Medium Veggie Pizza Tasting - Cincinnati, Ohio
Grammas vs. LaRosa’s vs. Marco’s. See which one we think makes the best veggie pizza!
Ingredient Descriptions and Menu Price per Medium Pizza
|Family Recipe Pizza Sauce
|our original sauce
|signature three cheeses
Grammas Pizza - Withamsville, Ohio
Chris’s Review: The first thing that you notice when looking at the Grammas veggie pizza is cheese. Lots of mozzarella cheese with toppings gasping for air as they sink beneath the cheesy waves. The cheese has its pros and cons. It tastes awesome, and it was nice and thick. However, it hides the toppings (presumably because it is applied after the toppings were added), and once the pizza cools off, it becomes a little rubbery and holds the pieces together with an adhesion that is quite unparalleled.
The toppings were cut pretty large—the chunks of tomato were quite large chunks, and they were not bashful with adding lots of green pepper slices snaked every which way under the cheese blanket. The mushrooms and onions were there, but didn't add a lot to the flavor. The onions had a crunch to them.
The crust on the Grammas pizza had a nice round ring around the pizza, and a good garlic flavor (without asking for special treatment) with a nice hint of salt. This appears to be due to the way that the crust is folded around the outside (see detailed photo below). Because of the way that the crust gets folded, it's actually very thin and a got a little crunchy on one of the slices.
This was the most inexpensive of the three pizzas we tried, and it showed. It wasn't bad—and you can tell that it wasn't from a big “chain” pizzeria, and the simplicity of the box followed through on the theme. I think that overall the price fit the product, and it was a pizza worth eating again. I’d probably rank this #2 overall out of the 3 pizzas we tried. It gets first place for crust flavor and cheese content.
Winner of the award for: Feeling Like You’re Supporting the Little Guy; Crust of Deliciousness
Losing points for: Bland Blanket O’Cheese; Flavor of a Coulda-Been Contender
When you open the Grammas box, the first thing you think is, “Wow! That’s a lot of cheese!” And then you realize that there really are “toppings” swamped somewhere under the slowly-congealing mass of pale, bland mozzarella. I really wanted to love this pizza, because I love the underdog. Of all three we tried, this pizza had the best crust: chewy, crisp, and flavorful. So it was unfortunate that the other layers just couldn’t live up to the foundation.
The chunks of tomato were far too large, given the small size of the other ingredients. There was a preponderance of green pepper, which made the pizza feel cheap. Ingredients were haphazard, which made the taste experience inconsistent. I didn’t even notice the mushroom or onion. The cheese had a tendency to pull all of the other toppings off mid-bite, leaving me with a bare expanse of saucy crust.
Economical, but not that enjoyable: my least favorite.
LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria - Amelia, Ohio
LaRosa's: Veggie Deluxe: Family Recipe Pizza Sauce and provolone, topped with mushrooms, green olives, red onions, spinach and Roma tomatoes.. Medium for $16.49.
Chris’s Review: The first thing that you notice when looking at the LaRosa’s veggie deluxe pizza is that everything is well distributed. I don’t know what type of specialized training or equipment they use in their kitchen, but the toppings were distributed edge-to-edge and balanced throughout the pizza. Each slice and each bite had a full mixture of all of the flavors of the various toppings. Their QC department should get a gold star for that.
I liked that their veggie pizza had spinach on it. The dash of green really livens up the visual appeal of the pizza and the use of red onions also gave it a nicer look.
A noticeable feature of the LaRosa’s pizza was the “Family Recipe” pizza sauce. It is much sweeter than most other pizza sauces I have had. And although it wasn't super-noticeable at first, it detracts somewhat from the overall savory flavor that I want in my pizza. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad sauce—but definitely something to get used to.
This pizza uses provolone cheese, which was quite serviceable and browned nicely, providing stability for the many toppings so that they would stay in place on the pizza’s topography.
The crust is where the LaRosa’s pizza also gets a little interesting. The bottom of the crust had a nice firmness to it—but the top of the crust, where it interfaced with all of the toppings—just tastes a lot like goo. I always think that it's cheese at first, but it's really the toppings sitting on what tastes like doughy goo, almost as though the top part of the crust doesn't get to cook all of the way due to the many toppings sitting on it. Overall, this gives each bite a really full-feeling packed “mouth feel” which is quite satisfying until my tongue starts to explore the sogginess revealed within.
Still, the pizza tastes really good, overall, and definitely leaves you feeling full. This was the most expensive of the three pizzas we tried, and I'm assuming it's because they really did pack on the toppings, and probably some of it is because LaRosa’s is somewhat of a household name here in Cincinnati and they can take advantage of their larger advertising budget and popularity. I’d probably rank this #3 overall out of the 3 pizzas we tried. It gets first place for topping distribution and helping you to feel full.
