Pi Coal Fired Pizza
1707 E. Carson St., South Side
Think about the tons and tons of pizza you've eaten over the years. Out of all of those varieties, what do you like most?
My guess is that, like me, you're remembering a great sauce or a great crust, or even great toppings. But, also like me, you probably don't think about them all on the same pizza.
That was until I went to Pi Coal Fired Pizza on East Carson, just a whisper from 17th Street. I went in expecting a good pizza. And they do have good pizza (along with salads, calzones and a full bar.) But what I got was a great pizza experience.
The pizza place, which opened in February, sells Neapolitan-style pies -- thin crust, with sauce and slices, rather than mounds, of cheese on top. Pi offers several varieties, including the Neapolitan classic Margherita: tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil leaves. This pie can feature a variety of toppings, but that good solid base of sauce, cheese and basil comes through every one.
My plan was two pizzas to go, but at the urging of owner John DeMauro and his staff, I sampled my Pizza Diavola on the spot. The piping-hot pizza resembled the traditional Margherita, except it featured hot-pepper flakes and large slices of salami crisped to perfection. My ice-cold Yuengling draft was the perfect complement to the spicy pie.
It's important to point out that my pizza was in front of me in minutes. That's because of the "coal-fired" part. Every pizza is cooked in this great, Old World-looking oven. The burning coal reaches 900 degrees, making for an almost instant cooking time.
The pie appears before you perfectly cooked and crispy. It almost suggests a work of art, with the red of the sauce, white of the cheese and green of the basil. The thin crust had the right amount of crispiness leading into the softer center of the crust's end. As a guy who usually leaves remnants of crust on the plate, I didn't leave a speck.
Nonetheless, when I think about Pi, I don't just think about the great crust, the perfect cheese or even that wonderful, slightly spicy tomato sauce. The best thing about Pi is simply the pizza -- every last bite of it.