Saturday, May 30, 2009

Al's Pizza

Look, we've been to Italy. We've eaten authentic pizza in Napoli, its hometown and uncontested birthplace of Pizza Margherita, the ancient ancestor of the standard cheese pizza that we've all survived on at various low points in our lives. So excuse me while I audibly roll my eyes as you argue about the merits of Chicago-style pizza vs. New York-style pizza or agonize over whether to order from Dominos or Papa John's. I'll be over here in a full-on, shameless proclamation of pizza snobbery.

But although there are no authentic Neapolitan pizza places to be found anywhere near here (at least not that I'm aware of and I fully admit that there are plenty of things I am completely unaware of), Jacksonville does have a few respectable pizza joints where you can pick up some quality slices of pie. We've already covered the almighty Mellow Mushroom, one of the best to come in and grace the area, but Jacksonville is also fortunate enough to have a local, homegrown contender who I dare say can give the aforementioned hippie haven a run for its money (although Mellow Mushroom does have a better beer selection and that can definitely enhance the flavor of the food).

al's pizza

Al's Pizza isn't just another local restaurant chain, it's a Jacksonville icon, a staple in the diet of anyone who cares about either a) quality pizza or b) supporting worthwhile local businesses.

The pizza itself can come on a hand tossed, New York style thin crust or a sicilian style thick crust. I'm a big fan of a thinner crust, as are the Neapolitans, so after I'm done rolling my eyes during the aforementioned argument, I guess I'll be voting New York style. The default configuration includes cheese and tomato sauce but there are a variety of predefined pizzas available on the menu or you can choose from a vast array of available toppings. I have never seen a list this long:

Available Toppings on Any Pizza
Extra Cheese, sliced Red Onion, Fresh Mushrooms, Green Peppers, Black Olives, Green Olives, Broccoli, Spinach, Pineapple, fresh Roma Tomato, fresh Garlic, fresh Basil, Banana Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Pepperoni, Beef, Sausage, Ham, Anchovies, Meatball or Genoa Salami.

Specialty Toppings on Any Pizza
Feta Cheese, Chicken, Eggplant, Sundried Tomato, Fire Roasted Red Peppers, Spicy Chorizo Sausage, Kalamata Olives, Bacon, Artichoke.

Anyone who offers slices of tomatoes (you'd think everybody would) and jalapenos gets three thumbs up from me. And, most importantly, all the pizza I've had at Al's has been free of the excessive oily buildup found floating about atop most mediocre cheese pies parading as pizza.

al's lasagna2

But Al's doesn't just do pizza. On our most recent visit we both opted for one of the many alternatives to their signature food item. The lasagna, I have been assured, is exceptional and my salad was quite nice as well.

al's salad

Sorry, no pizza pics, you'll just have to take my word for it on the quality. Maybe next time, and believe me, there will be a next time. With six branches conveniently located in or near almost every one of Jacksonville's major regions, you can't use distance as an excuse to pass up on this one.

Until teleportation allows me to grab lunch in downtown Napoli, Al's pizza will be one of the worthy substitutes, and that's not a bad position to be in.

Al's Pizza
Intracoastal West: 14286 Beach Blvd. 223-0991
Ponte Vedra: 635 A1A N. 543-1494
Beaches: 303 Atlantic Blvd. 249-0002
Riverside: 1620 Margaret St. 388-8384
Baymeadows: 8060 Philips Hwy. 731-4300
Mandarin: 11190 San Jose Blvd. 260-4115

Al's Pizza (Westside) on Urbanspoon


Joe said...

Where is the Moon River?

Moon River beats Al's Pizza anyday

Kateri said...

I've only been to Moon River once and you're right; it is pretty damn good. We'll definitely do a write up on them sometime soon.

rednererald said...

Hey Kateri! I had a suggestion for an upcoming event here in Jacksonville. I'd love for you to guys to come out. Do you have an email I can send you more information about the event? It's a Filipino Day Cultural admission...alot of great cultural performances, filipino food, and just a great time! Thanks! I couldn't find an email on here, but I've always loved your postings on here. Thans!

jacksonvilleseedexchange said...

As a self-attested pizza snob, Al's beats Moon River, I say.

Other greats- in no particular order.
Pizza Palace.
Nora's (RIP Downtown location)
Abe's Pizza
The Loop
Renna's Pizza

I know I'm missing some... but there's a lot of great non-chain pizza to be found in Jax. Good article!