When MJs Pizzeria opened recently at the corner of Peckham and Longley lanes, just down the road from where my parents live, I was excited to sample a new, locally owned takeout pizzeria and maybe even make a regular habit of it. When adding to this the knowledge that the owner/managers have a local background, recognized entrepreneurial talent, and an eye to enlightened nutrition, all my biases were positive going into this review. This is one of those places you want to believe in.
However, I’m a reviewer, not a promoter, and while the potential is awesome, I think a few kinks need to be worked out before MJ’s is ready to make a distinctive splash in the area market.
Service and presentation are not among the kinks. The “J” of the establishment’s name is co-owner and former UNR student James Blood. His pizzeria business proposal was an upstart finalist at a recent Nevada collegiate competition, and for good reason. The personae and business model communicate efficiency, energy, modernity and hipness. MJ’s ambitious offerings include atypical toppings like butternut squash and cucumber, optional gluten-free crusts, and vegan meats and cheeses. You will get hit for an extra buck for the meat and dairy substitutes.
MJ’s is take-out or delivery only, but we didn’t linger long in the parking lot before our pies were done. My husband and I, with an assist from my mother, thought the four-cheese pizza ($16.99 for the extra large) would be a safe bet, while my dad got to play chef with a create-your-own pepperoni and pepper jack cheese (medium, $10.99).
The pepper jack cheese jumped out and made the whole thing spicy and yummy. It was the four-cheese that faltered. The way I see it, a “four-cheese” pizza ought to taste, well, cheesy. The problem was that the extant gouda, cheddar, pepper jack and provolone, already skimpy in my estimation, were overpowered by an excessively sweet tomato sauce. Some might like it, but that particular flavor was simply too prominent on the pie. Besides adjusting the proportions of ingredients to base, perhaps MJs could benefit from having a garlic white sauce option.
We also tried both the vanilla and chocolate Texas baby cakes ($3.99 for four of either) for dessert. I confess to having never heard of these before; they’re like frosting-encased scones but frozen. They looked inviting enough, but both varieties were sugary, doughy sweet bombs that I could not in earnest recommend but would not discourage others from sampling, especially if your tooth is exceptionally sweet.
Let’s stop and put all this perspective. Regarding taste, I wouldn’t pass up MJs for a grease-logged cardboard delight from any chain. Even without straining themselves to employ natural ingredients with an eye to both tastiness and health, the majors can’t provide what MJ’s does—and Mj’s does it at comparable prices. There is also the issue of what can reasonably be expected from first-time restaurateurs still on the upward slope of the learning curve.
And don’t get the impression MJ’s is just a fringe foodie peculiarity.
“Megan’s Magnificent Meat Lover’s”—eponymous, I assume, after the “M” of the establishment name—piles on bacon and ham, along with ground beef and a “special” ranch dressing ($16.99 for a large), and James’ Jumpin’ Jalapeno will challenge the stout of tongue and brave of heart by combining Italian sausage with pepper Jack cheese, pepperoni, bell peppers and “EXTRA jalapenos” (large $15.99).
MJ’s is worth trying out, especially since I imagine the owners to be receptive to special requests, e.g. less tomato sauce, please, and more cheese, which is what I’ll do next time.