A lame horse
Sacramento, CA 95811
Trick Pony has seen a fair share of drama for a restaurant so young. Loose lips and a change of ownership to be exact, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to talk about the food.
So, how does this pizza shop, now resting in the husk of Tuli Bistro, fare?
To be frank, not well.
The Caesar salad was the highlight of the evening. Generously buried under Grana Padano cheese were plenty of crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside croutons and classic Caesar dressing
The pizza dough is cooked well: decent chew, crispy crust, just the right amount of charring. However, it lacks any real flavor. No sour. No salt. No nothing. It’s the Wonder Bread of pizza dough—white, sterile, flavorless.
Trick Pony’s tomato sauce is equally disappointing. With a flavor profile akin to a watered-down tomato soup, it lacks even the faintest zing or subtlety of sweetness that one expects from a tomato. Oregano? Garlic? Salt? Heck, even a good squeeze of tomato paste would beat some life into the poor thing.
I will give props to the restaurant’s consistent use of creamy buffalo mozzarella and Grana Padano, which is one of the finest Italian hard cheeses available (it’s similar to Parmesan but saltier and nuttier in flavor). No corners cut cheesewise, and servings are generous.
Pizzas are served precut or in a tear-and-go method, where the unsliced pie is served with a knife. Diners cut and rip chunks of pizza away from the whole. It’s supposed to be amusing, I guess, but we all found ourselves struggling with it, leaving behind toppings on the plate and knocking over glasses.
The Tonno e Cipolla pizza seemed like the most unique option. Our waiter cheered the oil-packed tuna, flavored with lemon and basil and paired with red onions. He promised that, paired with the parsley-caper sauce, it would be bright and piquant. Call me provincial, but the tuna tasted only moderately different from a can of oil-packed Bumble Bee brand. The green sauce was cheery, but in dire need of a bit more acid. Still, it could not save this colorful, but overwhelmingly passable pie.
We leaned toward the Patate Pancetta Grana pizza. Topped with chunks of tender wax potatoes, Grana Padana and slivers of pancetta. By and far the creamy potatoes made the most lasting impression in way of texture. Yet, as a whole, it was a swath of bland flavor. My husband actually uttered a once-thought impossible phrase: “Wow. The pancetta actually makes it worse.” And then he threw it away.
For the chef’s special, a carnivore pizza was available. Can’t go bad there, right? Wrong. Somehow, for all the meaty goodness it boasted, it was like there was a party in my mouth, but then everyone got bored and went home to binge on Netflix. (In particular, a house-made sausage put Jimmy Dean in a good light.)
The wine and beer list is certainly satisfactory, though if you prefer iced tea, it is not offered here because God knows why.
Service is friendly and knowledgeable, so that’s something positive.
I get that Trick Pony has had an overly rough start, but overall, the quality isn’t acceptable. The plus side? There’s nowhere to go but up.
It takes a pizza joint a lot of time to develop the most addictive sauces and a truly ethereal dough—but that’s usually all pinned down before opening. Without these basics, no amount of toppings, no matter how local or high end, will make it good.
For those who are acolytes of Masullo Pizza, in heat for Hot Italian or overtly dedicated to OneSpeed, my guess is that Trick Pony won’t do it for you at the moment. Make the decision to visit it in a month or two. I plan to. This restaurant has knowledgeable talent behind it that, with some time, will hopefully refine its products.