Pizza. It’s a passion. A way of life. And, all the way out here in Tampa, sometimes that is forgotten. In land densely packed with Huts and Johns, finding a decent pizza place can be difficult. Sure, there are a good amount of pizzerias, but half of them are crap, with the same menu, run by people more concerned about selling food than making it. They may do in a pinch (Gumby’s, Five Star, countless Westshore Pizzas), but sometimes you’re looking for a little something more. More personality. Maybe more history? Certainly more flavor. And that’s what you get at Alfonso’s Pizzeria.
Alfonso’s Pizzeria is a simple little place, located at the intersection of Bearss and Florida (near the Big Lots). It’s been family owned and run since 1978, and they claim they use “real Italian” recipes. They also state “Our pizza is the best!”, which is a fairly bold statement. Whatever the case, they are exactly the type of pizza place I like – nothing great to look at, but great people working behind the counter, serving one hell of a pizza. The staff is always courteous and friendly, ready to engage you in conversation if you’re into it or let you eat if you’re not, and effortlessly churning out pizza after delicious pizza.
As you can see, there’s not much to look at. It’s everything it needs to be, and nothing more. The register is a relic from the past. The oven is a huge brick behemoth. The ceiling is your standard tile affair, showing stains from age. Faded Coca Cola menu boards. There’s an old dude running the place! And they only just started accepting credit card within the past couple months. History? Check. It’s just personality that is gained from being around for years. And to me, it feels essentially Tampa. None of that new-fangled yuppie bullcrap. Not your damn ‘New Tampa’ cookie-cuttery. Just old, possibly stinky, Grampa Tampa.
My kind of place.
So I put in my order, grabbed a soda, and waited for pure goodness.
As a quick side note, they serve Boylan’s soda here. Dats some good soda. There are a few places I’ve seen in Tampa that sell it (Bearss Sandwiches, for one). Pick one up if you get the chance. Always support drink companies that use real sugar. Tastes good.
Okay, so I ordered Alfonso’s special. This includes pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives, and meatballs. A smattering of toppings. And it is packed with them. It all sits atop a crust that is a bit thicker than a New York style, a pan-style thickness, with stringy cheese and a subtle sauce.
The toppings are the bomb. People still say that, right? I mean, that’s still a cool thing to say? …no? All that and a bag of chips. No?? Gear. Totally gear. POSITIVELY CORKING. Yeah, that’s hip. The toppings are positively corking. The meats are solid, with the standout being the meatballs. What? Meatballs? Seriously? Yeah, they’re serious. They make their own meatballs, and slice them up and thrown them on there, and it’s the best. Surprisingly good, well seasoned for meatballs. The veggies are all really good too, with the green peppers being the best here. Whatever they do to them leaves them much spicier than green peppers i’m used to having. Nothing overpowering, but providing every bite with a good kick. And the cheese is great, stringy and chewy, like the perfect pizza in a good cartoon. The sauce is not a strong player in this pizza, taking a back seat to the other toppings, but still fulfilling its role, and tasting quite good in its own right.
The crust is excellent. As I said before, it’s not quite a New York style crust served here. It is thicker, and there’s not really much crispiness to speak of, except in the outer edges of the crust. Instead, it’s pillowy and chewy, providing a strong support for the toppings.
The thing about the pizza here is that none of the individual parts are truly incredible; the cheese, meatballs, and peppers may be the strongest players, but all the ingredients are pretty high quality. The magic is in the combination of their forces. This is a case of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. The proportions are all perfectly weighed here, spices and flavors all blending together, into a chewy cheesy savory spicy masterwork. It’s the perfect balance. And it comes out of years of practice. They have mastered their craft, and they make it look easy.
AND THEY HAVE ITALIAN ICE! YAAAAAAY!
For dessert, they have their own homemade Italian ices. I think they only had two flavors available this time – mango and blue. Apparently the mango was really good, with a strong real mango flavor… I succumbed to the kid inside me and went with blue. It was really good. And it made my mouth blue! Which made going to work after lunch awesome! Nothing says ‘asset to the company’ like blue lips.
Alfonso’s is a really simple place, but they make pizza their passion. It is their way of life, and that is evident in every slice they serve. If I was going to identify a pizza with Tampa, I would point to Alfonso’s. It may be overlooked and overshadowed by newer, fancier concept pizza places, but Alfonso’s just can’t be beat for a good, solid, classic pizza. This is what pizza should be all about.