849 Orange Avenue, Coronado
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Driving down Orange Ave I Coronado, I spotted a banner proclaiming "Voted Best Pizza." Interesting, but anybody can buy a banner, I thought. Let's see what you've got, Alexander's Pizza.
I flipped a U-turn and parked in front of the shop, which is located on a less-glamorous stretch of the "island," just across from the Village Theatres. I was about to do the whole scour-the-car-for-loose-change-for-the-parking-meter rigmarole when I noticed the meter takes credit cards. I'm pretty sure that 25 cents for one hour of parking is the smallest charge I've ever made with a Mastercard. I hope I can handle the interest.
The pizza didn't cost much more — for a little over 8 bucks I got two large slices and a can of San Pellegrino. I had my pick of slices from the heated glass case, settling on pepperoni as the sort of litmus test, and a colorful looking specialty pie. I had my pick of San Pellegrino flavors as well and chose Clementina, the newest edition to the lineup. Not too different from the original orange, or the redder blood orange, but didn't I feel continental trying it?
The specialty pie exhibited a bit more of a difference. The guys behind the counter just called it "chicken, bacon, red onions, cheddar and cilantro with an olive oil base," conceding they should probably come up with a snappier name for what's turning out to be a popular special.
I couldn't pigeonhole these pies as being Chicago, New York or even Neapolitan style. The crust was too fluffy to be thin, too light to be deep dish. I tend to like crispier edges, but there was a satisfying chewiness. I started with the special, and after the first bite just kept going right on through it.
I'll credit the cheddar, olive oil and cilantro for winning me over, because we already knew I was going to like the bacon. I rather enjoyed this slice, which really only conceptually resembled pizza as I know it.
I moved on to the slice of pepperoni. Meh. Maybe it was too standard to suffer the comparison. The pepperoni slices tasted right, the crust was the same, but the sauce just didn't impress me all that much. For the record, it was the readers of Coronado Lifestyle Magazine who voted this Coronado's best pizza, and I won't bother to correct them. It's a nice little shop with a friendly staff and a real creative interest in making good pies.
As for the boring pepperoni, I get it. Making the industry standard must be the cooking equivalent of writing a rhyming couplet — everybody pretty much knows how it's going to finish up, so how inspired can you be to make it something special? Still, if Alexander's can figure out how to make pepperoni their own, they could earn themselves a bigger banner.