While it's luxe loncheras and blueberry doughnuts that currently receive all the local media (both dinosaur and social) buzz, the art of the pizza has quietly spread across the county: New York-style dives at which Mickey Mantle and Mark Sanchez hold the same hallowed wall space maintained for the Virgin of Guadalupe at Mexican restaurants, fast-food-style and high-end (Pizzeria Mozza just opened a location in Newport Beach), buffets and hand-crafted, vegan and not.
But the most audacious pizza experiment is happening just down the street from Cal State Fullerton, where Pie-ology has set up shop with the promise of allowing eaters to customize pies à la the Counter and Chipotle (it also took the burrito titan's love of butcher paper, hip music and a streamlined design, but that's neither here nor there). A list of possibilities greets you at the counter—takes on a white pizza, a margherita, barbecue and other favorites—but then the nice kids at the counter ask you if that's it. You'll try to stay pure, concentrating on simple, straightforward flavors . . . but no (or more like the stream of yeses that ends Ulysses, but that's neither here nor there).
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From someone grabbing a disk of raw dough and brushing it with olive oil to someone else throwing ingredients from a construction line of veggies and meats on it to someone throwing it into an always-raging furnace to someone calling your name takes about five minutes, if that—and that's during the busy times. But speed doesn't transform your meal into cardboard. These pizzas are not just good; they're great: thin-crust, crispy, sturdy, large but not gut-busting. Priced at a little less than $8 for a personal pizza cut four ways, Pie-ology is almost as great as the legendary pizza-by-the-slice shrines of the East Coast, except you don't suffer much grease and the ingredients are high-quality. The pineapple remains juicy, jalapeños sting, and the fat slices of Roma tomato sing like a Tuscan holiday. Sit down at a private table or the communal one, or ogle the cute coeds at the couches, but the pizza is the main distraction.
The Pie-ology people will surely turn the company into a chain, so catch it now while it's a work in progress (Ding-Dongs at the end of the cashier counter, stacked like pyramids, for dessert? Cute). And that's perfectly fine. Chipotle, for all its hipster vibe, does put out a quality product. But Pie-ology is humbler about its innovation and has a better upswing—you read it here first.
This column appeared in print as "Pizza Possibilities."