Anyway. Theme restaurants are a strange beast. Such a fine line between homage and the kind of wanton plundering that results in a tired menu that still somehow charges $35 for a burger to nonplussed spoiled children.
So it’s with some reservation that I approach Pizza Rock, though to be fair, when I mentioned I was going, even locals were giving it the nod of approval, which took the edge off my nerves somewhat. I mean, I wasn’t NERVOUS. Worst comes to worst: I have some bad pizza and walk away. It’s not a night in Mosul or having to perform an emergency tracheotomy on a toddler or something.
First up, the branch I went to was in the throbbing heart of Fremont (old Vegas for those not up to speed) and I was damn pleased about it, having grown tired of The Strip after about 4.3 hours. Anyway, it was a busy Saturday lunchtime, and as such I had to snake past the lines at the obviously popular counter up front selling take away pies and slices. A good sign already.
As the name suggests, and as it will soon become clear if you’re not paying attention, it’s a music-themed restaurant. That music being rock music, to be completely crystal. “Ugh, I’m leaving for somewhere authentic,” I hear you say. BUT WAIT. What if I told you that the menu is designed by Tony Gemignani, a 12-time world pizza champion and essentially the Pele of pizza? What’s that? You’ll at least sit down and get a taste just out of curiosity? Well, alright then. Good choice.
I sit in a booth to the side of a largish, open plan-ish dining room, and Nirvana is playing and the first thing you notice (perhaps) is that there aren’t a million ridiculous rock artefacts crammed onto the walls and the décor is understated, if you ignore the huge truck with a yellow flame motif in the middle of things and since I’m not facing it, that’s very easy to do.
The staff are on their game from the whistle, even though there are tens of tourists needing things. One such tourist deigns it OK to wander over to my table and ask, apropos of nothing, “Hey buddy, where’s the best seafood buffet in town?” and I don’t know and feel sad I can’t help him but pleased I don’t say something sarcastic about Google.
The menu is a delight in two ways. First of all, it’s designed like a gatefold sleeve LP (ask your dad) which to me is a reassuringly visceral reminder of my vinyl-loving teenage years, when you weren’t a hipster just because you had a record player, you were just a normal person.
Secondly, when you open it up, it’s like a mini-encyclopaedia of pizza. There’s every kind: New York, Neopolitan, Roman, Californian, Chicagoan, Sicilian…you’re not going to be disappointed with the choice, is what I’m saying. DETROIT! I didn’t even know Detroit HAD a style of pizza!
I really wanted to try the limited edition (only 23 made daily) Sausage and Stout pizza but it was for two people and even my gluttony doesn’t stretch to eating that for lunch and dinner for the next two days. I went with a classic Italian Diavola, and was talked into some Calabrese-style (for which read: spicy) calamari and a chop salad, which was a BEHEMOTH that I actually did end up eating for two more days.
As much as I was ready to tolerate this place as another lazy nod at a theme, the trappings are the least interesting thing about Pizza Rock. The freshness, specificity and innovation behind the ingredients is as impressive as any artisanal joint in your town’s hippest neighbourhood, and this holds for their cocktail and beer programme, too.
What can I say? For those about to Rock, I salute you. If only I could work out why that guy thought I would know about seafood buffets. Oh, well. GREAT PLACE WOULD ROCK AGAIN.
Pizza Rock currently have five locations and you can find out more at the PIZZA ROCK WEBSITE