I am not really sure which I find more comforting: Mexican food or Italian food. Oh, there are plenty of reasons for choosing either, but it is a difficult choice for me.
So there I was debating on what to have for dinner. I wanted either Mexican or Italian. First, it was Mexican. Then Italian. Yeah, but tacos. Sure, but pizza. Mexican. Italian. Italian. Mexican. Sushi.
I decided to see what first came to mind and a little Mexican eatery I wanted to try was in my crosshairs. I drove to the spot, but they were closed. Since it was a family place, I wasn't too terribly surprised since it was after 9 PM. So, I decided to head to a relatively new pizza place on the scene.
Sauce is located in another non-descript strip mall on the northeast corner of 7th Street and Glendale Avenue in North Central Phoenix. The mall is anchored by a Safeway on one end and a Pei Wei on the other. I parked and walked to the restaurant.
I was pleased when I first saw the exterior of Sauce. It was bright, with big picture windows and pleasing colors. The strip mall motif did nothing for it, but it was a nice looking place. I entered and noticed that it is set up like Pei Wei. You follow a wall along the side where the menu is posted. You see the various choices as you move along. Or, you could simply grab one of the paper menus right at the entrance as well.
I looked at the various items on the menu boards and had a tough time deciding what I wanted. The choices included salads, lasagna, pizza and a few assorted pasta recipes, plus desserts. I had narrowed it down to a pizza, but the various choices were all inviting. Finally, I made my choice of a Caesar Salad ($5.00) and a Pepperoni and Crimini Mushroom Pizza ($9.00). I also selected a large drink ($1.50). I went to the register and placed my order. The person handling the register was nice and bubbly until I zeroed out the tip on my credit card receipt, at which point he turned cold to me. (Oddly enough, I like to tip at the end of the meal. Silly me.)
I got my number and my receipt and headed to the soda fountain and then a table. The selection of drinks was plentiful, but no Diet Coke. However, they had a Diet Soba Grapefruit and Cranberry beverage that was quite delightful. I highly recommend it. I filled my glass and headed to find a table. Near the window, I found a nice table and sat down.
It wasn't more than a few minutes before my Caesar Salad arrived. It was served in a shallow bowl, and accompanied by a yeast roll. I did not really understand the point of the roll in the parchment paper wrapper with a pat of butter tossed in for good measure, but the roll was very good.
The salad, however, was just ... strange. The romaine lettuce had been cut into 1/4 inch strips and then tossed with a Caesar dressing and topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and some croutons. The dressing was nothing special, but the texture was just odd because of the thin slices of lettuce. It reminded me of cole slaw in a way, but the Romaine wasn't strong enough to hold the dressing the way cabbage does in slaw. What could have been a decent salad was became a weird sensation.
I was still working on my salad when my pizza arrived. This gave me some cause for concern because from the time I ordered until the time the pizza arrived was under 10 minutes. Could they create, dress and cook a pizza in just a few minutes? When the pizza was placed on my table, I knew why it was so quick.
The crust on my pizza was ultra thin. Not quite a lavosh, but certain much thinner than the thin crust style at most pizza joints. The pizza was about 13" across and the pepperoni and mushrooms smelled wonderful. I sprinkled it all with a bit of Parmesan and some red pepper flakes and took my first piece away from the rest of the Italian disk.
Well, some of it made it to my mouth. Some of it didn't. This was because the cooks at Sauce had committed the cardinal sin of pizza making: they didn't prep the crust to prevent it from soaking up the sauce. So, while the circumference of the pizza was nice and crisp, a wide band surrounding the center of my dinner was as limp as a wilted spinach leaf. The cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms slid off the crust and back onto the tray. If only the cooks had either brushed the crust with olive oil or given the crust a quick one-minute pre-bake, it all would have been fine.
I finally got everything scooped up and tried my first bite. The pepperoni was excellent. The mushroom were cooked but not mushy. The cheese was top notch. All of these wonderful things were drowned out by the overly salty sauce.
I couldn't quite figure out if the saltiness was strictly a function of someone dousing the tomato sauce with salt or someone using garlic salt for flavoring and forgetting to scale back the regular salt. In any event, I ate my pizza and followed it with several glasses of the Soba beverage and then some water. Even after I left, I was still slugging down the water to compensate for the salt.
I finished my pizza and relaxed for a bit before heading out. I liked the interior of the place a lot with its deep burnt orange paint job, track lighting, and framed photos of scenes from Italy. However, I could have done with out the sting of 80s American pop hits. (Hint: Amazon.com - search engine - Italian pop music.)
My total bill was $17.13 including tax. The service was quick and efficient (save the register guy). The place was spotless and comfortable.
Sauce is a nice place, but it really needs to rethink the Caesar slaw and give the Morton canister a vacation. It could also do for a brief refresher course on "Why Limp Pizza Crust Is A Bad Thing."
So, I left Sauce, got into the vehicle and headed home.
Perhaps I should have chosen Mexican.
742 East Glendale Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85024