Pizza is probably my favorite food in the universe. For me, it’s a form that can be built upon and varied, but at the heart of it, is simple in principle.
Bread and toppings. That’s what I believe pizza should be. I leave my mind open for variations on the form.
Pizza King at 122 Jay Street in Schenectady is a place that only sells pizza. Pizza King comes highly recommended from Daniel B. of FUSSYlittleBLOG and other foodie-types. They’re located in a really convenient spot just blocks from Proctors and other offices off State Street. On the Monday I visited, in the 25 minutes I spent waiting outside, I watched dozens of people enter and exit.
When I went in, I found it a little difficult to browse the slices on the counter because the line spanned so far back. People thought I was trying to cut them, but all I wanted to do was look at what they had. There were at least 25 types of pizza on the counter in front and about 8 thicker variants in the back. The classic NY thin crust variants included Buffalo chicken (available mild, medium, and hot), chicken marsala (available plain, with broccoli or with spinach), Philly cheese steak, pepperoni, mushroom, white with broccoli, and my personal peeve, sausage, peppers, and onions with the additional stipulation of “sauteed” included. [side note: I love that they specify that this combination is sauteed together. I found it very reassuring that they had to defend the combination and reaffirm that the toppings are sauteed to two other customers while I was there. Water on top of pizza just doesn’t work.] The thick crust variants on the back table included meat lovers, broccoli and ricotta, a Sicilian style square with sauce on top, and some others.
This was lunch, and I was really hungry, so I figured I would try three slices. I settled on plain, Philly cheesesteak, and a thick cut meat lovers slice. The young man at the counter seemed to be used to warming just two slices for each customer, so I confused him a little.
The plain slice was ok. The bottom of the pizza was very crispy from being baked twice, but the end crust lacked the crunch that you want when you get to it. I ripped through the crust before I ate it to make sure I wasn’t eating raw dough.
The flavor of the crust was very good; seasoning was spot on.
The cheese and sauce complimented the crust well, and the spices in the sauce helped lift the flavor in every bite. Aside from the underdoneness (is that a word?) of the outer crust, I’d say their plain slice is alright.
It was a little tough to be excited about the Philly cheese steak slice knowing how the end crust was and from seeing how it looked. The crust was way too wide in this slice, and it was more underdone than the plain.
The toppings were a mixed bag. The beef was good and nicely seasoned. I liked the onions that were there and also liked that they didn’t cook into a watery mess. The mushrooms that were under the cheese were interesting and excellent, probably the most outstanding topping on the pizza. The cheese, most likely American, had a very plastic texture (which you can see in the above image) and stuck to the back of my teeth as I ate it. It tasted fine; I don’t mind American cheese on stuff like this, but there is better American cheese out there.
I had to leave a significant portion of crust because there was just way too much, and it was way too underdone. (side note: Cassie’s two slices, chicken marsala with mushrooms and white broccoli with garlic, also had milk white, broad, underdone crusts.)
The thick crust meat lovers slice was the most exciting of the bunch. The balance of toppings to crust was perfect, and the amount of outer crust was in the right proportion to the size of the slice. The pizza is clearly cooked in a pan, and the bottom crust has a slightly greasy yet crispy texture. The crust of this was actually a bit more delicate and the seasoning in the dough was completely different from their standard NY slices. The sauce and cheese worked better on this slice than on the plain, and I’m sure the additional fat and flavorings from the pepperoni, sausage, and nicely crisped bacon helped to flavor the sauce. This was the best thing I tried, and it was very impressive.
I was surprised by the fact that they have such a small oven in the front. In my mind, there was no way they were baking over 30 types of pizza and warming slices in that little oven. After a while, I saw a different guy bring out some different pies, so that tells me there’s probably another oven in the back, which makes perfect sense.
While we were there, some girl threw a fit because they walked out a sign indicating the Cherry Coke from the fountain had run out. I totally heard her yell, “THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF MY LIEEEEEEEEFE!!!” but Cassie claims she never did. She should have. Also, it’s awesome that Pizza King only offers fountain soda. That’s the best part about going to a pizzeria!
When the kid rang me up (he hit 5 times the price of one slice on the register — this I saw), the slices were the same price, including the plain, so that’s a good thing to know if you’re the type of person that likes paying for volume (if I am wrong about this, then they overcharged me for the plain slice). For five slices and two medium sodas, the total was under $19, which isn’t bad at all, but the economy of eating pizza falls apart after you order more than 2 slices (especially specialty slices) and don’t order a whole pie.
It’s really great to see that there are places around that focus only on pizza and offer so much variety constantly. I just wish that their NY style pizzas were formed with less crust and that they allowed the outer crust to pick up some more crunch and color. Next time I go, I’ll scope it out; if the ends are milk white, I’m just sticking to the back table, because that’s where the special stuff is!