Tag Archives: pizza

Even Ian nods

Readers of this blog know I am a major booster of Ian’s Pizza, so I was thrilled a few months ago when Ian Gurfield announced he was opening a more upscale pizza place, S2 Pizzabar, just a few blocks from campus.  And S2 Pizzabar lived up to my expectations, serving individual-sized pizzas on a good thin crust with locally sourced toppings in a big handsome bricky room.  At last the cursed address, home to dead restuarants Opa, Maza, and the Saz, could serve lunch in peace!

But no — apparently even Ian couldn’t make a living at 558 State, and S2 Pizzabar will close on March 17.  The place was pretty full both times I ate there; I’d be curious to know in more detail what made this business fail so quickly.  Even Opa lasted longer, and Opa was always kind of empty and confused.

If you’re on State in the next couple of weeks, stop in and get a pizza while you still can; it’s good pizza and I’ll miss it.

 

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How to ruin your Thanksgiving

Eat this week’s magnificent Ian’s special:  pizza with turkey, cranberries, green beans, and fried onions.  It’s very unlikely your family will serve you anything as good as this.

 

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Pizzayola

Full disclosure:  a few days after I posted this, a nice PR person from Ian’s mailed me a thank-you Post-it and a coupon for two free slices.

Reader, I used it.

Feel free to ignore my opinions about squid pizza from now on if you feel my integrity is now suspect.  I know I can’t be bought.

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In which Ian Gurfield is a mad genius

Squid pizza. Sliced pepperoncini as a visual pun on the rings of fried calamari. Available at Ian’s through Friday. Do not miss.

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Madison pizza round-up

The alphabetical gourmands of Eating in Madison A to Z are up to  “Pizza ____.”  I recently tagged along on their visit to Pizza Oven on the West Side:  the resulting review just went up on their blog.  Seems a good time to set down some of my own thoughts on Madison pizza.

Ian’s:  Pizza without boundaries.  The experiments are exciting even when they don’t work.   I’ve blogged enough already about this cultural treasure. Today Milwaukee, tomorrow the world.  Glass Nickel is a worthy contender in the same genre — the Thai Pie, in particular, is an experiment that’s become a perfected piece of pizza technology.  Also, they have delivery trucks that run on pizza grease.

Thin crust pies.  The best is Pizza Brutta, on upper Monroe, which makes a very thin, irregular, faintly sweet crust with nice blackened bubbles around the rim.  The traditionalist to Ian’s mad scientist.  My second favorite place to eat pizza in Madison.  Try the Portabella.  Greenbush Bar and Cafe Porta Alba (just re-opened in Hilldale) have devoted followings, and are always packed, and make a good thin crust pie; but nothing to match Brutta.  Pizza Oven isn’t in the league of Greenbush and Porta Alba,  but is charming if you grew up in the suburbs in the ’70s, and you won’t need to wait for a table in this cavernous shed-like former Hooters.

Thick crust pies. I’m against thick crust pies.  I don’t even know who, if anyone, makes them here.

New York pies. The best is Casa Bianca, way out west on Junction Road.  I’m told on good authority that the proprietors are not actually New York Italians, but Macedonians who ran a pizzeria at home and kept it up when they moved to Wisconsin; and moreover that they train just-arrived Macedonian immigrants to make New York pies, then send them out to open New York pizzerias in other Midwestern cities that lack one.  Looking this up on Yelp, I see that Casa Bianca seems to have gone out of business.  But I’m leaving this up because I found the story about the Macedonian pizza entrepreneurship lab kind of heartwarming.  I guess your only choice for New York pie now is Pizza di Roma on State, which mimics the experience of getting a big floppy extra greasy slice at a no-name pizza counter in Manhattan pretty much exactly, for better or worse.

I haven’t tried and have no opinion about:  Rocky Rococo’s, Gino’s.  I’ve had mediocre Italian food at and thus have low expectations for the pizza at:  Porta Bella, Paisan’s.  I’ve had good Italian food at and thus have high expectations for the pizza at:  Osteria Papavero (lunch only) and Cafe la Bellitalia.   I am put off by the name of and thus have low expectations for the pizza at:  Pizza Extreme.

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Two good things I ate this week

Yesterday, a bowl of gumbo from New Orleans Take Out on Monroe.  So richly spiced as to be almost black, so thick with roux and file that it was almost not a soup.  This is non-traditional but I crumbled up and added my sweet cornbread to make of it a kind of granular black spicy undefined entity that was the best thing I ate this week.

Today, the Beef n Brew special slice at Ian’s Pizza.  Available only through tomorrow.  Thin-sliced coffee-rubbed steak from Fountain Prairie, roasted wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and gravy.  Autumnal, superb.

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My day of eats, Bay Area edition

Just now back from a short visit to MSRI, where I spent four invigorating days collaring participants in this semester’s special program and asking them various algebro-geometric questions I’ve been storing up for just such an occasion.

