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DINING: Noble Roman’s redo includes craft pizza and local beer

February 25, 2017
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Creative combos at the new Noble Roman’s Craft Pizza & Pub include the deep-dish Fire in the Hole with tri-colored peppers and chorizo. And the vintage cartoons are back. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Perhaps your history with Noble Roman’s goes back to the 1970s and early 1980s when the local chain had a positive reputation for family-friendly dining, serving pizza that some people actually claimed to like.

Or perhaps you were a latecomer like me whose exposure came once Noble Roman’s had descended into a series of hit-or-miss outlets that represented the second and maybe even third choice for chain pizza. (Pizza rule-of-thumb: If Domino’s is higher on anyone’s list, you know something is really, really wrong.)

Depending on which of these camps you fall into, Noble Roman’s Craft Pizza & Pub (17409 Wheeler Road, Westfield, 317-867-3377) is either a welcome return or a serious rebranding.

Either way, it’s worth a visit to this prototype of its next-generation eateries.

Here’s how the latest iteration works.

Upon entering, you are handed a menu paddle with a set of 14 pizzas along with a topping list in case you want to take the “Craft Your Own” route. There’s also a small set of baked subs, pastas and salads. You order at the counter and take your table number to your seat, where the food is delivered.

What’s new for Noble Roman’s is a bar area, complete with a few stools, where representative beers from Upland, Triton, Three Floyds, Sun King and Daredevil are among the draft offerings, along with wine that, for the most part, pours at $6.50 a glass. There’s also a Dusting and Drizzling Station for enhancing your dining choices with standards like red pepper but also with rosemary-infused olive oil or honey.

Television monitors air not only sports programming, but also old-school cartoons. And there’s a glass-enclosed area for watching the dough being made.

My two visits took on very different tones. At one, there was no contact by staff once my pizza was delivered. On another, a very friendly crew cleared items from the table when done, offered to refill drinks, and otherwise added effervescent pleasantness to the experience.

As to what emerges from the kitchen, the Hand-rolled Breadsticks & Dip (3/$2.79, 6/$4.99, 12/$8.99) remain doughy and dull, but the pizzas have been noticeably freshened up. Whether deep-dish or traditional, the prices are $6.99/$12.99/$17.99 for signature pizzas and $6.49/$11.99/$16.49 for house pizzas—although it’s unclear what distinguishes house from signature. Craft Your Own Pizzas begin at $4.99/$8.99/$11.99 with toppings adding 50 cents/$1/$1.50.

Our choices included an individual deep-dish Fire in the Hole ($6.49), which generated a bit of heat without becoming fully enflamed. Chorizo sausage, tri-colored jalapenos and white onion were in strong supply under the blanket of cheddar cheese but were surprisingly dominated by the satisfyingly thick-but-crisp crust. At this price point, it certainly beat those produced by the rising tide of fast-baked outlets.

The Yucatan Sunset deep dish ($6.49) relied on Peruvian sweet peppers, chorizo sausage and white mushrooms to live up to its colorful name. And while it didn’t quite light up the sky, it was better than the medium traditional Cheese Fantasia ($11.99). Here, mozzarella, Muenster, provolone, feta and gorgonzola shared the surface but hardly added up to a $12 pie. Its overall mass seemed smaller than the filling individual deep-dish versions.

That said, I can’t recall ever paying this much attention to a Noble Roman’s pizza—which says something about the success of the makeover.•

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