Confessions of a Pizza Snob

You can't take it with you....oh yes, you Una Pizza, 618 17th Avenue, SW  Great pizza with really unique tastes. Not uncommon at all to see people strolling down 17th with a box in hand.

Yep, I'm not ashamed to admit it: I am a pizza snob.

It’s probably because I grew up in New York; most everyone there thinks the best pizza is made within a hundred mile radius of Manhattan —not counting Italy, of course. And I tend to agree.

It took me a while to figure out what the difference was when I moved to Calgary.  At first I thought maybe it was the altitude, that perhaps it didn’t allow the crust to rise and bubble the way I was used to.

Then I thought maybe it was the sauce, that the tomatoes used here were not the same kind used on the east coast, or that possibly there was too much sugar or salt or pepper or something in the mixture…but when it’s consistent across pizza places, it can’t be that.

Or, maybe it's the fact that the majority of pizzas come from franchise stores—ones that you can find across the continent from the east and west to the deep south and the midwest to the far north—hell, I couldn’t believe it, but there was even one in Inuvik (check it out, Americans),  inside the Northern/Northmart Store.  But no real mom-and-pop shops, or even restaurants, that specialized in fresh, hand-thrown pizza pies.

For quite a few years I’d go for the occasional pizza dinner up here, but was never really bowled over by it, saving trips home to New York to stuff my face at the local pizza shop—a couple or three times in a week was not an oddity.  Then, about ten years ago, when I went to Italy, I realized that New York pizza was almost exactly the same as what I tried in Rome, and Florence, and Venice…..

So I began to deconstruct it.  And I came to the conclusion that three things make the difference: the consistent temperature of the (very hot) oven; the crust (thin and stretchy); and, most importantly, the fat content of the mozzarella cheese.

In the end, I think it really is about the cheese.  You can’t go easy on it, and you can’t go light.

People told me there was a place on 17th where the pizza was crazy good, so one afternoon I headed to lunch at Una Pizza + Wine at 618 17th Avenue, SW.

I’m happy to say they were right.

I was joined by almost all of the members of “the band”-- Karen, Ali, Nat, and guest performer Shannon were there (Collene was MIA). I’m not sure who gave us that moniker—someone in the group—and we spent a little time trying to figure out if we were Josie and the Pussycats, or possibly Joan Jett or Debbie Harry or that chick from Berlin, or maybe Chrissie Hynde.

If you don't know who these people are, stop reading now.  Just kidding. Kinda sorta.

We work or have worked in the same place (and some of us have worked in other same places—different places—previously), and we have similar jobs, and because of the fact that we’re not 25 years old, we really do share a lot of common experiences (I mean, who in this day and age thinks of Josie and the Pussycats?!).  Most importantly, we really do like each other and enjoy each other’s company. And we don’t get together nearly as often as we should.

So we made plans, met up at Una, and dug in.
This was the Kale Caesar, but we ate it.

We ordered the Kale Caesar (get it?) salad, which was excellent, and then shared three of Una’s finest: one was covered in veggies; the Beltline, topped with bacon, sausage, and maple syrup; and a third that was four cheese, drizzled with truffle oil and honey.

                      Bacon, ham & maple on the left, veggie on top on the 4-maggio below

There is really no comparison to NY pizza. I mean, really none. 

This pizza was excellent, but not the kind you’ll get when you buy a slice in a street corner shop in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Queens, the kind with the oil that runs off the point when you grab it in your hand and fold it over into a triangle; the kind that, when fresh from the oven, burns the roof of your mouth or your chin when the molten mozzarella slides away from the crust and slaps you in the face.  

This was pizza of a different level of sophistication—truffle oil and honey?  Four cheeses that aren’t mozzarella, and mozzarella, and mozzarella, and …you guessed it, mozzarella?  

That said, the cheese was rich, the crust was thin and bubbled appropriately, the flavours mixed perfectly, and we most definitely ate our fill. Between bites, we caught up on each other’s lives and plans for the rest of the summer, talked work (but tried to keep it light), and talked about when we might see each other again.  

Always plan for the future, I say. And do it with friends.

In the end, great, unique pizza; different from NYC, yes.

But was it better than New York’s best?

Fuhgeddaboudit.    😉