by Ian McNulty
Royal Street has antique shops. The Warehouse District has high-brow galleries. Mid-City? Apparently Mid-City has become the pizza district of New Orleans. Your own favorite place for pizza may be elsewhere, but I can’t think of another part of New Orleans with a higher density of pizza ovens in action. Preparing this week’s review of Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, I counted some nine other restaurants to pick up a pie within a single mile of its Mid-City location.
I live in the neighborhood and I’ve had occasion to try them all. Some in this broad range are reliably great, others are predictably bad, while others still are pleasant surprises. I’ve ranked them with some notes below.
1. Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza
4024 Canal St., 302-113 (also Uptown at: 4218 Magazine St., 894-8554)
It’s the crust, of course. This ultra-crisp style is quite unlike any other in town. Reheat leftovers in the toaster oven the next day (or after midnight) and it snaps back to the texture of crostini. I suspect the promise of Theo’s on Sundays is what got my wife through football-watching season this year.
2. Crescent Pie & Sausage Co.
4400 Banks St., 482-2426
With a feel somewhere between modern and rustic, this restaurant uses pizza as palettes for house-made meats and locally-sourced vegetables. My favorite is the hot coppa pie with peppery-sharp arugula, curling slices of spicy salami and a sour drizzle of melted blue cheese.
3. Lazaro’s Pizza & Po-boys
4413 Banks St., 483-8609
Lazaro’s looks directly across Banks Street at Crescent Pie & Sausage, but its offerings are a world apart. The pies here aspire to thin-crust, New York style. Slices are enormous, eminently foldable — even floppy — and bulbously blistered around the edges. The large pies can barely fit in the oversized pizza boxes. Toppings seem an afterthought, however, and they are usually spread very thinly across these huge canvasses of cheese and sauce. The dining room is stark, so use this as a take-out or delivery option.
134 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-7991
An old-school Creole-Italian restaurant, Venezia is cut from a different cloth than the regional Italian restaurants now in the forefront. My own default order here is a bottle of cheap Ruffino Chianti, a house salad loaded with oil and salami and the house special pizza, covered with fennel-scented Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and onions. The onions are laid on especially thick, and most of them remain crunchy, which gives this pizza a distinct texture. This doesn’t seem like the place to expect many uncommon toppings, but with options like bleu cheese, breaded veal or crawfish you can certainly customized something unique.
5. Katie’s Restaurant
3701 Iberville St., 488-6582
This backstreet neighborhood restaurant might not spring to mind for pizza, but when it finally reopened last year after a long post-Katrina hiatus a list of offbeat pizzas joined the revamped menu. This isn’t the place to get a stack of cheese pizzas to bring home, but it is the place to try the Boudreaux, a pie with cochon de lait, spinach, garlic and olive oil.
6. Wit’s Inn
141 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1000
This tavern got into the pizza business following its post-Katrina renovation too, and now it has a pretty extensive menu. The pizza is decent though no single component — crust, sauce, cheese or toppings — really stands apart. But the profusion of TVs around the barroom, including small, individual table-mounted screens, make this a good option for getting a pie while catching a game.
900 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-2155
This is a very familiar style of pizza for New Orleans, and if you’ve eaten a pie at the related Angeli’s on Decatur you’ll likely recognize Fellini’s pizzas too. Crusts are quite bready, more so than I prefer. But the toppings are at least abundant and different. Order a pizza with roasted garlic and whole soft cloves will fairly cover the pie.
8. Italian Pie
125 N. Carrollton Ave., 483-9949 (and other locations)
A local chain, recently relocated from a spot not far away on Bienville Street, this is a pretty anonymous pizza. Once the first slice as sated your immediate hunger, there’s not much to consider with these.
9. Papa John’s
231 N. Carrollton Ave., 483-8811 (and other locations)
Behold the power of coupons. Serving what I regard as strictly convenience calories, these places still seem to do a tremendous amount of business. It’s depressing to see how often this stuff is delivered to schools.
402 N. Carrolton Ave., 483-7770 (and other locations)
See above, possibly with better coupons but more annoying commercials.
And, because nothing’s simple, a few more notes:
* Yes, if you bumped out the range from Canal and Carrollton a bit, this list could include Nonna Mia, but you have to stop somewhere and I stopped at a mile.
** Olive Branch Café is well within this range, but the Mid-City branch of this local mini-chain removed pizza from its menu at the start of the new year.