|Mod Pizza -- an attempt to get Lil' Chow to split a pie. It didn't work.|
Several new pizza joints have opened as chains open around the country. They're filling a spot that's a little more upscale and individualized than the standard pizza chain, yet more casual and quicker than wood-fired pioneers like Facci Ristorante.
Mod Pizza was the first one that I tried. It follows the standard pattern -- counter service where you pick an individual-sized pie and then pick from dozens of toppings. More varied and fresher than the canned mushrooms or chopped pepper that you might get at a standard place. Then they bake your pizza with a blistering oven -- maybe a gas-fired oven, maybe a rolling conveyor belt.
I'm a fan.
Mod Pizza comes in two sizes. Each work as a personal pizza. I've alternated between the two sizes, depending on my hunger and whether I figured Lil' Chow would leave a slice or two when he was done.
Crusts come out crisp and slightly charred. Mod folks place them in a gas oven and watch them cook. The crusts have the individual char of a specialty pizza, but they've been uniformly terrific. No burnt pizzas. No under-cooked. I've only eaten Mod Pizza on site. I see lots of people carry out, although my experience is that crisp special pizzas -- like Facci Ristorante -- are better right out of the oven.
|A slide outside Mod Pizza|
In the end, it's the toppings that make Mod Pizza stand out. So many pizzas in my past have eft me uninspired because the only toppings were oily pepperoni, chopped onions, maybe canned olives and artichokes. The pies are heavy and dense.
Mod Pizza -- like its compatriot You Pizza in Clarksville that I'll write about soon -- goes big on the toppings. You can pick suggestions from the menu. Or you can stand at the counter and add any topping that you want. Cheeses that start at mozzarella and go through ricotta, goat and parmesan. A half dozen meats. A dozen vegetables that range from crisp red peppers to briny artichokes. Finishing sauces. You can pick anything, and, most importantly, it's all fresh and full of flavor.
Then the blast in the oven brings it all together My current creation starts with ricotta with a little tomato sauce, garlic and bacon. Then mostly vegetables, often artichokes, maybe spicy peppers, sweet peppers, olives, parmesan cheese . . . .
You can add too much. I've made pies where the toppings were too much to lift. That's why I backed off the ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Chopped bacon adds salt and smoke without the mass of the heavier meats.
|This pie had too many toppings|
Until Mod Pizza. When I announced our first visit, Lil' Chow screamed objections. Then he go to the shop and saw that he got to pick his own food. A small pie, just mozzarella and salami. On maybe the second trip, an awesome Mod Pizza employee layered salami like the scales of an armadillo. Lil' Chow was hooked. On a stretch when Mrs. HowChow was busy at work, I think Lil' and I ate there five times in 10 days. He ordered salami, no-sauce every time. I experimented and enjoyed every one.
One fun part of the Mod Pizza location is that there is basically a small playground outside. This is at the base of an apartment building across from the COlumbia Mall. You can pack inside the building. The entrance is on the side street. Next to the restaurants -- also a CaliBurger and a Corner Bakery -- is a play area. Several petal-shaped sculptures that are toddler-sized slides and hiding places. Plus water sprays that mist from the ground -- providing a perfect cooling fun without soaking anyone's clothes. Look for buttons on the stone bench near the nozzles. They trigger patterns of mist.