We had spent the afternoon playing Bierker tennis – everything inside the fence is “in.” We run around like crazy people, but we have to play that way, otherwise, we’d spend the afternoon just picking up balls. Federers, we are not. But it’s just that kind of energy-expending day that makes us crave good pizza and beer. So that’s exactly what we set out to find.
In the three years that I’ve been here, I haven’t yet found a pizza joint that rivals my love for Chicago’s deep dish or New York City’s thin crust. That day, it all changed. I found my go-to pizza place – Niko’s Pizza & Grill.
It’s not fancy - it looks like most other pizza establishments - linoleum floors, simple set-up of a couple of card tables, stackable chairs.
We scanned the menu board and ordered a medium House Special ($10.95), which is 12 inches of “a whole lotta stuff,” as we were told. I asked whether the dough would be able to hold up. I greatly dislike soggy crusts, which I find to be directly correlated to the amount of “stuff” on it. Our order-taker assured me that it would still be “pretty good.” Not that I expected him to answer any differently.
We also got an order of onion rings ($2.50) and some beer. We scanned the case… wait. Is that a micro-brew? Wow, I think I see a Victory beer in there. I felt a little dizzy with anticipation; I really enjoy micro-brews, and they’re typically not among the choices at your average pizza restaurant. For $3 each, we got Victory’s HopDevil Ale and Troeg’s HopBack Amber Ale.
We kicked back at a table to enjoy the beers – Victory’s HopDevil had a punch to it that didn’t mellow out gulp after gulp. The website calls it “menacingly delicious.” What a great description. The Troeg’s HopBack was much softer and more aromatic. Its smoothness was my preference of the night.
The onion rings came first. There were exactly 10 small ones in the basket. I remember thinking they were rather inexpensive. And now I knew why. I was surprised, having become accustomed to America’s philosophy of bigger and better, but then I was appreciative. They were good, but non-descript. Just a few fit the bill.
Finally, the pizza arrived. It was topped with pepperoni, ham, sausage, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. Right, back to the good ol’ bigger and better theory. I noted that all the ingredients were freshly prepared. No canned mushrooms here!
According to my statistical pizza analysis, the dough should have been soggy. I picked up a slice and took my first bite. Ahh, crispy crunchiness! Then the combination of all the ingredients began to come together and I was so…happy. I had found my Lancaster pizza love! I looked closely at the crust, and it was, perhaps, the thinnest crust I had ever seen. It was a beautiful golden color on the bottom, and it tasted, dare I say this about pizza, light. It was almost flaky, not like a croissant, but more like a pie crust. It was delicious, and instead of leaving my edges aside as is my custom, I ate every single bite. I couldn’t help but ask about the dough. Turns out our order-taker was Niko’s son. “Made fresh every morning,” he said. Right on.
As I ate the vestiges of my last slice, my husband watched it disappear wistfully. The only regret we had that night was not getting a Large 16” pie. But we won’t make that mistake next time.