Friday, June 19, 2009

Mission #1 - East Side Pizza On The West Side

Let the Quest begin! On Sunday, May 31st, The Las Vegas Pizza Quest set out on Mission #1. We were following a suggestion from Tonia, a friend on Facebook. She told me she's a picky New Yorker when it comes to pizza and we needed to head to the west side of the valley to East Side Pizza at Boca Park.

She also suggested that we ask for Miguel, one of the pizza chefs. She wrote to me, "He'll take good care of you."

I called ahead to confirm the location and available seating and spoke with Paul, the manager. I told him, "The Nanny told me to see you guys." Paul immediately recognized her nickname and was eager to welcome The Pizza Quest Team.

Our tasters included my buddy, Sam, our dear friend, Christina, my 8-year-old daughter, Natalie and myself. We were starving and hoping to see if "The Nanny's" recommendation would hold up.

East Side Pizza is located behind Jason's Deli on the south side of the building at Boca Park, near the corner of Charleston and Rampart. It was easy to find and had plenty of parking.

When we approached the unassuming storefront, we were greeted by a marker board featuring the day's specials - always a good sign (pun intended).

Inside on the left, is the wide open pizza kitchen, where you can see all of the creations being made. On the right is ample seating for about 30 guests. I say guests because Paul, the manager, and his staff treated us like guests, rather than just customers.

Dressed in a white T-shirt and white kitchen apron, Paul pulled up a chair at the end of our table and wanted introductions. After we all swapped names, he was ready to talk about the four-year-old establishment.

One of the first meaty questions I like to ask pizza purveyors is, "What makes your place different?" Paul didn't hesitate for a microsecond and replied, "Our dough."

He explained to me that all of their dough is made in Boston. It is frozen and shipped to their restaurant. Las Vegas' lack of humidity and our high altitude made it impossible for them to get the consistency they demanded for their product. I was impressed. Paul added, "If you look at our menu, we offer a lot of specialty pizzas that you won't find at most pizza places. We wanted to be more than just a standard-topping pizza maker."

Miguel working the dough made in Boston

Since my daughter, Natalie, was with us, we had to stick with her favorite and the official benchmark pizza of the Las Vegas Pizza Quest - A Large, Pepperoni, Sausage and Black Olive pizza. Sam and Christina were excited to try the Chicken Artichoke pizza, which included grilled chicken breast, marinated artichokes, roasted heirloom tomatoes, black olives and garlic.

After we placed our orders and Natalie ran to get sodas for all of us, Paul continued the tour of their menu. He was right, they have a lot of menu items you won't find anywhere else. Under Veggie Pies on the simple white paper menu was Eggplant Rollantini - something I have never, ever seen before, anywhere. This pie features breaded and fried eggplant, topped with their homemade marinara sauce, dollops of ricotta and a healthy covering of mozzarella. I love eggplant and I'm looking forward to possibly doing a little private, solo mission on a week night just to try that combination.

East Side Pizza is much more than just a pizzeria. You would not be disappointed if the sign on the building said, East Side Italian Eatery. In addition to more than a dozen unique specialty pizzas, you'll find calzones, pasta dinners, hot and cold subs, appetizers, fresh chopped salads and a full dessert menu.

Even their dinner selections are out of the norm for standard Italian fare. Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan are rather common, but Sausage and Veal Cutlet Parmesan are only found at much pricier establishments, if at all. Portions are ample. A woman behind me barely made a dent in a mounded bowl of spaghetti and was definitely in need of a To-Go box.

The menu is not the only place where you see great thought and care. East Side Pizza is currently undergoing a renovation - they are making changes in lighting, adding some flat panel TV's and a few other touches to enhance your dining experience. If Paul had not told me that they were renovating, I never would have known. They are proceeding very discretely and you don't have to worry about dining with power saws grinding away in the corner.

East Side Pizza also has a North End. Black and white photos along the walls in the dining area add an old-world touch to the ambiance. Paul explained to me that he has photos of sports icons from New York and Boston, and they are strategically grouped apart from each other so that a turf war doesn't break out in October.

Finally, the pizza arrived. Having worked with a number of well-known Las Vegas eateries when I owned an ad agency here, I learned that visual presentation is as important as the taste. Two large thin crust New York-style pies gently landed on pedestals on our table and we were all impressed.

One of the first things I noticed was the size of the black olive slices. These were not shavings. You could see they only chopped three or four slices out of each large olive. On my daughter's favorite pizza, the sausage was cross-cut from links, very east coast style. Sam and Christina's pizza, the Chicken Artichoke, looked like it was served up from a gourmet magazine.

What we tasted with our eyes did not let us down when we started devouring the large thin triangles. I was so thankful to have Sam and Christina there because I would have missed out on a chance to taste their selection. The blend of the roasted tomatoes with the artichokes was amazing.

Sausage is a topping that can vary a lot. Rich flavors were in every bite. And you will notice the difference with the Boston-imported dough. With toppings pushed right to the edges, the nice firm crust that ringed each pie had enough stiffness to satisfy those that like more texture, without being so stiff that you lose a tooth.

We ate until we were pleasantly stuffed and had plenty to take home.

Part of the test of the Quest is to have cold pizza to eat later that day or for breakfast the following morning. Yes breakfast! I'm the Pizza Guy... it's allowed. Pizza served unheated gives you an idea of the fat content of the meats and the cheese. ESP's leftovers were just right. Although, this is the kind of pizza that you'll enjoy even more after about 10 minutes at 375ยบ on a piece of foil.

For a premium product, you'd expect to pay a lot. A benchmark I use on pricing is that a plain cheese pizza should be around $1.00 per inch or less. A 16" cheese pizza on the east side is only $14.75. Additional toppings are $1.75 for the same size pie. Specialty 16" pizzas are $20.95, a great value considering the number of ingredients that go into each.

East Side Pizza also offers complete catering. Available menu items and pricing are included on their Take-Out Menus. Home-delivery is also offered to a specific area. Check the Take-Out Menu for details.

Before we left, Paul did a very Vegas kinda thing. He pulled me aside and slipped me a scoop... (Pssssst... they're opening a second location at the M Resort in November.)

For a first Mission, Paul and his friendly staff gave The Quest an experience that could be lingering around the title of The Best in a year from now. To be fair, we're not ready to pass out crowns like Burger King, but all of us will have no problem heading to East Side Pizza - on the west side - at Boca Park.

Mission #1 was concluded with a long nap when Natalie and I got home.

East Side Pizza
1000 South Rampart Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89145
(Corner of Charleston and Rampart)

Posted by Roger Blazic

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  1. Were the "nanny's" initial's T.N.? If so that's funny, she was my nanny at one point, I turned her on to the place and she was hooked! LoL

  2. Hi!!! Im T.N... I have bad news guys!!!!! East side pizza has new ownership and scott, who was very passionate about his pizza dough, is no longer there!!! When you order the pizza in the restaurant, it still is very good. Its best to order a couple mediums, for some reason the large and extra larges are soggy and do not taste good at all!! The dough has changed :( Ive ordered quite a few times from ES since there has been new owners and the pizza they delivered was terrible, soggy and we only ate a few of the slices and trashed the rest!!! Sorry East Side, you guys kind of lost your edge!!