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Published October 18, 2011, 11:30 PM

In the round: Newest F-M pizza joints judged by experts

FARGO – Like the crusty edges of a tasty pie, options for local pizzas have been plumping up lately. Though Fargo-Moorhead is in no danger of a local pizza overload, the area has seen at least three spots with a home-owned pizza product open since last May.

By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM

FARGO – Like the crusty edges of a tasty pie, options for local pizzas have been plumping up lately.

Though Fargo-Moorhead is in no danger of a local pizza overload, the area has seen at least three spots with a home-owned pizza product open since last May.

There’s a new location for by-the-slice joint Spicy Pie – by the North Dakota State University campus in north Fargo, a complement to the Spicy Pie on Broadway in downtown Fargo – as well as Grand Forks transplant Rhombus Guys on Main Avenue in Fargo and Pizza Nico, a delivery and takeout place, in downtown Moorhead.

For an Italian-informed take on how the new slices stack up, we staged a blind taste test with all three of the new restaurants and a local stalwart, Gina’s, the in-house pizzeria at The Bowler, as a control group for comparison purposes.

Tapped as judges were Marino Eccher, a reporter at The Forum with Italian lineage and a palette that allows for willful consumption of the cardboard-like “party pizzas” of Totino’s; and Tony and Sarah Nasello, the couple behind the fine Italian dining at Sarello’s in Moorhead. Because pizza is so egalitarian, the opinions of both gourmands and human garbage disposals seemed germane.

Two disclaimers: Because The Forum has no waiters and not all of the places delivered, there was a long enough delay from getting the slices to testing them to require a gentle reheat session in the microwave. Also, whatever specialty most closely resembled a traditional supreme was the topping of choice to give the judges as much to judge as possible.

Rhombus Guys

The newest pizza on the block got high marks for its chewy crust, a peppery sauce with a little kick and fresh ingredients.

Sarah Nasello said it was clear the mushrooms were of the fresh variety, without the tell-tale sliminess of canned ’shrooms.

Eccher, the supposed Mr. Eat Anything, lodged one complaint, saying that the olives tended to overpower everything else because of an uneven distribution of toppings. All three agreed it was a concern, as was too scant a heaping of sauce.

Tony Nasello said the toppings were generally heavier on top than how he likes it.

“My philosophy is less is more,” he said.

RATING (OUT OF 5)

Eccher 4, Sarah 4, Tony 3

Pizza Nico

With what Eccher called a dense jungle of toppings, Nico’s

supreme could have had the same issues with scattershot, bite-dependent flavor Rhombus’ slices had.

But it didn’t.

“It’s all happening at once,” Eccher said.

“You can tell there was more thought put into it,” Sarah Nasello said.

Tony Nasello, emerging as the Simon Cowell of this panel, wasn’t convinced. The pizza still didn’t pack enough of a tomato punch for him.

“Pizza, it’s all about the tomatoes,” he said.

His wife and Eccher said there was a bit of a Main Street-Wall Street divide on the first two entries. The one from Rhombus – this was all blind, remember, so the panelists didn’t know the providence of the pizza – struck them as gourmet, with Nico having more of a classic slice. Pair Rhombus with wine, Nico with beer.

Tony Nasello rejected the concept of approaching ’za with different expectations.

“Why can’t pizza be great all the time?” he asked.

RATING (OUT OF 5)

Eccher 4, Sarah 4, Tony 3

Gina’s

Though it’s a well-loved local pie, in some corners at least, our panelists were not impressed by Gina’s pizza.

Tony Nasello looked with confused disdain at the crust’s underside after a few bites, comparing it to a frozen-pizza crust.

Toppings-wise, there was a not-so-fresh vibe, Sarah Nasello said as she specifically called out the olives as needing an upgrade.

“That’s a big no-no,” her husband said.

Only Eccher, a perpetual pizza proponent, saw any upside. He figured Gina’s would probably be much better with just a topping or two, seeing as the ingredients were laid so thickly.

“This might be salvageable,” Eccher said.

RATING (OUT OF 5)

Eccher 2 1/2, Sarah 2, Tony 2

Spicy Pie

Since it’s all single slices with the customer’s choice of toppings at Spicy Pie – no specialties such as supreme – individual toppings of pepperoni, sausage, onion, black olive and green pepper stood in as a sorta-supreme.

Even though it was the fourth pizza they tried, the hunger retreating, both of the Nasellos were wowed by Spicy Pie’s pizza.

They both said it recalled a big New York-style pizza, especially a thin crust that obviously was subjected to the centrifugal forces of a spinning hand toss.

“Crust is No. 1 in pizza – that’s the magic,” said Tony Nasello, adding that it had the strongest tomato flavor of all the pizzas.

Sarah Nasello said it was a well-balanced, attractive-looking slice. “I got excited to eat it,” she said.

Eccher wasn’t as sold. He liked the hearty sausage but not the suspect structural integrity of the crust.

“You have to work to hold it together,” he said.

RATING (OUT OF 5)

Eccher 3, Sarah 4 1/2, Tony 4 1/2


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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