Although I appreciate the subtle flavors of a minimalist pizza, I also like a good food challenge, especially where heat's concerned. And while 2 Ton Tony's doesn't explicitly present their "Ring of Fire" as a challenge, when I read the description - crushed red pepper sauce, topped with banana, jalapeno and cherry peppers - I took that as a gauntlet that had been thrown before my feet.
So while my gastroenterologist might not approve, I recently got a medium Ring of Fire. And I've lived to tell about it.
In fact, if you're a chilihead, this is probably not the hottest thing you've ever eaten. Adam Richman could likely down this without breaking a sweat.
But that's not to say that it isn't hot. It is. I would even call it extreme pizza. And I did break a sweat eating it. But the crust and the cheese help moderate some of the heat, and 2 Ton Tony's wisely avoids going completely overboard; you won't find any Scotch bonnet peppers or ridiculously hot sauce on this pizza. There's no point in making the thing inedible, after all.
As I said, though, this is one hot pizza. About halfway through my first slice, I could feel the perspiration breaking out on my brow, and I'm pretty sure my cheeks had developed a rosy glow.
Generally, I say that pizza is all about the crust, but this was one pizza where the toppings dominated, which was no surprise. But the crust here was what I would call thin to medium, firm, with a crunchy edge. The underside bore screen marks, but it was reasonably crisp, with a chewy interior.
With all those peppers, there was a fair amount of liquid on this pizza. I recommend not leaving in the box for too long. to avoid the steam softening the crust too much. Plus you'll want to get the aromatic effect of the peppers.
Getting back to which - this wasn't a doubled-over-in pain kind of pizza, but it was an eye-watering, sinus-clearing, nose-running pizza. And that's about what I'd hoped for. I like heat, but I'm not completely into the man-vs.-food thing. If you're not into spicy food, this would be too hot for you, but if you like to crank up the heat, without committing culinary suicide, this pizza is right on the mark. It's hot enough to make you sweat, without feeling as if you're having a nuclear meltdown in your gut.
To get down to specifics, the peppers on this pizza were all pickled, not fresh. But as I've said before, hot peppers are one item that may be better canned than fresh.
Despite the menu's reference to a "crushed red pepper sauce," the sauce looked like ordinary tomato sauce to me. It may have contained red pepper, but honestly after the first bite it was hard to pick out any flavors other than that of the peppers. The creamy, melted mozzarella provided a welcome buffer that helped mitigate the heat just a bit.
So how much did I actually like this pizza? Well, in some ways, this was far from my ideal pizza. To me, great pizza is all about subtlety, with a delicate, perfectly balanced blend of flavors and textures. This was all about bringing on the heat.
But I knew that when I ordered it, and in fact I found it strangely addicting; while the first few bites shocked my palate, after a slice or two I found myself wanting to go on for more, maybe to keep the endorphin rush going. It also struck me that in a way, eating this pizza was more reminiscent of eating hot Buffalo wings than a lot of other Buffalo chicken pizzas I've had. But I'm talking hot wings here, the kind that are so hot that you can't really taste the chicken.
How to rate this, then? Given the nature of this pizza, I don't think I can fairly rate it as against other pizzas I've reviewed on here. I mean, it was perfectly good pizza and all, but the fact is, if you're getting a Ring of Fire pizza, you're not looking for balance - which to me is the hallmark of great pizza - you're looking for serious heat. The cheese, crust and sauce were fine, I guess, but to be honest I didn't notice them much. So on that basis, on a scale of 0 to 5 peppers, with 0 being no heat at all and 5 being instant-ulcer, gut-wrenching heat, this rates about a 4.
2 Ton Tony's, 545 Titus Ave. (at Hudson), Irondequoit. 266-8669
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.. Sun. noon - 9 p.m.