CLIFTON PARK — It seemed appropriate that on National Cheese Pizza Day, Ann Marie and I met for lunch at The City Pizzeria on Crescent Road. Their pizza was certainly worthy of celebration, as was the hot meatball Parmesan sub that will remain fixed in my memory for some time to come.
This modest pizza restaurant is in the middle of a strip mall, not far from Exit 8 of the Northway. There are a handful of tables, some along a banquette, two in front of the plate-glass windows. It’s not fancy, but it’s visibly clean. A delightful hand-painted mural of the amusement park at Coney Island in Brooklyn covers one side of the room, a much-loved holdover from the old place, Tufano’s.
There are menus displayed on the wall behind the counter, but pick up a printed menu from the stack — it’s easier to read. Ann Marie and I examined them for some time, trying to decide whether to get an appetizer or wings, salads, hot or cold sandwiches, a calzone or dinner. Pizza was a given.
Prices are where they should be for pizza around here, but there are bargains to be found in the hot sub and dinner sections. You can get chicken Parmesan for $11.95, and it comes with pasta, salad and garlic bread. So do ziti with meatballs at $9.25, and eggplant Parm or baked ziti for $10.50.
Order at the counter and when your food is ready they’ll bring it to the table. We put in our order and sat down at a table in front of the window and sipped iced tea and flavored seltzer, mass-market stuff.
The lunch special, two slices and a can of soda for $5, is popular. Ann Marie observed, “There seem to be a lot of people coming in for that.”
It’s a good thing we had a lot of catching up to do, because after about 20 minutes the nice person who took our order came over to tell us that our meals would take another 15 minutes. She came back shortly with a small, prepackaged tossed salad in a clear clamshell ($3.95) for me, a cup of great balsamic dressing on the side. Fresh, bite-sized pieces of Romaine lettuce, neatly sliced grape tomatoes and cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion revealed the effort that had gone into making it.
There are prepared Caesar and other salads in a refrigerated case; I’m guessing they’re just as good.
Ann Marie ordered a small pizza with bacon, chicken and ranch dressing ($12.99) that was way bigger than the personal size she’d envisioned. It’s more than enough for two, and despite her best efforts she ended up taking four slices home. She had a lot of nice things to say about it. “The toppings are not overpowering, the bacon is cut up and easy to eat, and I like the garlic olive oil.” The crust had a good crunch and a bit of browning on the bottom. She held up her paper plate, there were a few small spots on it. “There’s not too much oil,” she said, approvingly.
I think pizza should be red, so I was quite surprised when I tried a piece. It tastes way better than it looks, and there was way more flavor than I expected. It’s not just a lot of dough with some stuff on top; the ingredients complement each other, with remarkably good seasonings. The City Pizzeria may make a convert out of me.
I’ve already said how good the meatball sub ($7.95) was, and it was gorgeous too, all browned crispy roll stuffed with big meatballs, and topped with bright red marinara and snowy white melted mozzarella.
Now here are the details, starting with the bread: First, it stands up to the job. It’s crunchy and a bit glossy on the outside, with cornmeal on the bottom, and it held up even after the sauce had a chance to sink in. Also, it tastes good. Their homemade marinara sauce is pulpy, fresh-tasting and tangy. The meatballs were out of this world.
Usually I only like the meatballs my family makes, but the ones made at The City Pizzeria were the right size, they had the right texture and just the right seasonings. “Oh my goodness, that is so delicious,” I said, after the first bite. My mouth wasn’t big enough, I needed the fork and knife to get started.
“You’re making yummy noises,” Ann Marie said, and I was. Mmm … it was perfect and I enjoyed it so much. “It was worth the wait,” she added.
Ann Marie had chosen a slice of handsome chocolate cake ($4) from the prepackaged desserts in the refrigerator. I liked its looks: moist cake layers, shaved chocolate and frosting that was nicely set.
“Just the right ratio of frosting to cake,” observed Ann Marie. Like everything else we had, it tasted really good.
The City Pizzeria turned out to be a great place to celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day. I can’t possibly wait another year to go back, though.
The City Pizzeria
WHERE: 1536 Crescent Road, Clifton Park, 518-371-2100, thecitypizzeria.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $36.53
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Plenty of parking. ADA compliant. Children’s menu.