By Bill Gerdes
I like—but don’t love—several of the pizza joints where I live in Riverside. Romano’s makes tasty thin and thick-crust pizza, and I’m at least calzone-curious when it comes to the wonderfully dive-esque N&W Antonious Pizza & Café down off Arlington . . . Sometimes though I’ll cook my own pie at home, and I’m often pleasantly surprised by the results. I use less cheese, more olive oil, more vegetables and a tomato base that I throw together with a couple of Roma numbers I have lying around. It’s tasty and almost healthy.
And I get to choose exactly what I want on my pizza. Pieology, across the street from the Victoria Gardens shopping mall, cooks pizzas that resemble the sweet little numbers I’ll cook at home. They feature thin crust and topping which the customer gets to pick out just what they want on the pie. With a slew of fresh ingredients, the customer gets to pile on as many as they want—as long as there’s not a pound of meatballs on the thing, said customer can walk away feeling satisfied but not mega-stuffed.
When I went to Pieology it worked something like this: I walked in and was greeted by that sort of half-hearted Starbucks-style greeting where all employees are expected to half-crook their necks and extend a greeting. I then entered a quickly moving line where I went past various stations and chose what I wanted on my pie. First up was sauce. I chose the “red sauce,” which is their tomato base, along with olive oil. Next choice is cheese-mozzarella please. Their meat options, of which I went pepperoni and ham, are swine-centric but varied enough. Next up veggies, of which I’ll say all are fresh but they could use a few more options. Then there’s what they call “After Bakes.” Now these are not something one buys off a guy with dreads outside the Sahara tent at Coachella but a variety of more sauces to ladle on the pizza. Boringly I went with more red sauce, although options like BBQ sauce, roasted red-peppers, black pepper extra virgin olive oil and pesto are available.
While I’m not a fan of the “build your own” fad in casual dining in general, the process at Pieology works, especially if viewed as fast food. It is fast. My pizza from order to table took six minutes. It’s relatively cheap, as a “Create Your Own” pizza runs around seven bucks. And if it’s a family meal, it’s relatively healthy as well (Pieology also offers gluten-free crust). Plus, and this is big; my pizza was pretty damn nice. The veggies retained enough of a crunch to be yummy, and the sauces combined nicely to form a lovely lake of mozzarella, olive oil and tomato, on top of the wafer-thin crust. It’s a tasty-quick pizza. They also have a couple of salads on the menu, as well as strips, either herb butter or the ones I sampled, the cinnamon sugar. They are very sweet, diabetic-coma-inducing, but I ate two and craved a few more.
They don’t serve beer or wine here, and have no plans to. That makes me sad. Pizza is after all an Italian creation, and then later in America an Italian American one. No beer or wine feels anti-Italian somehow. Somewhere Dean Martin is crying.
Pieology Pizzeria, 8158 Day Creek Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 803-8999; www.pieology.com. AE, D, MC, V.