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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chili Pizza and Hots, Revisited

NOTE:  this location is now the site of a Little Caesar's pizzeria. - 2/27/12
About three months ago, I did a post about Chili Pizza & Hots on Chili Ave. At that time, I had gotten a slice, which seemed as though it might’ve been good had it not been burned over much of its underside. But the pizzeria had just recently opened, so, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I chalked that up to inexperience, decided not to give them a rating at that time, and vowed to come back later, after they'd had some time to get their act together.
One recent afternoon, I made good on that promise to myself, and picked up a large cheese pie, with peppers and onions on half. It had a medium thick crust, which surprised me, since the slice I’d gotten last time was quite thin. While I was waiting for the pizza to come out of the oven, I noticed some jumbo slices behind the counter, which looked considerably thinner than my pie. So maybe the oversize pies from which the jumbo slices are cut are made from the same amount of dough as a large, but simply stretched wider and thinner.
But the biggest difference between this pie and my earlier slice was not the thickness, it was the doneness. Whereas the slice had been blackened underneath, the pie was very pale, almost an off-white in color. It was screen baked and dry to the touch, not oily. Perhaps needless to say, it was not very crisp, although the next day I was able to remedy that somewhat by reheating a couple of slices in a nonstick pan. Not surprisingly, the crust also had something of a doughy flavor.
The news wasn’t all bad, though, as the crust did have some pleasant, bready notes to it as well. It was in some ways reminiscent of soft Italian bread. I wondered if perhaps the guy didn’t take it out of the oven a little sooner than he otherwise would have, simply because I was standing there waiting for it. Had I known he was going to do that, I would’ve told him, no hurry, take it out when it’s done.
Moving on to the toppings, this was quite a cheesy pizza. The cheese was applied pretty generously, and was all the more prominent due to the relatively light layer of sauce, which seemed a bit overwhelmed between the bready crust and the thick, melted mozzarella. I did notice a distinct touch of dried oregano, but as I couldn't really see any I wasn't sure if it was in the sauce or simply had been sprinkled on before the cheese was applied.
One minor oddity was that when I ordered this pizza, I asked for sweet peppers and onions, and while I got those, I was also given banana peppers. I’m not complaining, as I like banana peppers, but that was, as I said, a bit odd.
So, what to make of this pizzeria? I’ve now had one slice that tasted like nothing so much as burnt toast, and now a pie that had OK flavor but which was doughy and undercooked.
I guess I’d say it’s still a work in progress. I certainly don't claim that my preferences where pizza is concerned are any more valid than anybody else's, but one thing that is important is consistency. Whether you like thin or thick, well done or doughy, you want to know what to expect when you order from a given pizzeria. And you want to know that if you get a pizza from them today, and then again a week or a month from now, it's going to be pretty much the same as the last one. So I’m hoping that Chili Pizza and Hots finds its style and gets it down cold.
And I do hope that they do, because I still think that they’ve got the basics in place. Pale crust aside, this was  decent pizza, just not made terribly well. To me, it could've used a little more sauce to balance out the crust and cheese, but the overall flavor was good. Most importantly, the dough itself tasted all right; it simply needed more time in the oven.
As I said, maybe the guy thought he was doing me a favor by taking it out of the oven a little sooner than he would’ve had I not been standing there waiting. So I don't want to come down too hard on these folks, who I sense are trying to turn out a good product. And for what it's worth, my family seemed to like this one, so maybe I'm just nitpicky, especially where crusts are concerned. So, I'm giving Chili Pizza & Hots a C-, for now, and making yet another mental note to try them again sometime, maybe next time being more specific when I order about the degree of doneness that I prefer.
Chili Pizza & Hots, 1297 Chili Ave. 328-1944

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