The independent pizza parlor operators, once a staple in the country, have a rough road to travel when it seems every commercial during a sporting event that isn't pushing beer or trucks is either for Pizza Hut or Papa John's. It's easy to get lost in the ad blitz.
All the more reason to emulate what they're doing at Don Louie's Pizzeria on Stine Road: offer a different product, break your back on service, create a neighborhood atmosphere and, above all else, an ambiance that is clean, modern and comfortable.
We visited the restaurant, which opened earlier this year in what was for a long time a Magoo's Pizza, and found a place that, though under the radar, has a lot going for it.
There are two pizzas in particular that are unlike what anyone else is serving. The first is a chili verde pizza.
We ordered it expecting the moist, shredded bits of spicy Mexican pork scattered over the top, similar to the version we love at the various Tony's Pizzas around town. Don Louie's is nothing like that. The medium ($15.99) was like a cheese pizza, complete with tomato sauce, covered with chunks of pork and the most beautiful shade of green sauce you can find. Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was difficult to eat with the sauce sliding off if you hold the slice at the wrong angle. Grab a fork and cut into it like it was French cuisine and enjoy. The man who took our order assured us it was made on the premises, and it did taste like homemade chili verde.
There's another original pizza that, as Emeril used to say, takes it up a notch: the habanero chicken pizza ($15.99). Boneless, skinless "hind quarter" as the menu calls it is stewed with the famous fiery peppers and poured over the pizza as the finishing touch. The color of the sauce was almost tan. It practically made my mouth vibrate, that's how hot it is. If you've been cursing most pizza as wimpy, dig into this for dinner and you'll tingle from the sensation. I swear the sinus clearing produced by this pizza alone could qualify it with some health care plans. By the way, both pizzas cook up well as leftovers, probably due to all the moisture in the sauce up top.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the chicken and wedges ($6.99 for three pieces), but the crust of the chicken was soft, mushy and not crunchy in the least. Yet the wedges were comparable to Rusty's, so I'm not sure what happened in the kitchen -- the oil must've not been hot enough.
Perhaps not cooked to order, but baked for a time under a heat lamp? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't order that again.
There is one other Mexican influence here: jalapenos on the garlic bread. We'll try that next time.
The interior is inviting with good lighting, three pool tables, an air hockey table, a room in the back suitable for family events like birthday parties, and lots of big screen TVs. Yes, they have NFL Sunday ticket. We visited on both a weekday and weekend night, and saw a lot of families and friends kicking back with pitchers (beers on tap include Newcastle, Modelo Especial, Dos Equis and Sam Adams Seasonal).
They've got a good thing going at Don Louie's. If your taste buds are jaded and in need of a jolt, check it out.