My less than favorable review of Big Deal Pizzeria back in May generated a number of responses, many of which disagreed with my criticisms. Since it had only recently opened when I reviewed it, I figured it was worth going back for another visit to see if things had improved or if perhaps I just caught them on a bad day.
I’ve actually stopped their twice recently, once for a midday slice and again for a large dinnertime pie. The pizzas on both occasions were pretty similar to each other, and so I think I’ve got a pretty good idea now of the kind of pizza that Big Deal is turning out these days.
Some things haven’t changed since May. As before, the crust falls somewhere between thin and medium, with a well-browned underside marked by pizza screen indentations, and it was still a bit on the floppy side.
Some things have changed, though, and for the better. For starters, the crust wasn’t greasy underneath, and it had at least a little crispness, which was more pronounced with the rewarmed lunchtime slice than with the pie, which sat through a 20-minute car ride before I got it home. The outer edge had a nice baked crunch and some interior bready chewiness.
The toppings were also better balanced than they were on the slice I got last May. In particular, the sauce had a more noticeable presence this time around. It had a mild tomatoey flavor and was applied a bit more thickly than on my prior visit. That helped to better balance out the cheese, which in May I described as thick and chewy, and the dominant player. It was much less dominant here, but I’m not sure if that’s because there was any less of it, or simply because it was better balanced out by the sauce. Either way, this time around it seemed to be in better proportion to both the sauce and the crust.
As you can see, the cheese-only side of my pie was quite well browned, more perhaps than some people might like. But if you want to call that a fault, then I’ll take the blame for ordering pepperoni on only half, in order to please everyone at home. Tough to get the pepperoni crisp without browning the cheese side a little.
And the slices of pepperoni here were a bit crisp along the edges. That’s another plus, because I don’t like it when the pepperoni is cooked just long enough to turn soft and flabby. As before, the pepperoni had a fairly mild flavor, but was more generously applied, which cumulatively gave the pizza a bit more spicy aftertaste.
So - what do I think of Big Deal now? Well, for starters, I think it’s improved since last May. It’s recognizable as the same pizza I had before, but on the whole it’s better made and better balanced. I would no longer say, as I did then, that it’s “just another big, heavy greasy slice.” I’m not ready to put it into the top echelon, either - the screen-baked crust still lacks the toasty, crackly character that can really put a pizza over the top - but this had good flavor, the components worked well together, and it seemed to have been made with care.
It's also a good sign that my single slice and my whole pie were consistent with each other. Although I give generally high marks to Big Deal's competitor down the street, I have to say that over the years I've found Acme to be plagued by inconsistency - great NY style pizza one day, and dry/burnt/misshapen crap the next. There's something to be said for knowing what to expect when you order a pizza.
So with all that in mind, I’m going to bump up Big Deal's score. That relatively soft, screen-baked crust is still dragging it down a bit, keeping this pizza from realizing its full potential, but given its other positives, I'd say this pizza was a little better than average, so I'll peg it this time at a B-.
Big Deal Pizzeria & Grill, 475 Monroe Ave. 544-2144
Mon. - Wed. 11 a.m. - midnight, Thu. 11 a.m. - 3 a.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 4 a.m., Sat. noon - 4 a.m., Sun. noon - 10 p.m.