Our oculist was the most recent of several people to recommend Pizza Works in Burnt Hills. So after Johnny P had been measured for new eyeglasses, we headed a few miles north on Route 50 for pizza and a new restaurant experience.
A large black sign with a round red circle representing a pizza made the otherwise indistinct low brick building hard to miss. A staff member noticed us looking around and suggested we sit where we liked. But despite ample choices (four tables and 10 booths arranged among the brick pillars, wainscoted walls and TVs) we had trouble finding a checkered-topped surface free of crumbs and water rings.
Grabbing well-worn menus from a rack, we settled in at a small table for two. Besides three variations of pizza (signature, classic and create-your-own), Pizza Works offers appetizers, salads, calzones and strombolis, pasta and more, wraps, moons (round subs made in-house), goodies (desserts) and beverages.
A varied musical menu of rock ’n roll dotted with Sinatra played unobtrusively from an unidentified source, permeating the odors of yeast and garlic.
Two soft drinks ($1.55 each) arrived followed by a 6-cut Old School EBA (“Everything but Anchovies,” $10.25 for personal size). Served on crinkled paper lining a traditional worn pan, the pizza was topped with pieces of sausage, mushrooms, peppers and pepperoni arranged equidistant from each other, as if measured with a ruler. Fortunately, I caught myself just before I added a sprinkling of crushed red pepper. One of the toppings on the pizza was nippy — perhaps the sausage.
In a world where pizza highlights many menus, Pizza Works’ ranks in the group at the top. Thin, crispy crust (remember the corrugated paper on the pan preventing the pizza from sitting in oil?), a large variety of mostly traditional toppings, as well as a generous amount of those requested, flavorful sauce — all these qualities combine to produce pizza that, well, works.
John’s antipasto salad was a bargain at $9. Slices of pepperoni, mild and sharp provolone, salami, hot ham, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, olives and parmesan covered a plate of Romaine lettuce, which had barely enough space to peep out from between the slices of meat. A small lidded plastic cup of oil-based Italian dressing accompanied the antipasto, and two wedges of their wonderful bread were served along with the meat and lettuce. Well-known for playing with his food, Johnny P made a small Italian mixed sandwich of one wedge while I watched with interest and envy.
A house-made “sub,” the tuna moon ($9) was the most mundane of our four dishes, offered with four “fixens” [sic] and one cheese. I omitted the cheese and added lettuce, tomato, green and hot peppers. Its size allowed us to split a half and bring the rest home for the next day.
We thought we were done. But a small box on the back of the menu called my attention to a few “goodies,” among which was Silly Sweet Cinnamon Sticks ($4). When they arrived, all I could think of was George Takei’s expression “Oh myyy!”
Imagine the dough for a round loaf of homemade bread cut in half vertically, then split horizontally almost all the way as if to make a sandwich. Substitute a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for the filling, close it and cut it partway toward the closed edge seven times and bake it to perfection. When it is out of the oven but still quite warm, squiggle white icing from a fat pastry bag willy-nilly across the surface. One either cuts off a “stick” or impatiently rips it off with gooey fingers. Either way, the intensely sweet, still-warm pastry is addictive, and the half that you had planned to take home for breakfast the next morning is gone before you even notice it.
While enjoying the Silly Sweet Sticks, it struck me that it was fashioned from the same dough as the wedges of bread with John’s antipasto, the “sub” of my tuna moon and the crust of the personal-size pizza. In fact, I’m guessing all may have begun with the same size ball of dough — flattened for the pizza, cut in half for the Silly Sweet, left whole for the moon. Clever and efficient.
“I wish you served espresso,” I mentioned to a server as I savored my dessert. “We’re not that fancy,” he replied innocently. “Yeah, but you’re that good,” I responded. And I meant it.
WHERE: 722 Saratoga Road, Burnt Hills, NY, (518) 399-9494, www.pizzaworks.org
WHEN: Sunday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $34.35 without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Accessible, large parking lot, all major credit cards accepted, sound level permits conversation, takeout, catering, online ordering