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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Opa!

NOTE:  at this writing (2/12/14) this establishment is closed.

I'm OK with chain restaurants - no, really - but in general I much prefer local, independent places. So it was nice to read about the recent opening of Opa!, a locally owned, stand-alone Greek restaurant, in the site of a former Perkins.
I like Greek food, and I saw that Opa! had pizza on the menu, so this was a no-brainer for me. At the same time, I know that restaurant pizza is not always great, so I tempered my expectations.
There are three pizzas on the menu, one of which, the Aegean, was out because it included eggplant. Can't stand eggplant.
The vegetarian pizza sounded good, but I went with the Kotopoulo, which is topped with saganaki cheese, grilled chicken, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, olive oil and oregano. For one thing, I'd never heard of saganaki cheese, so I was intrigued by that.
My plate-size pizza was loaded with toppings, about which I had no complaint. One of the first things I do with any pizza, though, is to check the underside, and this one was very pale.
Now again, I know this was restaurant pizza, and maybe it's unreasonable to expect pizza at a Greek restaurant to meet the standards that I set for pizzerias. And maybe I shouldn't pay too much attention to appearances, but concentrate on the flavor, aroma, and texture of the pizza.
But, pizza's pizza, and I do have likes and dislikes, though I try to make some allowances for different styles. And eating involves at least four of the five senses, including sight (and sometimes hearing, as when a pizza crust makes a nice crackly-crunchy sound upon that first bite).
OK, but aside from the paleness, how was it? The bottom surface was dry - good thing, there - with some crunch. The neatly rounded cornicione along the edge had a slight oiliness. The crust as a whole might've been premade, I really don't know, but it seemed to be. It wasn't very bready inside, but more like a warmed-up flatbread, fairly dry and with a bit of crunch. This was one of the few pizzas I've had where I left behind the "bones," i.e., the thicker lip along the edge.
Perhaps as no great surprise, then, this pizza seemed to be all about the toppings. With Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants, flatbreads are common, but at the risk of overgeneralizing, they're typically not a big draw in themselves - they're more of a base for interesting combinations of toppings.
Having said that, the toppings here were only OK. Again, there were a lot of them, and though garlic wasn't listed on the menu, this pizza had a prominent aroma and flavor of garlic. This wasn't the harsh flavor of fresh, raw garlic, but the softer, aromatic, almost sweet taste of gently cooked garlic. So that was a big plus.
The other toppings were less universally successful. The bits of grilled chicken were rather dry, as was the cheese, which turned out to be doubly disappointing for its lack of flavor. A sprinkling of dried herbs didn't add much (dried herbs only work in liquid-based dishes, where some of their flavor can exude into the liquid). The black olives and chunks of tomato were fine but unexceptional.
Now the other thing about getting pizza at a restaurant is that I know that the pizza is very often not indicative or typical of the restaurant's food overall. So I must reemphasize that my grades on this blog are for the pizza that I had, not for the restaurant itself. And on this occasion, my two companions, both of whom got the pastitsio (sometimes poorly described as "Greek lasagna"), loved their food.
On the strength of their rave reviews, as well as my own curiosity, I'd come back here, certainly. I'd love to try some of Opa!'s dishes that you don't typically see in Greek restaurants around here, particularly their seafood (mydia - mussels - served in a red garlic sauce, to cite one example), as well as standbys like beef souvlaki.
I was surprised not to see more lamb on the menu - they offer païdakia (grilled lamb chops, with lemon, olive oil and oregano), but that's about it. I hope that's not just some perceived concession to American tastes. If lamb is as much a part of the Greek diet as I think it is, please give us more lamb dishes.
But as far as the pizza is concerned, it just wasn't too good, judged as pizza. If I could somehow forget all my preconceptions about pizza, I might've liked it better, but the crust wasn't crisp at all, the chicken was dry, and the cheese was almost flavorless.
But I'm not going to give it a specific letter grade. I sometimes forgo assigning a rating to pizzas that simply aren't that comparable to others in the area. And this was, really, a different kind of pizza from what I would expect to get at a traditional pizzeria. Plus, despite my disclaimers, if I give this pizza a poor grade, some people are going to assume that I didn't like the restaurant itself. And that's just not true. I just don't know enough about the rest of their food to pass judgment on the restaurant, and as I mentioned, my friends were happy with their dish. So while I will say that I wasn't too nuts about this pizza, I'll leave it at that.
Opa!, 1175 Jefferson Road, 14623
272-0001
Sun. & Mon. 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Tue. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.


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