The positive spirit of the placeI love places that proudly sponsor Little League teams and Scout troopstempered my disappointment after taking out Rockstar's basic Cheese Pizza ($7.99-$11.99). Featuring a sea of cheese over a barely noticeable sauce and undistinguished crust, with no indication that any slicing had been attempted, it wasn't even worth saving the leftovers. The Veggie Lovers Pizza (like all of Rockstar's specialty pizzas $5.99-$15.99) didn't fare much better. The mushrooms, black olives, green olives, onions, green and roasted red peppers and roma tomatoes were there in abundance, but they seemed dumped on, never harmonizing with the cheese below.
Just a bad day? A rookie in the kitchen? I don't know. But pizza, like a concert, should never disappoint its fan baseand I'm a fan of all kinds of pizza. More successful was the Tex-Mex Pizza, with a flavorful base of chili-spiced beef, red onions, and jalapenos covered with mozzarella and provolone, and then completed, post-oven, with roma tomato, diced lettuce, colby-jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Sour cream and salsa are provided for dipping. Warning: it's best right out of the oven.
Other specialty pies include a Baked Potato Pizza with cheddar cheese, ham, onion, bacon and thin-sliced kettle chips and the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza.
Another new-ish pizzeria with cultural clout, Fountain Square's Gusto!, is housed in the Murphy Art Center (1043 Virginia Ave., 631-5113). Its Massimo Carne creation ($7.99-$16.99), while not overly ambitious, had just the right mix of prosciutto, chunk sausage, thin pepperoni, shavings of bacon and small squares of ham. Hugely satisfying without ever seeming to work to hard at it.
Gusto's Vegetarian pie, the yin to the Carne's yang, delivered an adequate version of the delectable tangy/salty taste sensation indicative of a block olive and sun dried tomato combo. Plus, they didn't scrimp on the cheese, like mainstream pizza places tend to do with veggie varieties.
Neither recipe is likely to win best-of awards, but most of the time, when it comes to pizza, I'm not looking for award-winning originality. I want the pleasure that can only come from a well-balanced, texturally pleasing pie. Gusto! pulls it off, perhaps not with gusto-that wouldn't become its cool, minimal estheticbut, rather, with an understanding of pizza priorities.