Since carbohydrates have been deemed by best-selling diet authors to be only slightly less evil than al Qaeda, I feel I am being subversive about acts that used to seem perfectly normal, even American—enjoying pizza, pasta and buttery slices of fresh bread.
The recent demonization of carbs has left me wondering what it is we’re fighting for in the Middle East and elsewhere? I mean, if I can’t eat a Margherita pizza or a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara, what’s the point? Then again, to paraphrase Janis Joplin, maybe “Freedom’s just another word for no more weight to lose.” Ultimately I agree with the celebrated Italian cook, author and teacher Marcella Hazan, who says, “Who wants to die with a beautiful body?”
So before they’re outlawed entirely, I decided to spend some time in pizza and pasta joints—specifically, two old pizza and pasta joints that are, in a sense, new again: Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta, and The Pie Pizzeria. To my surprise, given our current fear of all things doughy, business at both places seems to be very good. Call out the carb constables!
A popular casual dining destination in Sugar House since 1992, Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta has recently undergone a facelift. Wandering into the restaurant for the first time in years, I hardly recognized the place. My memory of Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta was of a functional eatery with too many tables crowded together, lots of TVs and a beer bar in the back. Well, the TVs and the beer bar are still there, but Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta has been renovated and looks much more upscale than it used to. Custom noninvasive lighting creates a soothing atmosphere where it used to be boisterous; gorgeous cherry-colored tables and smartly upholstered booths add to the much-improved ambience. Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta was once primarily a pizza and beer joint; now it’s the type of place you might want to take a date and sip a glass of Gabbiano Chianti while enjoying a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese ($6.95).
Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems to me that despite the expensive renovation of Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta, prices actually seem to have gone down from what I remembered. There’s not much on the menu priced over $10, and many of the pizzas, pasta dishes and sandwiches can be had for $6-$8. That’s a pricing trend I can get behind.
The artichoke-dip appetizer at Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta is a popular one: cream cheese blended with fresh lemon juice and marinated artichokes, served with grilled flat bread ($6.95). But I’m a sucker for fried calamari, and SLP& ’s is exceptionally good. Oddly, the pizzas at Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta seem to have gone upscale along with the dÃ©cor. You can’t get a plain pepperoni or meatball pizza. But the pesto crab pizza, buffalo chicken pizza and fresh tomato pizza all come with a crispy thin crust that I like very much. And even finicky kids will enjoy the five-cheese designer pizza at SLP& ; they’ll just remove the fresh tomato slices on top and be happy.
The linguini with tomatoes and basil is a very fresh-tasting pasta dish at Salt Lake Pizza and Pasta, redolent of roasted garlic. But the $2.75 upcharge for optional goat cheese topping seems out of line for a dish priced at $7.95. Also, I think the goat cheese actually detracts from the simplicity of the dish, so I’d skip it.
I’d also skip the veal picatta dinner special next time. The sauce was very good—not too lemony and not too sweet from the Marsala wine—but the piece of veal under it was thick, chewy and unappealing. The meat should have been pounded into thin slices, and if I were the kitchen folks at SLP& , I’d change my veal supplier. Still, it helped to be able to wash it down with a light tasting Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio Del Castelli Di Jesi.
The beer selection at the new Pie Pizzeria in Midvale might not be as extensive as the 35 or so at Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. But in addition to a few beers on tap, I was happy to find bottles of Guinness Stout, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sam Adams, to name a few. The new Pie Pizzeria has only been open since January, but the place is mobbed daily. Obviously, people in Midvale aren’t afraid of carbs.
Since the original Pie Pizzeria opened next to the University Pharmacy on 200 South, it has been a mainstay for university students. Over the years, The Pie has expanded to Ogden, and now down south to Midvale. Amazingly, the folks who created the new Pie Pizzeria location in Midvale managed to take a brand new restaurant space and make it look old and tattered. That was intentional. The idea was to make the new Pie Pizzeria look like the original—worn and comfortable like an old pair of Converse All-Stars. So the faux brick walls already have lots of customer graffiti on them, in keeping with The Pie’s tradition of inviting customers to scribble while they eat. By the way, interested scribblers can even “write” on the Pie Wall via The Pie’s Website: www.thepie.com.
The subs and baked veal cannelloni at The Pie are mighty good. But probably 99 of 100 customers order the thick-crusted, gooey pizzas that The Pie is renowned for. This is not wimpy pizza pie; in fact, it’s a carbo-lovers dream. Prices range from $7.99 for a 12-inch cheese pizza up to $22.99 for a gigantic 16-slice pie, all served up by very friendly counter guys like Ryan.
Dr. Atkins would have eaten his heart out.
SALT LAKE PIZZA & PASTA, 1061 E. 2100 South 484-1804 Lunch & Dinner daily
THE PIE PIZZERIA, 7186 S. Union Park Ave. 233-1999 Lunch & Dinner daily