grade: a- (group grade)
even though the place has been open a while, i was the only one of the four of us who had made it in here before, which is a bit unusual. i am thinking that is probably because they tend to be crowded... and the other people were either fans of punch (two of them) or pizza nea (one). i fell in neither camp (even before i came here the first time), as i was typically unhappy with how soggy the crust at punch can get, and i had never made it to nea, thinking it was probably like punch only different (hey, i may be wrong on that).
they have a few starter things on the menu (salads, meatballs, bread, olives), but we all opted for just the pizza. no one went for one listed on the menu, we each started with a 12" one (most started with the cheese one, $7 base price, $6 for the cheeseless one) and added toppings. i went this way as i recall my slight problem with the oyster mushroom, smoked mozzarella and rosemary pie i had before was the lack of sauce. a 12" will get you dinner and either breakfast or lunch the next day,depending on your appetite.
sauce. no one thought it was the best pizza sauce ever, but most prefer it to much of what you find around town at similar places. (alas, the twin cities is not a pizza haven and sometimes you have to take what you can get.... my opinion only... when i mention this to people some of them didn't like me saying that.) like many of their ingredients, i think it was the freshness of the sauce that made it edge out some of the others. but everything from the cracked green olives to the red pepper flakes oozes freshness. it's not sat on your table since the place opened. so that's some major points in their favor. the red pepper flakes helped balance the careful neutrality of the sauce nicely.
the very fresh ingredients are $2 on the 12" pizzas. i kind of wish they'd redo some of their pricing. i don't think adding garlic or green pepper on your pizza should cost the same as adding goat cheese or fennel sausage. those who had the sausage were really into it, by the way. (pointless aside- why do they not have any kind of sheep's cheese as an extra topping?) i added oyster mushrooms and said goat cheese for a total price of $11 (the sauceless pizza above is listed at $13).
the sauce worked wonders, and i think the goat cheese worked out a lot better for me than the smoked mozzarella with the strength and flavor of the cheese- it's more agressive. i think it'd maybe go with the goat cheese and olive combo someone had. they also had capers, i wouldn't go there, but perhaps the mushrooms would work... i'm already wanting to go back.
i got there early and the staff was all friendly. i'm not overly fond of their policy of not seating until everyone gets there, though. i can see it on insanely busy nights, but having to hover at the bar squished next to a large party of people wasn't my first choice when there's empty tables. but i guess that may be easier for them. i wonder if they were less busy (that is to say not insanely packed) due to the winter, the day, or that they are now open for lunch.
and we had a vessel of water on the table, so refills weren't a problem.
we decided the atmosphere was urban basement (in a good way) vs. just basement (like chambers kitchen used to be, complete with ducts). you feel like you're in a very specific place and in city, versus a chain where you could be anyplace anywhere. the windows help. i liked the art, both the sheep and non-sheep. too bad they didn't use their logo in some of it. it's very likeable.
in the end, though, it comes down to this, i think- did black sheep win over converts from punch? or pizza nea?
probably not. the grades were a b+ (from the toughest grader who pretty much lives for punch pizza and thought the crust got a bit chewy after being out of the oven for a while... but to me that's way better than the soggy mess that punch can be) and two gave it an a-, who saw quite a lot merits here (especially regarding my crust argument and the freshness, as freshness is important). they'd go back, but it's out of their way more than punch or nea is.
i gave it an a, as it remains my favorite pizza in the area... and i am only grading it against twin cities pizza. because i think there's better stuff in the world of pizza... just not anywhere in this state that i know of.
© the bent sun as risen