Winner of the award for: Cast of Thousands of Ingredients; Stunning Visual Arts; Keeping it Uncrusty
Losing points for: Short and (Too) Sweet; Crust Magma
This pizza was beautiful. The toppings were evenly distributed and uniformly sized, so that you got a little of each flavor in every bite. I also loved the abundance and the variety of toppings: they worked really well together for mouth feel and flavor.
When I took the first bite, my immediate impression was, “Yes! This is exactly how pizza should taste!” And then a wave of sweetness hit my tongue and I thought, “What in the WORLD?” The family recipe sauce is really, really sweet. I had trouble finishing the pizza because after that very first bite, the only thing I could taste was the overpowering sweetness.
There was a little funkiness in the midlayer between the cheese and the sauce/crust. There was a definite gooiness that was a little unpleasant. I think it was the high moisture level of all of the toppings and would be interested to try a different pizza to see whether the gooiness happens across the board, or just on the veggie.
The cheese was nicely browned, which really added to the presentation, and I really liked the use of provolone. I also really appreciated that the toppings were spread close to the edges, which left me with fewer chunks of plain crust after finishing a slice.
Beautiful, but some things shouldn’t be sweet: my second favorite.
Marco’s Pizza - Glen Este, Ohio
Marco’s: Garden: Mushrooms, black olives, onions, sliced tomatoes, our original sauce and signature three cheeses, plus feta. Medium for $14.99.
Chris’s Review: The first thing that you notice when looking at the Marco’s garden pizza is that those tomatoes are sliced really pretty. Then you notice that the crust is extremely wide, with the toppings hunkering close to the center of the pizza. You really can't discuss the Marco’s pizza without discussion about that crust.
While removing a slice, the bottom side of the crust has an overwhelmingly generous amount of cornmeal providing a lot of grit. The crust is very wide—and super bland! This crust cries out for a garlic dipping sauce or a small dish of marinara to turn it into breadsticks. As breadsticks, the crust isn’t so bad, but overall on the pizza, it’s just way too chewy, all the way from the edge through the center. When I say chewy, it’s not because it’s uncooked, but rather that it's like a big fluffy pillow on top of which they have placed the toppings.
The “original” sauce tasted very good, and I really liked the “signature three cheeses” which Internet research indicates may be mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano. It doesn’t taste like three distinct cheese flavors since they all harmonize rather well and make a good pizza cheese choice.
The sliced tomatoes are attractive and taste good, along with the black olives, mushrooms and onions. But the real star of the Garden pizza is the feta. The tiny pieces of feta cheese dropped lovingly over the other pizza toppings and browned ever so slightly. The feta gives this pizza the fabulous taste that caused it to outshine the competition.
Overall, the pizza was very good, although I’d still like to see the toppings spread just a little big farther toward the edge of the crust. The crust was bland, but it does look like they offer several dipping options: a pizza sauce dipping cup, ranch dipping sauce, tangy BBQ dipping cup, garlic butter dipping cup, blue cheese dipping cup and a hot sauce dipping cup. So maybe that’s why the crust is that way: to drive sales of their dipping cups. Next time I will go prepared so that I can cherish those crusts and give them the dipping that they deserve.
The cost of this pizza fell between the one from Grammas and the one from LaRosa’s, and seemed about the going price for a specialty pizza at $14.99. There was a $4-off one-time use coupon on their website that I was able to apply, so this one actually cost the least for me to bring home for our tasting night. I’d probably rank this #1 overall out of the 3 pizzas we tried.
Winner of the award for: Advertising Budget of the Stars; Cheese Musketeers; Best in Show
Losing points for: Honey I Shrunk the Toppings; Flavor My Dough With Your Tears (or At Least Hand Me Some Salt)
A full-color pizza box? It was a wow at the moment of pickup, but after opening the box I wished they had blown some of that budget on spreading a little more cheese around.
Visually, this pizza split the difference between the other two: not as lovely as LaRosa’s, not as half-hearted as Grammas. The slices of tomato presented well, but could have been distributed a titch more evenly. The main drawback here—experience-wise and to the eye—was the wide margin of sauceless, cheeseless, veggieless crust. I could have borne it without complaint had the crust had any positive points of its own, but it was plainly meant as only a vehicle for the toppings. Having a big chunk of tasteless, chewy crust left in my hand after every slice was a big drawback.
The true stars of this pizza were the ensemble cast of cheeses: a proprietary three-cheese blend, with a cameo by feta. The feta tied it all together and added the zest that was needed to pull this pizza together. I really wanted more variety in the veggies, but the feta almost made up for that lack.
Imperfect but solid: my top choice.