Friday, February 20, 2015

PathMark's Pizza Is Pretty Good, Actually...

I know, I've probably said it before, but it bears repeating. Via Roma, the premium brand of Italian pasta and sauce products distributed by A&P and it's subsidiary supermarkets (PathMark, Waldbaums, etc.) is pretty doggone good for store pizza. Store pizza, you say? Aren't I a certified snob when it comes to pizza? Yes, and that's why you have to trust me on this one. Sometimes you're in an area where you just can't get great pizza, so you either do without or diminish your expectations to what you consider an acceptable level and make do. I happened to try this pizza on a whim a few years ago and found it to be beyond acceptable, so I've been singing it's praises ever since for people faced with limited options:

Do you like Domino's or Papa Johns or Pizza Hut or (ugh) Lil Caesar's? Well if you try Via Roma's, can you accept the fact you will hate those other brands forever? 

Just try it and let me know what you think.  I don't know why the topic of pizza has been trending with me lately; my friend Imir recently pegged me on a post of his on Facebook in which he proudly indicated my snobbery with pizza from back when we first met in 1990.  Another friend, Chris, with whom I attended school from elementary-onward, traced my snobbery to the fact that I was graced with the efforts of fine pizza making from the Italians of the Hudson Valley. My sister and quite a few others have recounted the many establishments we inhabited or encountered that made good pizza as we were growing up.  When I went to college in DC, I was suddenly at a loss to find what I deemed good pizza; it was either Sbarros, frozen pizza or take your chances with the local establishments (and chances were very slim).  Needless to say, I further developed my own cooking skills after exhausting my options with the school cafeteria (a major disappointment for a heralded Black university), local take out (I despised McDonald's for a long time after DC) and dorm-style cooking (my specialties where potato-chips and cheese on radiator-toasted bread and what I referred to as "Arroz con Pollo" which was more gumbo than anything else).  I even invented a pizza-stick like substance that contained mozzarella cheese, breaded chicken patties and bits of toast microwaved in Tupperware and sliced into strips or Sicilian pizza-style squares.  What you have to do to get by.  There was also Chinese take-out, which I've always had a thing for and was actually pretty good down there, but you'll never believe what I found at Chinese take-out joint on 14th Street NW near the place I last lived in DC: pizza.  Good pizza, in fact.

Nobody would believe that a Chinese food place could possibly make good pizza, no matter what part of the country you were from, but I stumbled upon it and after a few weeks of skepticism while ordering my usual pork fried rice-and-ribs, I tried out the pizza.  Wowzers, I I was taken aback by how decent it was.  Great, no, but better than Dominos? Hell yeah! After some considerable and similar skepticism, my housemates also tried the pizza and came to the same conclusion.  It was a surprise hit. Now, I don't know if the place still exists (not likely), but I would bet that it was more or less hormones and deprivation that drove me to like that pizza back then.  Not so with Via Roma.

The best thing I can say about it is that it's better than the chain store pizzas we see nowadays.  If that's not saying much, then let me also say it does give some local parlors a run for their money, which is considerable when you factor in the price of ingredients, the labor and other miscellaneous overhead, not to mention delivery and tip if you go that route; with Via Roma you're getting a fairly similar pie for more than half the price.  It's fresh, not frozen (big difference!) and they claim to use premium quality ingredients, so the taste is better than what you would expect from the store.  

Trust me, I'm not trying to shill for them (I'm getting nothing for endorsing this brand), but I present it as a viable alternative to the Dominos and Papa Johns and Pizza Huts and Lil Caesars of the world that continue to rip you off with suspect pizza and pasta products.  Save your money; you can get two pizzas for what those places charge and have a better experience.  I say all this because I was just at PathMark and paying for my items; the cashier saw the pizza and asked me if it was any good.  I looked her in the eye and asked her, "Do you like Dominos?" When she said yes, I said, "If you tried this pizza, could you live with hating Dominos for the rest of your life?"

That's a pizza snob for you >;)

Post Edit: I looked on Google Maps to see if I could trace my old address and the stores I went to; the address is there, but renovated and new buildings have gone up on more than half of the block.  In fact, 14th Street looks brand new; none of the empty lots from the riots of the 60s stand empty; in place are tall apartment/loft buildings.  I welcome the revitalization of the area, as long as the people who have long lived here also benefited from the cleanup (but we know how gentrification goes).  Needless to say, the take-out place is also gone.  

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