Thanks for the knowledge David. I was in Jersey City and could have used your recommendation.
Your primary question is one I have pondered quite a bit lately. I would have to say Pizzeria Bianco approaches Pizza Raquel in terms of overall satisfaction but itís an unfair comparison. Really. Itís like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruits yet they can never be the same no matter how high the quality. But when one bites into a killer apple or orange they are equally satisfying Ė just in different ways and for different reasons. Raquel is optimized for residential indulgence and Bianco is by definition handicapped by its commercial limitations. Bianco has no commercial competitors primarily due to his extraordinary use of ultra high quality toppings and unique combinations. Other elite pizzerias just donít seem to even try in the ways Chris has mastered. Or maybe itís that they donít make the type of pizza I crave. I think he and I make a very similar style of artisanal pizza which cannot easily be lumped into a discrete style.
The common element which elevates Bianco and Raquel is that the toppings, spices, and crust seem to express themselves in ways other pizzas simply do not Ė in my limited experience. Iíve had killer pizzas at other pizzerias but all seem to be fairly subdued flavor wise in one or more areas. Common examples are where one encounters flavorless crust, or itís just too chewy. Then there is the ever persistent overabundance of sauce, lollypop like sweetness, or it tastes like it was made for a marinara. Finally lifeless cheese, overly rubbery, just plain tastes bad, or it is used in inappropriate ways is all too common.
Bianco was the first pizzeria experience where it all came together in a homogeneous blend of pure elation. Thatís not to say, upon ample reflection, that every single aspect of his pizza was exactly what I would define as stupendous. I donít care for 12Ē pizzas nor do I care for crispy/crunchy crusts (his longer bake times are no doubt to blame). But he manages to do more right than any other establishment I have personally been to.
The Bianco dining experience was also notable because I didnít have to prepare half the day. It was the epitome of pizza in a commercial setting while Raquel strives for the exact same level of perfection in a home setting. It is not often one meets someone as passionate about pizza as Chris. Commercially speaking, I doubt there is better pizza anywhere.
So with all that said, Raquel is ready to take on all comers. Tampa is but a two hour plane rideÖ
Regarding whether it is harder to be objective, I would have to comment that it is actually easier to be objective. Now I can finally compare my wood-fired Raquel to theirs - when the occasion arises. Mostly though, I review their pizza against the standard they set for themselves. Pizzerias, in my experience, would have a hard time meeting the quality standard most serious home pizza makers on this board strive for.