2673 Via De La Valle, Del Mar
I’m not a purist when it comes to pizza toppings. I do love a simple pepperoni thin crust, but I’ve got no problem throwing down some broccoli, corn, buffalo sauce, and, yeah, even pineapple.
So I was excited when I walked into Del Mar’s Urban Pi and spotted a long list of toppings ranging from the elevated to the unusual. By elevated I mean organic tomato sauce, nitrate-free pepperoni, and free-range chicken breast.
As for unusual, we could debate as to whether artichoke and arugula might qualify as anything standard, but I’m talking about the likes of shaved carrots, bean sprouts, roasted broccolini, Thai peanut sauce, and an organic egg cracked over the top of the pizza right before it goes into the oven.
You build the pizza you desire out of these and other toppings, plus a mix of spices, sauces, cheeses, and organic flour or gluten-free crust for $8.50. Within about five minutes, your ten-inch pizza comes wood fired out of the oven and ready to eat.
I tend to get a little wild when I have the freedom of choosing my own toppings for anything, so for this lunchtime visit I deemed it prudent to pick one from the Chef’s Pizza Creations menu. This includes simple classics such as margherita, pesto, pepperoni, and BBQ chicken pizzas.
But I couldn’t pass up the Brussels and Bacon, which came with charred brussels sprouts, mozzarella, onion, applewood smoked bacon, balsamic glaze, and organic parmesan. The problem was that on this day they’d had a run on bacon. More would be ready in 10 or 15 minutes, and in the meantime I was welcome to substitute anything I wanted.
The counter is set up like a Chipotle or Subway with all the prepared toppings laid out behind a glass shield for pies to be assembled before your eyes. Against better judgment, I wound up customizing my pizza after all. I stood there trying to decide if balsamic glaze went with tomato sauce, could rosemary ham serve as a bacon substitute, and should I go for the house-made meatballs.
I wound up with a pie of half balsamic, half tomato sauce with perpendicular halves of ham and meatball. I effectively had four slightly different topping arrangements, with brussels sprouts across the board. This was fun.
Sure enough, five minutes later I had my pie. The crust was crispy outside and soft in the middle. The toppings were fine — good quality and generously applied. However, the tomato sauce didn’t bring enough flavor to hold my attention, the sprouts had only subtle flavors, and the ham wasn’t as rich as bacon would have been. Even the meatball could have used some oomph, either by including asiago cheese or some jalapeño — both available.
The key here is to make sure at least one of your toppings is strong enough to hold up the rest: bacon, sausage, blue cheese, olives, anchovies or, as a best bet, pepperoni.