With the opening of a couple of new pizza places (and the closing of Winners Take and Bake), I thought it might be time to take a look at these new places as well as a couple of local favorites and approached my handsome (frankly ass-kissing here) editor Jason to pitch the idea. He not only liked the idea, but suggested that we expand it to do a pizza tasting.
We decided to limit it to pizza places in Wilton Manors and included; Dolce Salato, Humpys, Toppings, Scarfone’s and Primanti Bros. (we know that technically it is in Oakland Park, but it’s right on the border and they claim this location is their Wilton Manors). Bona Pizza was not open at lunch time when we conducted the taste test, so we weren’t able to include them. Pizzas were all delivered and or picked up and brought to the SFGN office for a blind tasting. From each pizza place we ordered a plain cheese and each restaurant’s “meat lovers” version (at Dolce Salato it is their “Con Carne”).
We asked the staff to rate pizzas in five categories; sauce, cheese, crust, over-all texture and over-all taste. Additionally the meat-lover’s pizzas were ranked on toppings. After tasting both pizzas from each restaurant, we then asked the staff to rank the pizzas from their favorite to least favorite for each pizza. For many the rankings for cheese and meat pizzas were identical, for others the ranking changed for the two different pizzas.
The one thing we discovered is that pizza is totally a matter of personal preference. The same pizzas got the highest and lowest ratings from different individuals. And comments ranged from “Ugh, awful!” to “Absolutely fantastic” for the same pizza!
When we asked the staff to rank their pizzas, the highest rankings for both meat and cheese pizzas was clearly Dolce Salato, it ranked more than 10 percent ahead of its nearest competitor. Primanti Bros. rated second in both meat and cheese categories and Scarfone’s ranked third. Humpys and Toppings tied for 4th place in the meat category, with Toppings edging out Humpys in the cheese category.
However, when we tallied the individual rankings, the results didn’t agree. When raters were asked to rate each pizza individually in the categories, the results showed that Humpys and Primanti Bros. came out on top, tied with an average rating of 3.5 (out of 5). Dolce Salato was a close second with a 3.3 rating, followed closely by Scarfone’s with a 3.2. Toppings was clearly outranked with an average score of only 2.6
2406 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
WilMa’s latest entry into the dining scene is the new incarnation of a Key West favorite. While the décor and lighting isn’t the most inviting (in fact it’s rather stark), the warm reception you get from the Mom and Pop owners make up for it, and one look at their gorgeous son will keep you coming back for the eye candy.
Fortunately, the food is just as tasty, hand-tossed pizzas offer a crispy crust and fresh toppings. A large (which is bigger than most, for you size queens) begins at $16, slices are a bargain at $3. Stuffed pizzas offer up delicious toppings sandwiched between two thin layers of crust, and run $27 for an entire pizza, or $4.24 a slice. Specialty combinations can run slightly more, but are still reasonably priced. And if you want dessert, they make all of their gelati in house.
2244 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
What makes Humpys unique, other than the decidedly queer sensibility (look at its logo!), is that on any visit you’ll have a choice of a number of gourmet combinations available by the slice, in addition to the standard offerings. Of course, you can get any of the gourmet combinations at any time by ordering an entire pizza. The unique combinations give you the option to be as healthy (or as decadent) as you like. Healthy eaters can opt for a whole wheat crust topped with fresh veggies or mushrooms and caramelized onions. Ready to toss your diet out the window? Try the meatball with roasted red pepper, BBQ chicken, Buffalo chicken or bacon cheeseburger versions.
Whole pies are priced from $12-$22, slices are $2.75 to $4.50. There’s also a lunch special dishing up a slice (cheese or pepperoni), salad and soda for $4.99. Humpy’s also offers soups, salads, sandwiches, calzone and cupcakes!
2160 Wilton Dr.
Scarfone's features a contemporary blend of Italian dishes including salads, pasta and meat entrees, sandwiches, and of course coal fired pizzas in traditional, flat bread & whole wheat versions. Pizzas run $15 to $20 for a large, slices are available (for take-out or at the bar only) starting at $4.
2904 N Andrews
The storefront specializes in deliveries and offers traditional pizza toppings as well as unusual combinations such as; Caprese, BBQ and Buffalo chicken and Cremonese topped with mozzarella cheese, artichokes, spinach and ricotta cheese. Among the other options are calzones, strombolis, salads, wings, burger and subs as well as traditional Italian pasta dishes.
516 E Oakland Park Blvd.
The Pittsburgh based chain, known for its gigantic sandwiches as much as (if not more than) for its pizza has a few Fort Lauderdale outlets. The Oakland Park branch has a sports bar feel and offers up pizza, either whole or by the slice, sandwiches, Italian entrees and jumbo salads.
Pizza is a lot like sex, everyone has their own preferences and what one finds disgusting, others find exciting, or, as Mel Brooks said, “Sex is like pizza. Even when it is bad it is good.”
…And Two More
These two pizza joints aren’t in Wilton Manors so they weren’t included in our taste test but I still recommend you check them out.
6334 N Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale
This new chain, from the parent company of Wetzel's Pretzels, brings the Chipotle model to pizza making and it’s surprisingly successful. Basically, you step up to the counter and order an individual pie with a choice of unlimited toppings for $7.95, which is then baked in a superhot oven. Within five minutes your number is called and you have a crispy crusted disc of yumminess in front of you. The individual pizza is more than enough for one and could easily satisfy two if paired with one of the surprisingly good and large pre-packaged salads, ranging from the usual antipasto, Caprese and Caesar to more unusual offerings such as beet with goat cheese and roasted veggies with gorgonzola, all priced less than $5.
1990 E. Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale
Big Louie’s is like the places my parents used to take us to when I was a kid. It offers old fashioned Italian-American fare, no pretenses here. Although I prefer a crispier crust, Louie’s pizza is still delicious, with a tart sauce and tons of gooey cheese. In addition to traditional toppings, there are specialty pizzas such as Philly cheesesteak, chicken primavera, and chicken bacon-ranch, taco and mixto de pesce with calamari, shrimp and clams. Pizzas are priced $16-$22 for a large, and there are tons of coupons and special on its web site.
Big Louie’s also offers up well-prepared pasta dishes featuring huge portions and reasonable prices. All dinners include a side salad and the ubiquitous garlic rolls. Wine and beer is also available. They may well serve dessert, but since I’ve never been able to finish a meal there, I wouldn’t know.