Over a year ago, I reviewed Rookies Express on Monroe Avenue. I didn't care much for it -- gave it a D -- and though one reader left a comment saying things had improved there since then, I guess they didn't improve enough, because it's no longer in business.
Replacing it is Bertino's, which sells pizza, pasta, subs and wings. Despite the slick, snazzy logo, it appears to be a local, independent operation, not part of a chain.
I picked up a cheese slice at lunchtime. Like Rookies Express, Bertino's serves oversize slices, and this one, which was a bit asymmetrical, measured 9 inches along one side, and just over 8 inches along the other. Given the right-angle cut at the tip, this represented a quarter of either a 16- or 18-inch pie. I assume 16 inch, since that's the largest pizza on their menu.
The crust on this slice was quite thin. So thin, in fact, that there was almost no interior -- no air holes, in other words -- except near the outer edge, which was formed into a wide lip.
The screen-baked underside was pale and dry to the touch, with a non-greasy, slightly floury surface. Despite the relatively thick lip, the slice was easily foldable, and that lip wasn't bad, with a mildly breadlike flavor and texture.
In contrast to the underside (and rather curiously), the top was very well done. The cheese had bubbled and browned quite a bit. It almost looked as if it had been under a broiler.
There didn't seem to be much sauce, or perhaps the sauce had simply dried out. I could taste it, but only a little. Between the well-done cheese and the relative lack of sauce, the slice as a whole was a bit on the dry side.
Bertino's doesn't appear to have a website just yet, but for now you can see their menu here.
And though I like thin crusts, I also like some interior airiness and chew, and this was lacking in both. It was OK for a quick, reasonably filling snack, but at $3.25 a slice I expect better. In fact, I got a better slice, of about the same size, for one dollar on my last visit to Checker Flag on Dewey Ave. Now what late-night bargoers on Monroe Avenue are willing to pay is not necessarily what you can get away with charging in the Maplewood neighborhood, but the point is, at $3.25 I wouldn't call this a bargain. I'll give it a C-.
Bertino's Pizza, Pasta & More, 649 Monroe Ave. 271-7000
Mon. & Tue. 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m., Wed. - Fri. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m., Sat. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Pizza Guy Note: for an August 9, 2010 update on Bertino's, go here.