This past Saturday I decided to make the 120-mile trek to Birmingham, Alabama to visit my brother and his family and conveniently drop by Tortuga's Homemade Pizza located in the suburb of Hoover. I discovered Tortuga's online a few months ago when I Googled "deep-dish pizza + Birmingham" and read some online reviews and accolades. I was intrigued with the notion that the owners are from Chicago and had relocated to the deep South. They are former employees of Edwardo's in Chicago. Prior to my trip I printed out the their menu and called from my cell phone enroute to Birmingham. They advertise that the wait time for a deep-dish pie is 45 minutes. I easily found their location from their web-based map and arrived sooner than I expected. I had to wait approximately 20 minutes while they finished my order and observed how busy they were. All their tables were full (including one outside on a muggy December evening). They had approximately eight employees busily assembling pizzas, salads and waiting tables. Their space is small and narrow so I took the opportunity to closely observe how they assembled the crust into the pans. I ordered two traditional "Chicago Stuffed" pizzas (Italian Sausage, Green Bell Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms & Fresh Garlic) and had them add fresh tomatoes to one of them. The appearance and weight of the pizzas were like I remembered from Giordanos in Chicago. The lady at the register who I assumed to be the owner's wife informed me that Giordanos and Edwardos were started by the same people. When I placed the pizzas in my car I noticed a distinct strong garlic smell on the way to my brother's residence. I was tempted to "preview" a slice for myself but held off until my arrival at their house. We all concluded that the pizza was delicious and quickly filling...as is typical for a deep-dish pie. I had enough leftover to carry home with me while my girlfriend and her family enjoyed what was left the next day. She noticed a "licorice" flavor and I became a little scientific in trying to isolate the taste. Turns out this flavor was coming from the Italian Sausage. It may have been the fennel or some other spice added to the sausage. Next time I will probably order their Vegeterian pizza. I have never really cared much for the sausage that came with the Chicago deep-dish pizzas and this pizza reminded me of that.
While I was in their shop I noticed a little article touting a TV airing coming up on the Turner South network beginning this Wednesday:
Dec 07, 2005, 10:15 PM/ET
Dec 09, 2005, 3:30 PM/ET
Dec 10, 2005, 2:30 PM/ET
Jan 04, 2006, 10:30 PM/ET
Jan 07, 2006, 2:00 PM/ET
Jan 11, 2006, 3:30 PM/EThttp://www.turnersouth.com/network/schedule/detail/0,,626106,00.html?startDate=12/7/2005
It will feature Tortuga's along with three other pizza shops: one of them being Old Venice Pizza Company based in Oxford, Mississippi.