Also, I ate a lot.  Wednesday went something like this.  I was meeting Akshay Venkatesh in the Mission to talk about Galois groups;  I set off the wrong way from the 24th and Mission BART, which had the good effect of bringing me past Dianda’s Italian-American Pastry, where I got a good and toothsome cannoli (but with a maraschino cherry lodged in the filling at each end — why?)  I met Akshay at the agreeably full-of-itself Ritual Roasters, where I had a fine, but not outstanding, swiss-dill-scallion scone.  I wanted a torta for lunch — Mission burritos are fine, but it’s a real Cal-Mex torta that I miss here in Madison.  But on the way I was distracted by something I’ve always wanted to see — a Filipino restaurant!  This one was called Kababayan and most of the offerings were big, gristly-looking pieces of meat swimming in various chafing trays.  I dodged those and got some pansit and an ukoy — the former a slightly sour dish of short glassy noodles, the latter a kind of shrimp latke — and ate them on the way.  Greasy, satisfying, but mostly of ethnographic interest.  The torta de pierna at La Torta Sabrosa, was tasty, but a little subdued, not offering the glorious sloppy excess I get from torta at its best.

That was all for the Mission.  On the way back to Berkeley I got off at the Embarcadero and wandered through the Ferry Building, which turns out to be 10% about getting on a boat to Sausalito and 90% about ultra-chichi food vendors.  My kind of place.  At the Cowgirl Creamery store I got a little crottin-sized cheese called Inverness, which, like everything else from CC, was terrific; pungent and direct but not a bit unfresh.  I chased that with a “salumi cone” from Boccalone, whose motto, “Tasty Salted Pig Parts,” is an accurate and essentially exhaustive description of the merchandise.  The cone was mortadella, sopressata, and of course a healthy slice of cooked pig’s head to provide some gelatinous crunch.

Then it was back to Berkeley and old favorites.  I met some friends for dinner at Gregoire’s, where I had a simple and delicious dish of fried, battered scallops.  I realized, just after we ordered, that Cheeseboard, the nation’s best pizzeria, was still open for fifteen more minutes; so I hustled across the street and brought back a slice with roasted tomato and gremolata in place of my usual appetizer of Gregoire’s magnificent frites.

We sat at dinner for long enough that, when we passed good old Crepes-A-Go-Go on the way home, I couldn’t resist stopping in.  It’s actually now called “Crepes Ooh La La” and apparently isn’t affiliated with the other store on Telegraph.  Anyway, their banana and Nutella crepe always ends a day right.  As it did this day.

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Eat this today — tacos al pastor pizza at Ian’s

While we’re on the subject of glorious culinary syncretism, I want to endorse in the strongest possible terms today’s special pizza at Ian’s:  a “tacos al pastor” pie with juicy chunks of marinated pork, fried onions, and pineapple over mozarella cheese and tomato-chipotle sauce.  It’s one of their finest achievements and I believe it’s today only.  Ian’s stays open until 3am, so there should be plenty of time to get down there if you’re out of state or something.

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Show report: Takka Takka at the Frequency

Takka Takka makes hushed, spare indie rock with a lot of open spaces. Or so I thought until I saw them last night at Madison’s brand-new downtown venue, The Frequency. Now they are loud. And have two guitarists playing a lot of notes at once instead of one guitarist playing hardly any notes. And frontman Gabe Levine clutches the mike and howls and emotes and smashes a tambourine on the floor at the end of the set.

And it was great! The encore — announced as a Britney Spears cover but presumably not one — was especially strong: the whole song plays as a big slow drony uplift, a la Spacemen 3, but all the detail work was complicated and proggy instead of straightforward and druggy.

Grammar, from Chicago, opened. You know what’s a good look for a band? The look where no two people look like they’re in the same band. Grammar played energetic, not entirely tight, pop with big five-part harmonies that worked most of the time.

The Frequency is small — really small — and despite being small, wasn’t full. Maybe fifteen people were there to see Takka Takka, of whom five were Grammar. A very good place to get very close to a band you want to see. Strangely, if you order “cheese fries” there you get a white pizza. Apparently that’s what “cheese fries” means in the proprietors’ home town of Stevens Point, WI.

Takka Takka home page

Grammar myspace page

The Frequency

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In which CJ makes pizza

CJ was entranced by the exhibit in the Chicago Children’s Museum where you could make a pizza on cardboard crusts with fabric pepperoni and mushrooms.  So tonight I thought he might like helping me make a couple of pizzas for real.

Now I try to be an autonomy-granting parent, so I went along with CJ’s suggestions for what toppings we should use. And that is how we came to dine tonight on apple, pineapple, macaroni and cheese, and Cheerio pizza:

and, for our second course, pineapple salsa and green bean pizza:

The second pizza was actually quite tasty. The first was a little weird — but I do have to say that Cheerios based in the oven gain a strong and pleasant toastiness not present in the raw state.

In case you’re finding my parenting too permissive, I want to point out that I did reject some of CJ’s suggested pizza toppings, including tomato soup, Weetabix, and Trader Joe’s blueberry bran muffins.

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