Madge was still seething from our recent trip to Bamboo Club at Biltmore Fashion Park.
Madge and I get along famously because we love to eat and have a high disdain for bad food and bad service. So, it was a hit to us, and especially to Madge, that we had a truly awful meal. But Madge is also a trooper and was ready for another eating excursion.
She wanted pizza and, by God, she was going to have it. So, we decided to have a leisurely Italian dinner and Madge suggested Red Devil on East McDowell Road in Phoenix. I was more than happy to concur with her decision.
Red Devil is a Phoenix institution. The food is never going to get a James Beard award or similar, but it has always been solid for me. Amidst the hoopla over Pizzeria Bianco, the Spinato's fanatics, and those who insist on only ordering pizza from Pizza Hut, Red Devil often gets overlooked. I think that is a shame.
Madge and I arrived at 8:30 PM and had to park in the small lot across the street because the main lot was filling up with people heading to the bar next door. We entered and waited for a booth up front. I really do not like the back as it is very much an open space and so the noise is really amplified. The nice hostess seated us next in a booth right up front and our server was there in seconds taking our drink order: two waters and two Diet Cokes.
Madge was starving and decided that in addition to a pizza we would share, she wanted a salad. One minute later and Madge had declared that a half order of the Buffalo Chicken Salad ($6.10) was in her future. I just opted for the small dinner salad with the House Italian dressing ($2.50). Now the negotiations over the type of pizza to get was underway.
We decided that it would be a large, 16" pizza. We also decided that we wanted to go with the "white" pizza (olive oil and garlic as the sauce instead of tomatoes and spices). After careful give and take, we opted for three toppings: pepperoni, garlic and ricotta cheese ($17.06 - the base cost plus the cost of each topping). The server returned and we placed our order.
A few minutes passed and the salads arrived. My dinner salad was a nice plate of greens with a few veggies and olives thrown in. I very much liked the Italian dressing. It was tangy and a bit sweet and a good mix of flavors. Madge dove into her Buffalo Chicken Salad which had the same greens as mine, but also had some large strips of chicken meat that had been cooked in Buffalo Wing sauce. Madge poured a bit of the Italian dressing on her salad and took a bite. "It's great!" she exclaimed. Madge said the heat from the wing sauce and the tanginess from the dressing were a great match. Along with our salads came a basket with two baseball-sized rolls and butter. They were truly awful. The rolls were heavy, dry and dull.
We watched the people filter in and out of the restaurant and then our pizza arrived. Our server put the large pizza on the edge of the table and served us each a piece. The garlic scent hit us like an oncoming locomotive. Madge dressed her slice with some of the parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes on the table. I just opted for the extra cheese. We tasted our creation.
It was searing hot, but delicious. The garlic, ricotta and mozzarella cheese were a great mix. The pepperoni slices added a nice contrast to the mellowness of the cheeses, and the edges were slightly crisp. The crust itself was good: chewy, cooked throughout and a few charred areas on the edge and bottom. We gobbled up slice after slice and discussed everything from politics to what we should have next time we came here.
We were able to finish about 75% of the pizza and the server offered to box it up. He then suggested spumoni ($4.95) for dessert and Madge demanded some. The server asked if I would like some, but I declined. He then said he would bring two spoons. Madge waited a moment and then declared that the service was "breathtaking... especially the one in the back with the bald spot and the sideburns." Madge frightens me sometimes.
The spumoni arrived and we were both shocked. This thing was huge. I mean, gigantic. A massive scoop of the concoction had been cut into quarters and served with whipped cream and sliced almonds sprinkled on top. It was cold, creamy and tasty. Interestingly enough, it was not heavy or super filling. It was a very, very nice way to end the meal. I even pitched in to help Madge out.
We finished another round of Diet Cokes and settled up with the server. Our total bill including tax was $37.40. Considering the amount we ate, I thought it was a great value. Madge agreed.
As we walked to the exit, I saw the old photo of when Red Devil opened back in 1960. I remember as a kid going in to the place and having pizza and being facinated by the candles that were in old chianti bottles and dripped colored wax down the sides. That was when it pretty much was the Italian restaurant in Phoenix and the wait proved it. Now, it is more of a family place with good portions and tasty food, sans the rolls.
As we left, Madge tried to get one more glimps of her future husband and we headed to the car. We reeked of garlic, but we didn't care.
Red Devil is good pizza in our books.
Red Devil Italian Restaurant
3102 East McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85008
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