Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wiseguy NY Pizza Food Review

Sausage and Cheese slices

Everyone deserves a second chance, including food critics. I stand behind all of my reviews; but every now and again, I like to go back and double-check my work. My first visit to Wiseguy NY Pizza at the corner of 4th & H Streets, NW was (in my eyes) far from perfect. But locals love it. So does Yelp (4.3/5.) Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia digs the place. What was I missing; and more importantly, could I find it?

Visit #1 was less than spectacular; but I made the mistake of settling for a cold slice (Wiseguy NY recommends heating all slices, and they're right.) Why cold? Sometimes, you want to get in and out without waiting in line. Wiseguy NY is very busy, seemingly all the time; and the idea of another five minutes in line was too much for this 46-year-old critic to bear. Slices are big. Wiseguy NY uses large 20" pizzas for its slice options: 20 divided by eight is... pretty big. Cheese slices set you back only $2.99, $3.64 for pepperoni and $3.99 for "specials."

Last week, I ordered a slice of Sausage (considered special, thus $3.99) and couldn't help but feel disappointed. The sausage (what little there was) was cut sneaky-thin and my slice didn't seem to have much cheese or sauce either. Customer service was a mixed bag. The young lady who took my order was polite and efficient. The cashier was new, and the manager/owner was there to train him. Needless to say, I didn't find any love (and it was the day before Valentine's Day.)

Last week's Sausage slice (cold, at my request)

Yesterday's visit happened to fall on the coldest day of the year; but that didn't stop all of downtown DC from descending upon Wiseguy's relatively tiny confines. They have ample (albeit tight) seating outside, but that does little good when the temperature is under 20°. What's left is one big communal table up front, a few tables in the back and some individual seats against the wall. It's a tight squeeze (especially when you're 6'1 240#) but I managed to secure a spot all the same. Atmosphere is a tad cliché (Frank Sinatra's "Pennies from Heaven" and all-too-familiar photos of infamous Italian criminals such as Al Capone and Michael Corleone.) Not my style, but I suppose it fits the mold.

The long line moved rapidly; and I was especially impressed at how nice everyone behind the counter was. Three cheers for staffing lots of employees; and that same guy who was training last week, now resembled a chiseled veteran, rapidly processing orders and addressing each customer with a personal greeting and lots of enthusiasm. I ordered a slice of cheese and sausage, and happily waited for both slices to be heated up for me. The cashier was experienced, friendly and observant; and I took advantage of a Wiseguy special (two slices and a soda for under $10.)

Finding a seat wasn't easy; but I was delighted to discover that Wiseguy uses Boylan's for their fountain drinks (Cream soda!) Settled in, I dove into both slices. Does hot pizza beat cold? It sure as heck does. The cheese was ample this time, and gooey. I actually love their sauce (orange, not red) but would have liked more. The crust remains the same... good, not great (but nice and thin.)

What impressed me the most was the noticeable improvements on their Sausage slice. Sneaky-thin turns out to be an anomaly, rather than the norm. Yesterday's slice had twice as much meat, and each piece was thick, zesty and delicious. Same gooey cheese, and even more tomato sauce than the cheese slice. All-in-all, a terrific slice.

So what did I learn? Cold pizza is OK sometimes, but never at Wiseguy NY. Expect a line, and a shoehorn fit during the lunch rush; but more importantly, fast, efficient service and darn good pizza.

Atmosphere: C (It's popular, so crowds are inevitable. Too hectic for me.)
Service: B+ (Much better than my first visit. This crew knows how to perform well, under pressure.)
Crust: B- (Better than average.)
Toppings: B+ (Good cheese, even better sauce. Thick slices of sausage on 2nd visit.)
Value: B (Bigger than most, and I like the special; but 4 bucks is pushing it for a slice of sausage.)
Overall: B (What a difference a second, unannounced visit makes. Could a third visit make it even better?)