Pizza galore

This is a list of Richmond pizza joints and their respective summaries that I began to be compile even before I moved down to VCU. I snuck off back in high school to grab a slice. I had to make sure I could get a decent piece of the pie down here before I could finalize such a big decision as where to continue my education. I had a lot to be wary of – I didn’t assume there would be good pizza in Richmond, Virginia.

I think the major joints near campus are covered here, that are indeed great pizza places or ones that masquerade as such. It is imperative to deal with both.

Sbarro
Shafer Court Dining Center
(804) 828-FOOD

You want to pay almost $3 for a slice of crap, come here. Most malls around the country produce a decent imitation of NY’s finest at these chain gang Mama Sbarro food court wonders. But here at VCU, it is no wonder that they mess it up (and the whole point of chains is uniformity!). The scungili (literally the sea creature that takes the conch shell, but essentially Italian for idiots) here found a way to put holes in the pizza so that when you see the pie sitting there under the grimy glass display, getting cold, you can see the glare of the scratchy grey tin plate under the goppy excuse for muzzadel’. What could’ve been a nice gesture for first-year with meal plans turned out to be a total waste. But what do you expect from the successor of Hibbs? It’s almost as bad as Vie De France’s cannoli.

F for messing up something so easy as a chain recipe.

Marcello’s Pizza
2805 W. Cary St.
(804) 355-3677

The guy was foolish enough with the title and probably scares away half of the ethnic-phobic South and any real paesano wouldn’t walk in either because they’re thinking, what do South Americans know about my Guido cuisine. So he’s pretty much screwed before someone takes a bite of his pie, but hey, he’s non-chain and had a pretty red, white and green hand-painted sign and even a couple of white plastic tables outside (always a plus) so I ventured in and gave him a try. While Argentina has 20 million descendants of the Old Country (Italia), this man can’t be one of them. The slice was more of a crispy Ritz cracker with ketchup and a piece of Kraft Cheese on top. I really do think it was cooked in the microwave. The dude seems to know it too and doesn’t mind, as
evident by him displaying his write-up in the Richmond Times-Dispatch…they gave him a C+. That was being nice, and I checked the author’s name, not Italian, so what does he know. But either way, Marcello was proud of his grade. Maybe he liked the way the plus sign looked.

C- for cracker pizza, the minus is to hurt Marcello’s feelings.

Puddn’ Heads
1211 W. Main St.
(804) 355-2739

Never had a worse pizza in my life except that one that time I ate in Northern Italy. Yet, these two guys from Milan make the most excellent personal-sized pizza, the old-school, brick oven way, with new age California toppings like sliced tomatoes, basil (basanigole for my Neapolitan paesani out there), spinach, garlic and peppers-all fresh. With pizza names ranging from “Amacord” (tomato, fresh “mootsie” (mozzarella for you medagone) and spinach) to “Never on Sunday” with loads of mushroom, garlic, goat cheese, onion and other things that will make your breath reek, there’s something for everyone. Each pie is about $5 but most people can’t finish it, so you get your money’s worth. This coffee house also takes RamBucks.

A+ because they are northern Italians perfecting a southern Italian tradition, got to give mad props for that. Quite possibly the closest thing you can get to a real Neapolitan-style pizza within a 400-mile radius.

Bottom’s Up
1700 Dock St.
(804) 644-4400

It’s hard to say anything bad about this place after the tragic flood but I gotta be honest. I’m only mentioning it because supposedly it is the most popular pizza place in Richmond and it’s basically famous. But it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Who wants to wait 30 minutes to get a table at a pizza joint? The pizza is pretty greasy and a tad on the expensive side. One slice is a whopping $6.25 and a medium pie runs $16.95! Pizza was created as the peasant’s to-go food back in late 19th century Italy, when the working man worked so much to survive that he didn’t have time to eat his traditional siesta-style super lunch. It was the cheapest cuisine you could get. To make prices that high is against everything the great pizza represents. I could go on with this outrage for hours but I’ll leave it with that. Nevertheless, Bottom’s Up is definitely not Italian style, but we’re in Richmond, so I’m not even holding that against them. I would give the pizza a mediocre rating because it clearly comes from an electric oven judging by the mushy, doughy crust and it’s obvious the cooks don’t have the basics down because this place is huge into toppings. You ever had really good french fries that didn’t need ketchup? Pizza’s like that, if it’s excellent, you don’t want to cover it up with tons of toppings, especially Bottom’s Up new-age medagone toppings like pineapple and crab meat. If you’re into this stuff though, this is indeed your place to be. To each his own.

I give them the mediocre grade of a C though.

Vito’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant
904 W. Grace St.
(804) 353-5533

A Salvadoran man makes a good New York-style pie. He was trained by an Italian for 20 years he says. He’s got the jumbo sized floppy slices that are good for folding and do well with the “free toppings that real guidos use”–parmesan cheese, hot pepper, oregano and garlic powder, all complimentary and all sitting on that traditional take-out counter. Only $1.50 a slice! Accepts RamBucks.

A for staying true to the NYC pizza code. Now fold that big slice and eat it in the proper New Yorker fashion!

Mary Angela’s Italian Subs
3345 W. Cary St.
(804) 353-2333

Distant cousins of Piccola’s, also from the same hill town in Sicilia, called Carini. However, the pizza is delicious, especially the Sicilian thick crust. The dude who makes the pizza is the epitome of the Sicilian: hairy (and it’s red hair), always with the thick stubble and fat. Only speaks Italian and Sicilian but makes an amazing pie. You can watch him do it right in front of you. This place is especially good for sit-down eating with a girl on Friday or Saturday nights. Italian TV channel RAI is always on too to get your Italian on and keep up with all the latest news in the Old Country.

A+ for combining great NY style pizza with other Italian-American staples like good salads and calzones all in a family-friendly, date-friendly atmosphere, all while keeping the price very reasonable.

Piccola Italy Pizza & Subs
110 W. Main St.
(804) 355-3111

First, let’s get something straight, it’s PEE-coh-la, There is an accent on the first syllable. The name means Little Italy of course. Anyways, there are definitely real Sicilians working in there. These guys are capable of making a very good slice, whether it’s New York Style, Sicilian or specialty stuffed slices. They also have great steak and cheese sandwiches that would make Philly jealous, but that’s for another article. If you’re into football, the real football, calcio, not that American game with pads and helmets, this is the place to hang. It’s probably the only place to hang actually. On Sundays at 9 a.m., early I know, you can watch soccer matches from around the world, and more importantly, from Italia. Just make sure you root for Juventus. Piccola’s has prime real estate, you can find them less than 50 feet from campus, right next to the Business Building.

A+ for being Sicilian and for giving soccer heads a place to hang their hats

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