Am I the last chowhound to visit Piece? Can I drive the last nail into its coffin?
OK, I have to admitt, the place has always rubbed me the wrong way--the father-son tag-teaming the beers, the fabo publicity it has recieved, the allusions to New Haven. Lots of marks against it. On the other hand, I DO love pizza, I love pizzas with the ingedients they offer like brocoli rabe, hot peppers and such. Plus, all the images I saw of their pizza, irregular blobs of bread served in big pans looked too tempting. So, there were also things that made me want to like it.
I started with a half-pint of golden arm beer (great name for Wicker Park even if Algren would probably not set foot in a place like this). For a while, the hyper-flavorings of micro-brews practically drove me back to Bud. I wanted beer to quaff. Golden Arm reminds me of why we sought out micro-brews in the first place. Flavor. Get me a Sam Adams after the watery golden arm poured at Piece. I had a low opinion of that beer medal thing, and it got a bit lower afte the Piece thing they called prize-winning.
I ordered a white pizza with brocoli rabe and anchovies. When it arrived, they told me that this was the first time anyone ever ordered this particular combination of pizza. Like if I was at Tour D'Argent, I would get tag #1. I thought that it seemed a sensible combination as it is not unsual to toss a few anchovy fillets in the pan when cooking up some Italian greens. And the combination worked well. (I am sure Gary will pip in to tell me that he's had brocoli rabe and anchovy pizza since 1978 at a little place ReneG once mentioned in passing in a thread on fondue.)
The combination of greens and anchovies that is. I mixed up what the white pizza was supposed to be. I've seen pictures of New Have pizza (clam) and the crust is bare except for the toppings. That is what I thought I'd get. I thought it would be crust, greens, salty-fish, and shavings or sprinkles of parmesian. Instead, a heavy coating of cheese without any sauce, sucked a lot of flavor out of the pizza. It was that dry.
The crust, I expected the white pizza to be a vehicle for the crust, a crust widely panned on chowhound. As I said, the crust got plenty lost in the cheese blanket, and the vigorous toppings. Still, some of the crust was bordering on special. It had a surprising crispness that seemed out of place with the thickness and chewyness of the crust. Other parts of the crust, however, were marred by being undercooked, tasting mostly of bench flour. One last point: the pizza was round as if it had been cooked in a regular ol' pizza pan and then transferred to the square baking sheet. There was none of that irregularity, that one bit of stray dough that had hardened into a golden handle that I thougt I saw in pictures. Is this new, or have I seen it wrong all along? Were the pizza's at one time free-formed in the baking pans?
To me Piece sounds good on menu paper, in a beer publisits handbook, in pictures where perhaps I imagine something, but early on a Saturday night, it tasted only OK.