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DINING: Maria's and Greek's pizzerias stake out new territory

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Dining - A&E
Context can have nearly as much to do with a pizza's success as dough, tomato sauce, and cheese. As evidence, let's consider two established pizza purveyors staking out new territory.

For over half a century, southsiders—including the designer of this page—have been fans of Maria's. But a new audience has been exposed thanks to the business's move to Fountain Square (1106 Prospect St., 786-9283).

The trappings are a treat. Imagine a branch of the Abbey Coffeehouse devoted to pizza and you'll already have some sense of the interior. Tastefully casual, the roomy space features mismatched chairs, a fireplace, a tabletop checker set, and a magazine rack (why don't more luncheries have a magazine rack? Just asking.), all combining with other quirky characteristics to make for a homey, decidedly non-traditional parlor.

While full pies are available during midday hours, a co-worker and I opted for the $5 slice/salad/drink lunch specials. A quartet of slices were offered and, wanting to sample more than two, we opted to add additional slabs for $2.50 each. (A choice we'd recommend for anyone with more than a 1950s appetite.)

We quickly discovered that Maria's doesn't offer the sort of tomato pie that immediately wins you over. Subtle in flavor—and on the small-ish side—this isn't a "Wow" experience. Even the topping on the signature sauerkraut slice (yes, sauerkraut) seemed restrained. Still, for atmosphere, importance to the neighborhood, free parking, and friendly table service by the proprietors, attention should be paid.

Another instance of location having a significant impact is Greek's (834 E. 64th St., 465-9111), a recent addition to the Broad Ripple pizza world. Greek's homey locations have proven popular in Fishers and Muncie, but the competition in Broad Ripple is, if not tougher, at least denser. Bazbeaux, Union Jack, Hot Box and others are already anchored in the pizza-saturated area. Any newcomer would be advised to focus on quality control from pie 1.

We opted for take out, since a Colts-game-best-forgotten was about to begin. An unintentionally blackened Meatball Shell ($5.74-linguistic note: they call a Stromboli a "Shell" here), an undercooked cheese pizza ($6.56-13.31), and a Greek salad ($4.96) sans dressing diminished our enthusiasm when we unpacked at home.

The Gourmet Wings Pizza ($8.90-$21.56) was dominated by its sweet, watery BBQ sauce rather than the chicken and spices. White Pizza ($7.25-$16.52)—a delicious blend of cheeses on hearth-baked dough—was the highlight of the meal.

All Greek's pizzas offer wheat crust as an option at no extra charge. A nice touch.

Had we dined on-site, the red checkered-tablecloth, license-plate-bedecked dinning room would have been a comfortable suburban-basement-like place to partake. Plus, it would have been easier to register our kitchen disappointments.
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