No man's pie is freed from his ambitious finger,â?� Shakespeare wrote in King Henry VIII, and though I'm not exactly sure what that means, I'm sure there are scores of you out there with digits as desirous as mine when it comes to pies layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
So, given that 'tis the season for pizza (October is National Pizza Month), and that 93 percent of us eat at least one pizza every month, we thought it fitting to pay a visit to a trio of the nearly 70,000 pizzerias scattered across the country.
First stop: Alfonso's Pizza & More. The once-venerable, once-independent College Park pizza joint was recently taken over by the Anthony's Pizza clan ' that is, the members of the estranged family that run Anthony's Pizza CafÃ© in Thornton Park, not Li'l Anthony's on Colonial Drive, who claim to have the original family recipe for their N.Y.-style pizza. And though the name remains unchanged, Alfonso's Pizza & Less would be more apt a moniker. In the not-too-distant past, these guys served up some of the best pie in the city ' just peruse the accolades adorning the brick walls if you need proof. But now, those kind words aren't worth the paper they're printed on.
Though the sauce on my cheese slice ($1.99) had an adequate zing, and the overall flavor was passable, the crust lacked any semblance of the crispness characteristic of top-notch New York-style pizza. Even if you're a folder, you'd be hard-pressed to keep your slice from flopping.
So my yearning for sustenance had me perusing the menu. The wings ($3.99), ordered 'as hot as you can make 'em,â?� couldn't rouse my tastebuds from their oral slumber and failed to elicit a single pang, pop or pow. The handful of ridiculously greasy flappers were overcooked and fried to the bone, though I will say that the three celery sticks were served the way I like them ' washed. Unfortunately, the accompanying container of blue cheese dressing was already open, and half-empty, when it arrived at my table. Not sure if it was used previously or not, but our waitress was nice enough to replace it when I brought it to her attention.
Service was quick and prompt, but even that positive element was negated by the blare of Fox News on one of the dining room's two televisions. In the name of all that's good in this city, bring back the old Alfonso's.
Next, it was off to Pizza Xtreme, housed in an isolated strip mall adjacent to a Shell gas station on one of the few barren quarters of the tourist sector: Kirkman Road and Carrier Drive. Pizza Xtreme isn't new ' they've been around for about six years ' but they dish out a damn decent pie. The sauce is made from scratch; the dough is hand-stretched and tossed (a glove in the face of competitors using preformed crusts); and toppings, including pineapple, are cut fresh. The result is the quintessence of pizza.