Walter Mencken 2:08 p.m., Aug. 27
New York Style 'Za at Ciro's Hillcrest
Pizza is problematic. With the plethora of regional styles, identifying what separates a great slice from the mediocre hordes is ultimately a personal matter. Because of this wide appeal, pizza's position near the top of the comfort foods' pantheon is and always will be secure.
Ciro's Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Hillcrest, the third and most recent of the Ciro's restaurants, serves up a distinctly New York style of pizza, which is aimed squarely at those with East Coast sensibilities and an appetite for 'za and vino.
Taking the plain cheese pizza as exemplary of Ciro's style, it's clear that the house aesthetic dictates a very thin crust on the pie. It's so thin that the pizzas bake very quickly and don't develop any deep browning on the crust, the net effect being that the crusts have a breadstick quality that renders them more ideally suited to dipping than to straightforward consumption when the business end of the pizza is all gone. For some people, the potential for the crusts to be a vessel for a secondary, bonus meal will bring elation. In fact, this cleanliness and versatility is where pizza tends to outshine the other, local comfort food of record. Pizza crust is superior to the sodden bits of tortilla that often mark a sad end to an otherwise glorious burrito experience.
The principle portion of the pizza, where sauce meets cheese, at Ciro's is consistent with the crust, inasmuch as restraint seems to be the order of the day. Cheese is applied lightly, which produces a less greasy pizza overall. The tart, slightly sweet sauce is a bigger part of the pizza than it might be at other places in town due to the relatively gentle portions of cheese.
Overall, Ciro's pizza is on the lighter side, as pizzas go, and will appeal to diners for whom pizza is almost always too heavy of a meal. Those in the mood for something more indulgent may be left wanting a little more toothsome pie, and might do well to try a thick, heavily-cheesed Sicilian slice.
Thin crust cheese pizza is $2.75 per slice, $14 for a small, and $16 for a large. Specialty pie prices rise into the low-$20 region. Toppings are, of course, available individually. Buying the daily special of two slices and a glass of wine for $9 is a particularly good deal. The Sicilian pie is $3.25 for a slice, $24 for a twelve-slice pie.
Ciro's Pizza and Wine Bar
1220 University Ave