In case you missed it, here is my review of Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.
About a month ago, I asked readers for help finding the best pizza in Monterey County. I’ve got this friend who hails from the East Coast — we’ll call him “East Coast Joe” — who has been disappointed by the pizza scene in our parts.
With our local pride on the line, I’ve taken it upon myself to make the rounds to our local pizza parlors with Joe to see if the state of the Peninsula’s pizza is really as dire as he claims.
Based on your suggestions, we made a list of the best pizzerias and set some rigorous — and not so rigorous — criteria for evaluating each.
Over two visits we’d try a margherita pizza, a meat pizza and a specialty pizza, then judge on crust, sauce and toppings.
Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria was one of the most popular submissions from readers, so we figured it was as good a place as any to start our pizza tasting.
Allegro offers classic combinations, as well as more gourmet fare. Pizzas are available in four sizes — for our two visits, we stuck to 10-inch personal-sized pizzas.
On our first visit, I had the Bel Paese pizza ($14.39), topped with roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and Italian Bel Paese cheese.
The Bel Paese cheese melted nicely, giving a buttery touch to the pizza. The tender cloves of garlic added a good punch of flavor. But both Joe and I were disappointed with the sun-dried tomatoes — they were too sweet and rather chewy.
Joe ordered us the Pizza Roma ($14.39), with thin crust, basil, oregano, fresh mozzarella, fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and virgin olive oil. He ordered it with sauce — the most important part of a pizza, he claims.
The tomato sauce walked that fine line between sweet and savory. Both Joe and I appreciated the sweetness of the sauce, which made a good pairing for the simple toppings.
On our second visit, we shared the Salsicce di Pollo pizza — chicken sausage, caramelized onions, garlic, provolone and mozzarella ($14.39) — and the lasagna pizza ($14.39).
I liked the sweet sausage and onions on top of the Salsicce di Pollo pizza, but Joe wasn’t much of a fan.
But we both agreed the lasagna pizza — topped with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and Bolognese sauce — was a wonderful surprise. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, with the creamy ricotta adding an indulgent something extra.
We hadn’t really planned on ordering this pizza — we walked in expecting to order a pure pepperoni pie, but perusing the menu, we became increasingly curious about the lasagna pizza. I’m sure glad we took a leap of faith on this combination!
Of the three basic criteria — crust, sauce and toppings — Allegro nailed it best when it came to sauce. It was appropriately sweet, with a hint of savory seasonings.
We both appreciated the diverse selection of toppings, even if some of the combinations might have missed a little.
The crust was the most contentious decision between us.
I loved the crust — it was thin and crispy, a nice vehicle for the toppings.
Joe firmly stands by his New York roots that dictate pizza be folded in half to eat single-handed, so he found the crust a little inconsistent in that respect — sometimes it was too flimsy, but other times, it held up nicely even when loaded with cheesy toppings.
And when the votes were tallied, Allegro presented a solid start to our pizza tasting and was able to please East Coast Joe’s picky pizza palate. Stay tuned next month for our continued pizza party!
Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria is located at 3770 The Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel. 626-5454. allegrogourmetpizzeria.com.