Sacramento, CA 95814
There’s really no other word to describe Pizza Rock. It’s not just the portions, which, in truth, are actually well north of prodigious. It’s also the volume of the cheese, the volume of the music, the size of the black truck cab bursting through the wall above the bar, and the ceiling’s beguiling riff on the central panel of the Sistine Chapel. Each and every aspect of Pizza Rock lands comfortably within prodigious’s broad-based definition.
It seems gratuitous but, for the record, Pizza Rock is all about pizza. Six types of Napoletana, seven “classic” Italian, five American and three Sicilian, plus mutants like calzone and stromboli. Several varieties are cooked in the cirigliano forni oven near the front door.
As the numbers of pizzas suggest, there are any number of options, including a few for noncarnivores. Hard to go wrong with pesto, garlic, mozzarella and tomato or primavera—in which the spinach stands out—and quattro formaggi. Whatever the choice, all orders arrive swiftly, they arrive hot and they disappear quickly. Service is snappy. Smiles abound. Following the staff’s recommendations proves on several visits to be sound advice.
Speaking on behalf of fellow carnivores—and omnivores, for that matter—the mozzarella, pancetta, porcini and thyme with a splash of truffle oil is worthy of investigation. The no-tomato-sauce pancetta and porcini pie is another standout. Almost as killer as the cole slaw/sausage pizza at The Golden Bear.
Another pizzazz Pizza Rock pizza is the “Sacramento,” with its kitchen sink of pepperoni, salami, sausage, bacon, mushroom, red onion, bell pepper and olives. That would be the “combo” in the Lucas Family Test Kitchen.
Stromboli, in this case the exact opposite of the bad guy from Pinocchio, is a very good calzone on steroids. Romano’s Original is the one to choose: prosciutto, sausage, pepperoni, sweet peppers and a river of molten mozzarella all locked inside a crispy tri-corner shell. Two small dishes of stunningly bland marinara are included. Skip the marinara; there’s scads of flavor without it. Douse with red pepper flakes and add a pinch of Parmesan instead.
Like Mayahuel up the street, Pizza Rock offers freebies that, quite delightfully, include focaccia with a tangy spread of piquanté peppers that share the same sweet heat of red Peppadews. These same piquant piquantés are the star of the Campari pizza, one of the Napoletana options. Yes, there’s a splash of the pizza’s namesake and plenty of mozzarella, escarole, the piquantes and peppered goat cheese. Not nearly enough pancetta is included. Add sausage and create a remarkably robust pizza given all the veggies involved. The flavorful back-and-forth between the sausage and the piquantes is alluringly amplified by the escarole. Red pepper flakes almost aren’t necessary. Apropos of nothing, when did extra virgin olive oil start being referred to as EVOO? Anyone see the memo?
Not to gild the lily, but the meatball sandwich is prodigious enough that it’s nearly impossible to finish. Think girth of an overweight brick. The meatballs are merely meatballs, however. Nothing noteworthy. They are not enhanced by more of the bland marinara.
This lack of culinary élan in the sandwich is particularly puzzling in light of the alchemy of the Campari, pancetta/porcini and Romano’s Original. As noted earlier, perhaps it’s best to stay within the pizza family. It’s part of the joint’s name, after all. The fries accompanying the sandwich are memorable, however. Enough garlic to deter Bela Lugosi. Best without the proffered ketchup.
Pizza Rock is not the ideal location to, let’s say, pore over a U.S. Supreme Court ruling if comprehension is the goal. But Pizza Rock is fun, and the food fits with the restaurant’s overarching theme of good-timey—albeit gargantuan—edibles. Bring an appetite and pals who are similarly situated.