If you’re in the mood for pizza, you’re in luck. In the last few years it seems that there has been an eruption of restaurants along North Shepherd and elsewhere that specialize in the pie. With that in mind, I put out a highly scientific anonymous survey to see where people’s preferences lie. The answer – all over the place.
About a quarter of the people I asked said that Pink’s Pizza at 3404 N Shepherd Drive was their go-to spot. This may not be surprising since Pink’s has been open for the last five years. One of my respondents said that the reasons for their loyalty were the following: “quality ingredients, love their cheese, general concept, delivery, gluten free options, great salads, and pizza crust is delish.”
Convenience was a matter for another who said “Pink’s is in our neighborhood and they deliver.”
“We’ve always prided ourselves on providing the freshest, most premium ingredients available, and most people know that,” said Delicious Concepts owner Ken Bridge. “We also have a very unique flavor profile.”
Bridge has gotten used to the pizza competition. “We always feel the opening of a new competitor, initially being that most people want to try and evaluate a new concept,” he said. “We usually bounce back within a couple of months. A new concept will find their unique audience and customer base and build from there. Our retention has always been deep rooted in the community and maintaining consistency in our core values; quality, consistency and customer service. I would agree that there seems to be an abnormally high level of pizza options in this particular area, but damn, who doesn’t love pizza!”
My personal fav at Pink’s? Hands down the Hawaii Five O. Others mention This Guy which features sausage, chicken, goat cheese, mozzarella and spinach.
Newcomer Cane Rosso (1835 N Shepherd Dr.) got five percent of the vote. When they first moved into the area last June a lot was made of their non-New York Neapolitan style pizzas, which according to their promotional materials are “meant to be eaten with a knife and fork.”
A true Neapolitan pizza dough is formed by hand and does not exceed 3 millimeters in thickness. It’s also baked at a high temperature for a short time and is fairly soft when served. This was a turn off for a few friends I talked to, so when my family ate there without me and wanted to go back I was hesitant. Turns out I like Neapolitan pizza, since I’m not big on thick crusts anyway. The trick is to eat it quickly before it gets too soggy.
And the reason my kids liked it so much the first time around? S’mores Calzone (chocolate, marshmallows, caramelized sugar) for dessert. Say no more.
Cane Rosso’s owner, Jay Jerrier, says he’s been please with business so far.
“We’ve had a great reception to not only our pizza, but also our cocktails,” he said. “The delays in getting open were really frustrating, but we finally got our Heights location open in June and our Montrose location open in late October. Each location has a really different customer mix – lots of families in the Heights and lots of big groups in Montrose.”
When asked about pizza saturation Jerrier – perhaps predictably considering the nature of his business – says he’s not sure you can ever have enough pizza.
“If you use New York as a benchmark, the neighborhood is certainly not oversaturated,” he said. “It was kind of a bummer that Mellow Mushroom opened about 100 feet from us, but they are really a totally different style and experience.”
Jerrier notes that they follow strict Neapolitan guidelines but like to have fun with creative toppings. “In the Heights, the guys from Southern Goods make brisket for us for our Elena Pizza,” he said.
Jerrier also notes that they’re working on a brunch menu that they hope to roll out in the late spring. Speaking of Cane Rosso’s neighbor, another five percent of people on my survey have already been won over by Mellow Mushroom (1919 N Shepherd Dr) as their pizza place.
“I loved the atmosphere of Mellow Mushroom and their food when we visited the Steubner Airline location,” said Elizabeth Villarreal. “Haven’t been to the new Shady Acres location yet.”
My family went for the first time last week. Mellow Mushroom started in Atlanta, GA near where I grew up so I was familiar with it, and remembered liking it then.
As one enthusiastic Yelp reviewer said, “this chain has explosive flavors but also a fun, calming interior.”
My kids liked the steer and cowboy out front in addition to the metal bus inside. Our waitress told us there would be a 30 minute wait for food but it seemed to come much quicker than that. Both our waitress and her trainee were very attentive. My husband ordered the house special which was basically a supreme pizza and gave it high marks. I got a gluten free cheese with olives and spinach (gluten free crust is an acquired taste if you’ve ever tried it) and the kids got the kids pizza which was a French bread with toppings. I happily ate their gluten leftovers.
As I mentioned, there were also a number of write in votes, the top two being Papa Murphy’s (“I can customize the pizza, cook it at home, and it works with my tight budget.”) and Brothers Pizza (“We are from the northeast and Brothers is the closest in proximity to our house that has pizza that most resembles what we grew up eating.”)
A majority of respondents – 85 percent – said no more pizza places please but 15 percent were still game. “I love having a variety of pizza styles to choose from,” said one. “Would die for Keneally’s Irish Pub to open a pizza place in the hood!”
Other contenders with multiple mentions were Marco’s Pizza on Ella, Doyle’s on 34th and Collina’s Italian Cafe on 19th Street. “I really like that Collina’s is BYOB,” said a frequent visitor.
“It makes for a more economical meal.” As one person noted, pizza isn’t the only thing that repeats around here. “We had the taco explosion, the donut explosion, the fried chicken explosion and now the pizza explosion – what’s next?”