Thursday, March 18, 2010
Cosimos, Marketplace Mall
Mall pizza? From the food court? Can this be serious?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Can it possibly be any good?
Initially, I hadn’t even considered reviewing any mall pizzerias, or even including them on my pizza map. Probably like most people, when I think of pizza in malls, I think of Sbarro’s. Now I’ve nothing against Sbarro’s, particularly - in fact, it may be one of the better pizza chains around, though that’s damning with faint praise - but I’ve no interest in reviewing national chains.
Thing is, I noticed that in the phone book, the Marketplace Mall pizzeria was listed as “Cosimos,” not Sbarro’s or any other well-known chain. That name rang no bells with me, but still I assumed that if it was at the mall it couldn’t possibly be very good.
Eventually, though, I got thinking that, good or not, perhaps this is an independent pizzeria, and the fact that it’s in a mall doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a review. And as a matter of fact, I have had pretty good pizza at a mall, in Olean, to be specific. (It’s called Renna’s, if you’re ever down that way.)
On arrival, I found a pretty wide selection of slices, from the expected cheese and pepperoni to white pizza, veggie, and several others. I noticed that the specialty pizzas seemed considerably thicker than the cheese and cheese-and-pepperoni pies, which looked much more like NY-style pizza.
I thought about trying one cheese or pepperoni slice and one specialty slice, just to compare the crusts, but instead followed my gut instinct (literally) and got one cheese, one pepperoni. The cheese pie had just come out of the oven, and when I asked for a slice, the guy behind the counter took the entire pie and popped it back in the oven for another minute or so. He was middle aged, and seemed to have a certain amount of know-how back there, unlike the robotic, company-trained servers you tend to find at a lot of fast-food eateries.
My slices were, as I said, thin, but not paper thin, about the thickness of a typical NYC slice. Though the undersides had no charred spots, and were mostly medium-dark brown, they did have a nice, crackly exterior, thanks in part to that quick reheating. Taking a bite, I also found that they had a pleasingly bready interior, with a bit of “chew.”
The sauce was on the thin side, adding more moisture than flavor, but again that reminded me of slices that I’ve had in New York, where the sauce tends not to be too liberally applied or to have too assertive a flavor. The mozzarella cheese was nicely melted, just to the very point of browning. The pepperoni was OK, although rather sparsely applied.
Aside from pizza, Cosimos (it’s spelled without an apostrophe, apparently) has a number of other items on the menu, including pasta, salads, what are described as “Italian sandwiches,” calzones, and wings. I don’t know if those are any good, but I was rather impressed with the pizza. It wasn’t perfect - the crust was missing the toasty aroma and flavor that comes from light charring, as found on most good NY-style pizzas, but it was still pretty good stuff: well balanced, crisp yet foldable, with flavors that blended together well.
After polishing off my two slices, I stopped to chat for a second with the guy behind the counter, who was indeed the proprietor. Turns out that Cosimos is in fact a chain, though based on my Google search, its seems to be a small chain, mostly found in malls in the Northeastern U.S. Each location is independently owned and operated, however, and this gentleman, who hails from Brooklyn, has been at it for some 20 years now. So this is indeed “his” pizza, not some cloned product that’s identical to what you’d find at a Thruway rest stop, like most mall food court pizza.
And as I said, his experience was evident. It occurred to me that even the relative thickness of the specialty pies made some sense, as they tended to have heavier toppings than the plain cheese or pepperoni pies, and accordingly called for a more substantial crust.
So yes, it is possible to find good pizza at a mall, of all places, good enough in this case to rate a B+ from me. If you happen to go to Marketplace, then, don’t dismiss the food court out of hand. Give Cosimos a shot and let me know what you think.
Cosimo’s Pizza, Marketplace Mall (near West entrance to mall) 424-6444