VegasEats : Pizza Rock at Downtown Grand(ish)
Historians tell us that riches and religion are the root cause of warfare. What historians won't tell you is that pizza runs a close third.
Heresy - in pizza or otherwise - is defined by geography. Do you fold it or fork it? Is your crust bready thick, cracker crisp or slurpy thin? Mozzarella or provolone? Is your sauce sweet, savory or a baked tomato?
On some distant islands they top their pies with pineapple and Spam! Mere blocks from VTHQ some guy decided to top his pies with BBQ sauce, chicken and cilantro... birthing "the California pizza." Some folks like to dab the top of their pizza with a paper towel before eating it. HERETIC!
To me, hand tossed, thin crust, Brooklyn-style pizza - in all of its deceptive simplicity - is the pinnacle of pizzeria expression. Something magical happens when hand tossing dough, centrifugal force sends dough outward, thinning the center and creating the perfect utensil - a crispy crunchy outer crust that will puff up and keep the fixin's in the ring. Salt the dough, schfritz on some olive oil, shave some romano cheese, lightly sprinkle some oregano and or fresh basil slices, cautiously paint on some mature San Marzano gravy (or ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced and salted), shredded mozzarella, planed pecorino and parmesian. Throw some thin sliced, large roll pepperoni on there too... or a dash or salt and red pepper flakes in the center. Peel it into an oven at a righteous temperature until the cheese has carmelized ever so slightly and the crust is slightly bubbled and tan. Pull it out and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving. The crust center should melt in your mouth, the cheese should be slightly chewy but not stringy and rivulets of oil should drip on your plate as well as run down your arm.
To me, perfection. To you, probably heresy.
Pizza Rock is located in downtown Las Vegas, stashed amidst a barrage of macaroni-based arts and crafts tables across the street from Downtown Grand, inside the Downtown 3rd microclimate. It is operated by a pizza obsessed chef who has won various awards for making good pizza. Hype being hype and Vegas being full of it (hype) we (me, Miss Monkay, The Admiral, JohnH and Blackjacker1979) thought we'd see for ourselves.
We arrived at Pizza Rock to find that the wait would be about 30 minutes. Instead of walking back over to DTG to pass the time in the casino, we instinctually and without discussion headed back to Fremont Street and gambled at The D... probably not the outcome DTG expects to happen. After a few hands of blackjack, a text message arrived saying our table was ready.
Pizza Rock's menu is a mostly inclusive array pizza cookery's global styles, from Siclian to Californian, Chicago to New York, Napoli to New Haven plus starters, salads and even gluten free options. Unlike standard pizzeria, wherein customers are treated to the potentially heretical vision of the pizza master, Pizza Rock offers equal opportunity slabs and slices.
We started with starters - two of em.
The Classic Meatballs (6 for $8) were perfection - a pork, beef, bread mix slowly poached in a tangy marinara until acheiving melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. The red pepper flakes are my contribution. Neatballs!
The Calamari Fritti ($13) was served with more yummy marinara and a calabrese aioli (egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and sweet pepper paste) and featured a nice mix of rings and tentacles. Unfortunately, it was severely overcooked, tentacles crisped to infinity and rubbery, inedible rings.
Next came the pizzas, the first being the New Yorker ($23), touted in the menu as being "Best Tradtional in the World, Las Vegas." The New Yorker is a 16 inch pizza made with All Trumps and Caputo 00 flour, fired in a brick oven at 700 degrees. It is topped with tomato sauce, sliced mozzarella cheese, sliced house link sausage, garlic, pepperoni and blobs of ricotta cheese.
The New Yorker is a medium crust pie featuring thought provoking juxtapositions of flavor. Salty pepperoni, sharp parmesian, creamy ricotta, smoky sausage reverberated off of the sweet tomato sauce, rendering every bite an adventure. Calling this a "traditional" New York pizza is incorrect, this is something else entirely.
The Old Chicago ($23) is a 16 inch cracker crust pizza made from Ceresota flour topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone, husky chunks of fennely Italian sausage, sliced meatballs, romano cheese, oregano and more squeez tube ricotta baked in a gas brick oven at 650 degrees. In true Chicago style, it is topped to the edge and cut in squares. It was as equally delicious as the New Yorker, but in a more direct, meaty way.
Like a virtuosic cover band cranking out note perfect renditions of a wide range of rock n roll's greatest hits, Pizza Rock is a virtuosic display of pizza technique, serving up loyal representations of location specific pizzas. We'll forgive and forget the calamari klunker. Recommended.
More info PizzaRockVegas.com.
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