I was fortunate enough to eat at three amazing pizza places over this past week (Apizza Scholls, Ken’s Artisan, and Serious Pie in Seattle) and I have to say that Apizza Scholls was head and shoulders the best pie, and quite frankly I’m surprised at the reviews posted here that are so negative against it.
My expectations for A.S. were admittedly lowered after reading this thread before going, but the pizza changed all that. Yes, it’s a very charred pizza, but in no way is it overly charred or dry. I did not see one scrap of leftover crust on anyone’s plate (and I was paying close attention for this). The crust was very crisp, but right under the crisp the dough was very light, tender, and full of FLAVOR. Not dry in the least. And as one poster above mentioned, you could actually pick up a huge slice without it flopping around like a wet noodle, spilling sauce and toppings everywhere. This by itself is fantastic. Why some people associate soggy, mushy centers with high-quality pizza is beyond me.
My wife and I got one pizza, which was half Coastal (the Margherita plus Scalia anchovies) and half Tartufo Bianco (Mozzarella, pecorino romano with Truffle Oil & sea salt). Both were fantastic. And they certainly do know tomatoes and sauce – the sauce was by far the best we tasted over the week: fresh, clean, bright – a wonderful contrast to the crisp and tender dough. As far as getting bent out of shape about the limitations on toppings… if you really want to complain, I wouldn’t hold it against you, but seriously, he’s right. Who in their right mind would want to overload such a wonderful crust and sauce experience with eight different meats and three kinds of heavy cheeses? The people calling all the national chains for delivery pizza, that’s who. A truly discerning pallet would not count this as a knock against Brian Spangler, but recognize it as truth and appreciate that he cares enough about his pies to enforce it.
At any rate, In comparison to Apizza Scholls, Ken’s Artisan was thoroughly underwhelming. First of all the wait was twice as long as A.S., and the crowd was twice as pretentious. At Ken's we got the Fennel Sausage and Onion and the mushroom pizza: the pies were very good, but nowhere near the hype. The crust was overly tough/chewy and rather bland. The sauce had been messed with too much, and the center was a wet spongy mess. The mushroom pizza was going for presentation over substance – the mushroom selections were tough as well. For the quality of mushrooms used, the pie was, again, rather bland. You really needed to use the on-the-side provided chunky sea-salt flakes to bring out any kind of flavor. If Apizza Scholls couldn't make it in NY, there's no way Ken's could either.
Again, after eating at both places, I’m very surprised at most of the reactions from “real” pizza lovers. Perhaps it’s just that Apizza Scholls simply isn’t trying to do true Neapolitan pizza, and anything ain’t Neapolitan ain’t good pizza (which is a total joke). Not only did Ken’s fall short of A.S., it also fell way short of Serious Pie in Seattle (http://www.tomdouglas.com/restaurants/serious-pie
). I might post a review of that on another thread to keep this more on-focus, but Serious Pie was worlds better than Ken’s as well. Better flavor, better sauce, better ingredients… better all around. They also do an oblong pie as opposed to a true round, which helps eliminate that awful soggy center. Serious Pie is unique, and fantastic. You can get “Ken’s” in almost any city that does Neapolitan pizzas. In fact here in Denver I’d have to say that Marco’s (http://www.marcoscoalfiredpizza.com/
) and Via Baci (http://www.viabaci.com/
) are just as good, if not better, than Ken’s. I’m going to go back to each here again soon for a ‘new’ comparison.
So If you haven’t gone to Apizza Scholls yet, keep in mind that they are NOT TRYING to make yet another Neapolitan wood-fired pizza. They are simply trying to make a fantastic pizza, and they certainly have. I felt like a little kid at a family pizzeria again. I’d certainly put it in my top 5 pizza places: a list that disregards what “style” of pizza it is.
I’m going to post some pictures of Apizza Scholls and Ken’s below. They are “leftovers” pictures, so they aren’t completely fair to either place, but they are at least equal to each other. You can see in the pictures that Apizza Scholl’s pie has a richer color, and not nearly charred too much.
Which pie looks better to you?