[Hole in the Wall] Calzones Away at Buccaneer Pizza in Santa Ana
“Does the world need another pizza brand? No. Does the world need a better pizza brand? Absolutely,” reads the “About Us” page on Buccaneer Pizza’s website, and truer culinary words haven’t been spoken since Esquire named In-N-Out America’s best fast-food chain. When I first noticed this small pizzeria—squeezed next to the Santa Ana part of the 22 freeway, as Grand Avenue turns into Glassell Street—I figured it was a Zpizza rip-off, the owner a fool. With so many chains available and a general American tolerance for low-quality pizza as long as someone melted the cheese at some point in time and the toppings were somewhat edible, who wants to throw away their money on such a concept?
As usual, I was the pendejo. Buccaneer is a basic pizzeria—you can find most of the “specialty” pizzas at other places, but the trinity of crust, cheese and sauce manifested on every slice bests any local pizzeria to open this decade not named Ortica. Cooks at the restaurant create the marinara sauce, a tangy-sweet potion of tomatoes and basil that coats the pizza evenly; the mozzarella base features the cheese’s trademark milky sweetness and isn’t the bland afterthought of so many other pies. And the crust crunches but remains billowy—you can lift a slice without fear of it drooping, and it won’t crack your molars. My favorite is the margherita, simply prepared with Roma slices, basil slivers and herbs—pizza at its perfection. No matter your selection, each pizza is bigger, thicker and more packed with ingredients than the competition, with a negligible price difference.
Buccaneer sells other items—massive heroes, okay pastas, a garlic bread that redeems the meal and generously portioned salads. But the other noteworthy dish is the calzone. Huge! Golden outside, steaming inside and with a ricotta-mozzarella one-two so potent it nearly overwhelms your palate. But the chefs know their way around cheese, and the ingredients stuffed inside—red onions, fresh meats, even artichoke—are bold enough to counterbalance. And the chicken-cordon-bleu calzone? So rich and intoxicating it’d be outlawed in a dry county, or at least banned from consumption on Sundays.
I do want more from Buccaneer, though, but it’s just wishful thinking. Maybe ustedes can help?The vibe, two flat-screen televisions, and constant stream of families and kiddies makes it a natural to become Central County’s version of Larry’s Pizza, the iconic Fullerton eatery where generations of li’l athletes congregate after a victory and the official OC Oakland Raiders booster club retreat each Sunday. Buccaneer is too small for this right now, but it’s a reachable goal as long as they keep the pizza oven roaring and the buffalo wings extra-hot.
Buccaneer Pizza, 2757 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 639-9610; www.buccaneerpizza.com.
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