Monday, November 16, 2009

An Expiration Date on Angelina's Pizza?

I often think that I am fortunate to live only about twenty minutes from my childhood home. I have gotten to re-experience many of the events from my childhood, albeit some twenty odd years later. Sometimes, like in the case of Parasson's and Stoddard's, that has been a wonderfully nostalgic trip down memory lane. In other cases, such as Altieri's pizza (which I haven't written about yet), it left the adult version of me wondering what the childhood mystique I had was for so long. So, with a bit of trepidation and angst, I decided to re-visit another one of my childhood memories for the first time in probably twenty-five years, Angelina's Pizza House.

Located at 3451 Darrow Road in Stow, they can also be reached at 330-688-9595. It's odd that when I think back before the great zip code split back in the mid 1990's, it used to be 216-688-9595. This was the number I remember calling so often as a child. Having passed Angelina's a number of times over the last five years, I finally decided that tonight was the night I was going to stop in and order a pie. After pulling into the very small parking lot, I took a shot of the storefront:

As you can see, Angelina's is EXTREMELY small. In fact, it literally is pick-up or delivery only. There is one small table inside, but it is covered with magazines and pamphlets for you to read while you are waiting for your order. Once inside the door, there is a large chalk board with the daily specials right next to the ordering and pick-up window:

I placed my order and sat down in one of the chairs (which is where I shot the above photo). I looked to my left and saw what appeared to be a storeroom behind a closed door. Normally I would've left well enough alone, but seeing as the door was not solid but had a metal mesh covering a few spots right in the middle, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to have a peek while my order was being made.

First I noticed a very large floor standing mixer:

This was good! This meant that I had a very good chance of receiving a pizza (oh, did I forget to mention that I ordered a large pepperoni pizza?) that had been made from a homemade dough. But then I looked a little to the left of the stand mixer and saw that some of the storage shelves contained a variety of several large food service cans of questionable origin:

First I noticed a jar of Boboris pre-chopped garlic. While I haven't been able to track down a website for this product, you can order it from Sysco here. The chopped garlic didn't bother me as much as seeing large cans of Full-Red Fully Prepared Pizza Sauce. Having stolen these peeks into the not-so-well hidden underbelly of Angelina's, I returned to my seat to wait for my pie to be ready. I knew that when I walked up to the order window to pick up my order that I would definitely be asking the woman running the kitchen whether the dough and sauce are homemade or not.

As I sat in my chair, I began noticing a few oddities. First, I almost felt like I was twelve years old again as the J. Geils Band song Centerfold was playing on the small radio that you could hear coming from within the kitchen. That seemed somewhat oddly appropriate given how long it had been since I had last sat in that chair. The second thing I noticed is that here I was, sitting in this small lobby, and I couldn't smell anything coming from the kitchen. The place was literally devoid of any food-related smells. They must have the place extremely well vented, although to be fair, when I walked outside later on, I didn't really smell anything there either.

When my pizza finally came up, I walked up and asked about the pizza sauce and the dough. "Yep, both homemade," was the answer I received. Hmmm ...

I took the pizza box out to my car for a few photographs before heading just up the street to a local park to give the pizza a taste:

And a close-up of the pie:

Now, before I even get into how this pizza tasted, I first have to say that a large at Angelina's is HUGE. Easily the same as an extra-large at other places. The next time I go back, I'm definitely only going to get a medium. This pizza would easily feed four hungry adults. And at $11.25 for one topping, that's not a bad deal.

Once I got to the park, I found a picnic bench, pulled out a slice and snapped a photo:

This was an above average slice of pizza. The cheese was nice, a blend of mozzarella and provolone if I had to guess. The pepperoni had a nice spicy kick and wasn't overly greasy. The dough was hit and miss. Simply by how the crust "chewed," I could tell that this was a homemade dough. However, the crust also lacked a flavor of it's own and was kind of flat and boring. And while the outer edge of the pizza was nicely browned, it lacked the tiny blisters that accompany bread dough that's had time to sit and ferment slowly, releasing more of its sugars for caramelization. While the crust was fully baked, it was still quite flimsy and picking up a slice was a little tricky as you had to support the entire slice, not just the outer crust. The sauce was nice and definitely had an herbaceous element to it. At first taste I thought it might be thyme, but settled on oregano instead after a few more bites.

Speaking of herbs, I managed to pull the cheese off the end of a slice without disturbing the tomato sauce and got a shot of some of the herbs in the sauce:

Am I disappointed after all of these years? No, not really. Having had Altieri's pizza for the first time in a long time set my expectations for Angelina's pretty low. While I think their it could use some improvements, it was still an above average pie. I will leave whether or not they make their own sauce up to you, gentle reader. I know what answer I received when I asked a very pointed question, but I also saw (and photographed) things with my own eyes that seem to contradict that answer. To some people, "homemade" can certainly be interpreted as starting with a ready-to-use sauce and doctoring it up with additional herbs and spices.

Having a pizza at Angelina's after twenty-some-odd years wasn't the kind of nostalgia that left me all weepy-eyed longing for the halcyon days of my youth. But I am glad that a place whose food I remember eating so many years ago can still produce a pretty decent pizza. I definitely recommend you check them out if you are in Stow. Just make sure you have a place already scoped out where you can eat your food. I'd suggest Adell Durbin Park, just south of Angelina's on Darrow Road.

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