Dish

I fought the ’za and the ’za won

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Four local pizzerias go head to head (and slice to slice) in Vue’s Pizza
Challenge

“Hey! Who wants to order pizza?” Every evening, these fateful words echo
throughout movie nights and keggers alike, usually followed by a hunt through
fridge-magneted menus or a listless flip through the phone book. “Where do
you want to order from?” “What kind do you want to get?” Important questions,
sure, but all too often these questions can prove too challenging for the
drunk, too complex for the stoned and too daunting for the indecisive. But
this, my friends, is where the Vue Weekly Pizza Challenge comes in.

One Wednesday evening, eight hungry judges ordered four large pizzas to a
downtown apartment. With great enthusiasm and $12 each, we set out to
discover who amongst Edmonton’s pizzerias (excluding those big chain
pizza places, of course) who could provide the fastest, the cheesiest, the
best valued and the overall awesomest pizza. After much deliberation, the
contenders were selected: Funky Pickle’s 14″ Pig Kahuna (ham and
pineapple with an attitude); Royal Pizza’s 12″ The Boss Has Gone Mad (a
spaghetti and meat sauce pizza—decidedly not Atkins-approved); Rose
Bowl’s 16″ Vegetarian (rumoured to be the best in the city, period);
and a 14″ Mr. Universe from Chicago Deep Dish (loaded, and purportedly the
strongest pizza known to man).

Our panel of connoisseurs boasted more than 200 years of collective
pizza-munching experience between them, making them ideally suited for this
grueling task. We restrained our snacking, had a few adult beverages and made
horribly strained small talk in that way ravenous groups of people do when
pizza’s on the way.

At just under a half an hour, the Funky Pickle’s Pig Kahuna ($25) was
the speediest, although frankly, it could have probably used another 10
minutes in the oven to finish cooking. Regardless, we gorged ourselves,
praising the highly piled toppings and tangy sauce that set our tastebuds
a-tappin’. (“They went nuts with the ham and pineapple,” exclaimed one
reviewer, “but somebody cut the cheese!”) Having made quick work of the
Kahuna, we sat back to await the next delivery, reminiscing about late-night
Funky Pickle slices on Whyte, especially that Red Pepper, Cilantro and
Pineapple drizzled in honey. I won’t rest until I have it again.

Royal Pizza rang next with The Boss Has Gone Mad ($22), making it to the door
in under an hour. (Not bad, really, considering they had to cross the
knife-spider bridge from their location in Old Strathcona.) As we opened the
box, before us lay controversy: a generous portion of spaghetti, baked under
cheese and served on a thick crust. And you know what? It tasted exactly as
expected, but good! Bachelor cuisine in its purest form, I couldn’t
help but have recurring visions of those old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
commercials that showed chocolate and peanut butter undergoing one bizarre
collision after another. Was it a response to the changing tastes of a new
pizza-eating generation? Or was this the death knell for pizza purists? One
panelist chewed thoughtfully and offered, “I probably wouldn’t order it
myself, but I’d end up eating five or six pieces at a party.”

Hot on the heels of the perplexing pasta pizza, Chicago Deep Dish arrived
with Mr. Universe ($25). A nearly religious silence fell over us as we opened
the box and our gaze met with over a square foot of greasy pizza delight on
that tender, chewy, perfectly square crust. The Chicago philosophy is basic:
huge crust, huge toppings and huge cheese equals fantastic pizza. It’s
not exciting. There are no delicate flavours to tempt your palate, and it
boasts less zing than a tuna casserole, but as one judge grinned, “It’s
the pizza you’d feel comfortable taking home to meet your
parents.”

Finally, the Rose Bowl, only seven blocks away, managed to limp across the
finish line with a $30 cool-ish pizza in an hour and a half. Our panel was
unimpressed, but our opinions were greatly restored by the huge amount of
diced fresh tomatoes that came separately to pile on the pizza. Once
assembled, the result was a wonderfully colourful pie, not greasy at all,
that tasted like the healthiest choice that evening. Both the crust and the
sauce held an unexpected sweetness that took some getting used to. Rose Bowl
veterans recommend ordering the Chef’s Mistake while sitting in the
restaurant, but the Vegetarian for delivery didn’t rock our socks
off.

At the end of the night, Funky Pickle edged out both Royal and Chicago Deep
Dish for the “Cheesiest” title, and the square Mr. Universe was unanimously
voted “Best Value” (that’s a hell of a lot of pizza!). Tied for Best
Pizza was the unexpectedly fabulous Boss Had Gone Mad from Royal and the
hearty mass that is Mr. Universe. The Pizza Challenge was a rigourous
gastronomic feat, but my friends and I are always willing to eat pizza and
talk about it. Feel free to invite our expertise to your next party.
V

Funky Pickle Pizza: 10827 Jasper Ave, 425-FUNK (3865)
Royal Pizza: 10433-80 Ave, 432-7720 •
Chicago Deep Dish: 10024-102 St, 413-8866 •
Rose Bowl Pizza: 10111-117 St, 482-5152

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