601 Monmouth St.
When I learned that our neighborhood was getting a new pizza house, my first thought was, "Do we really need another one?" Forgive me for being a bit jaded, but with several other independents and franchises already servicing the area (Pasquales, Dewey's, Donatos, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut etc) I figured the market was already saturated.
Regardless, the lure of a new pizza parlor within walking distance of our house is red rag to a bull. Our first visit found restaurant staff airing a Pearl Jam concert on the flatscreen TVs. The music was loud, and the concert was on the whole time we were there. I'd have rather heard a variety of artists, but no biggie. A repeat visit later in the week found a good selection of college rock playing at reasonable levels and a Reds game on the TV.
The restaurant has several vegetarian appetizers (asiago spinach dip, garlic bread, french fries, and fried mozzarella sticks); one vegetarian sandwich served hot or cold on a toasted hoagie; several salads and a pair of vegetarian specialty pizzas: the Lotsa Mozza and Roma (fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil) and The Zeus (fresh baby spinach, feta cheese, roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, olive oil and asiago cheese). All pizzas come in two sizes: 12" and 16".
On my first visit I tried a side salad and the Veggie Ortaggio hoagie served cold, while Steve and Pete opted to try two of the non-veggie specialty pizzas. I'm not sure how appealing a raw veggie sandwich on a buttered, toasted bun is to most people, vegetarian or not, but I'm a big fan of raw foods and really enjoyed the contrast of crunchy vegetables and soft, lightly toasted bread. The sandwich was chock full of the kind of toppings one normally finds at a pizza place (mushroom, green pepper, olives etc) but also the occasional unusual one, like broccoli. It was a little like Subway, but more fun.
The guys were knocked out by their choices of BBQ Chicken Pizza and The Monmouth, so much so that I was somewhat jealous that I hadn't ordered a pizza as well, something I rectifed on a second visit with The Zeus.
This is a damned good pie. The crust was perfect - thick enough not to crumble like a saltine, yet not so thick that your jaws get tired of chewing. I also liked the use of slightly salty feta and asiago cheeses as an alternative to mozzarella. Nice!
The menu doesn't mention alcoholic beverages - nor did the server on our first visit - so we had no idea that the restaurant had a liquor license until we noticed a couple bottles of wine sitting on a ledge behind the counter. I questioned the wait staff and learned that they have quite a few bottled imports and craft beers on hand, as well as a couple of house wines.
An undersized air conditioning unit coupled with a large bank of windows means the restaurant can get stuffy on sunny days, although they have taken measures to curb the heat by installing curtains. Whether or not that will alleviate the problem remains to be seen, but it shows that owner Lee Kinzer is mindful of customer suggestions and is working to make his place the best pie house in town. He's got my vote.