in, but at least he cared enough to do it at all).
So, while I can’t say this was one of the best pizzas I’ve had around here, based on my criteria, it was certainly not "average," either. You may like it, you may not, but if you enjoy trying different styles of pizza even half as much as I do, Di Giacco’s should be on your list. I’ll give it a B.
Di Giacco’s Pizzeria, 970 Lyell Ave. 458-8030
Even the hours are unusual: Mon. 10:30 a.m-3 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m.-11 p.m.

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