Despite the publication’s claims about the escalating price of pizza, the growing competition from the taco, and the Atkins-ization of the masses, I think, somehow, that the Cheese Reporter has got it all wrong. Pizza is more popular than ever!
I speak mainly from anecdotal experience. In my many years walking the earth like Cain, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like pizza. As the years go by, I meet more and more people who like and eat pizza. Only once did I meet an anti-pizzite, and that was poor Sarah, allergic to all flour-based products large and small.
Besides, if pizza consumption were really on the skids, would Giovanni’s Old World New York Pizzeria open a second restaurant in Sacramento less than two years after it opened its first? Hardly. Giovanni’s is a smart operation, and it’s been one of the few Sacramento pizzerias that’s given reigning pizza queen Zelda’s a run for its money.
Now, before anyone gets upset about the comparison to Zelda’s, let me say the two are practically apples and oranges. Everyone knows that Zelda’s offers a pan-baked pizza with a flaky cornmeal crust, with slices so dense you couldn’t pick one up and fold it over to save your life. That’s not the case with New York-style pizza. It’s all about thin crust and thin sauce—mowing as you walk down the street. Giovanni’s is New York pizza as God and New Yorkers intended. Chicago pizza is something else.
When Dan Flynn wrote about Brooklyn native John Ruffaine’s “gold standard” of New York pizza, at the first Giovanni’s in South Land Park (see SN&R Foodstuff; June 20, 2002), I ignored him. How could I not? Tucked away as it was in a shopping mall deep in one of Sacramento’s more sedate neighborhoods, I couldn’t believe that sleepy South Land Park could produce a pizza as good as Zelda’s.
But good pizza tends to traverse both time and space. And so has Giovanni’s. The new one on Folsom Boulevard, standing where the old Ikeda’s Market used to be, is already drawing New York-style-pizza enthusiasts from upper Midtown to East Sac and beyond.
It’s not hard to see why. As Flynn promised, the crust was delectably blistery, crispy on the underside and soft and chewy in the middle. The tomato sauce was fresh and light, soft on the tongue, while the mozzarella possessed a strong, nutty flavor faithful to the New York style of using richer, fattier cheese. Each topping—from the lean, spicy pepperoni and the delicate meatball to the roasted red pepper and fresh mushroom—came prepared with careful attention, keeping the strength and flavor of each individual ingredient. The topping portions also were controlled, which complemented rather than weighed down the light crust, delicate sauce and cheese.
Lest Giovanni’s grow a fat head, it did stumble with its Caesar salad. The croutons tasted a bit stale—a surprise, considering everything else was so obviously fresh. And the dressing was heavy for the outer greens used. If we were really picky, we’d say the crusts on the small pizzas should have been more substantial and less cracker-like on the ends. But who ever orders a small pizza anyway? Gnomes?
These trifles aside, one aspect where Giovanni’s definitely can improve is its ambience. Even for a casual pizzeria, Giovanni’s is sparse. Both the South Land Park and the Folsom Boulevard restaurants are dominated by sage-colored interior walls and red, checkered tablecloths draped over four-top after four-top in a vast open room. Neither a single picture nor piece of art graced the East Sac restaurant’s main room, and there wasn’t a single booth or partition available for intimate dining.
But does a less-than-cozy setting dissuade people from eating at Giovanni’s? From what I can tell, the pizzeria could be housed in a giant tin can, and still they would come, which brings me back to my point: Pizza consumption will rise again! If it was ever on the wane, that is.
We will meet the taco on the battlefield, we will meet the hamburger on the shores, we will take the chicken sandwich down! You, dear eater, simply must do your part to eat more than the average of 46 slices (or 23 pounds) of pizza a year eaten by every man, woman and child—if pizza is to remain on top, which it must! You can start with a slice at the Giovanni’s closest to you.