Editor’s note: There are lots of great restaurants in Tucson, but many serve similar menus. Taste-Off is our way of helping you decide where to spend your hard-earned cash.
By DAVID MENDEZ
Service: On a Sunday at 1 p.m., the place was packed. We were told we’d have to wait 20 minutes for a table, but only waited half that long. Once seated, service was quick but not outstanding.
Ambiance: Oregano’s tries to live up to its “Neighborhood Pizza Bistro” claim. Kitschy decorations abound. It’s what Applebee’s would be if it were Italian and didn’t have high school gear on the walls. The smell of marinara permeates the premises.
Food: Appetizers arrived quickly and piping hot. The garlic bread and marinara sauce were just right. My chicken wings were, surprisingly, some of the best I’ve had in Tucson. The small, fried drumsticks were coated with a tasty vinegar-based sauce.
The pizza was the biggest letdown. If a pizzeria can’t make a decent thin-crust margherita (cheese, tomato sauce and basil), they’ve got nothing worth eating. The ingredients were fresh and delicious, but Oregano’s skimped on the sauce. I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
Extras: It was slightly off-putting to hear every employee greet us with a “Hello, welcome!” as we walked to our table. The prices were much better than I expected. Our meal (two appetizers and a specialty pizza, water to drink) was under $30.
Final thoughts: Unfortunately, Oregano’s just didn’t impress me this trip. Everything but taste was top-notch and for that, I just can’t give my endorsement.
Address: 4900 E. Speedway Blvd.
Hours: Open daily 11a.m.-10 p.m.
By KYLE WASSON
Service: On my latest trip, Manager Dave Simmons was busy as usual but greeted us immediately. Before you can sit down, Dave shouts your drink order across the bar. The fun but fast-paced staff informs you about the menu without gimmicks, and gets your food out quickly.
Ambience: Grimaldi’s embraces “New Yorker” style in a warm, relaxed environment. It may look small, but there is plenty of room inside, on the patio and at the bar. The coal-fired brick oven fills the room with an exquisite smell. It’s a perfect place to catch up on Sports Center or watch some pizza tossing.
Food: Grimaldi’s is old school, in a good way, with a classic menu: Pizza, calzones, salads and antipasto, NOT pasta. All pies are thin-crust and available in many different sauce and topping variations. The low-moisture personally crafted mozzarella is from Wisconsin. Fresh tomatoes come from a private grower and the oven coal arrives by train from Pennsylvania.
Pizza is served piping hot (900-1200F for 7-10 mins.) and tastes like pizza should. Our white pesto pie with onions, pepperoni and sausage was flawless. Order a slice of homemade cheesecake to end the meal.
Extras: The coal-fired brick oven accomplishes what other ovens cannot. The lighting and heating of the coals, called “stoking,” takes place each day around 4 p.m. Grab a drink at the bar and ‘stoke’ a little.
Address: 446 N. Campbell Ave.
Hours: Open daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.