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Davido’s Pizza & More – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Davido's Pizza at its new Rio Rancho home

Davido’s Pizza at its new Rio Rancho home

Some might call the American Realty and Petroleum Company (AMREP for short) a pioneering visionary for its early 1960s purchase of over 50,000 acres on the dusty Sandoval County plains that are now Rio Rancho.  Others use different–and not necessarily as complimentary–adjectives to describe the land speculator whose clever marketing attracted hundreds of New Yorkers (among others) to the then untamed western fringes overlooking the Rio Grande. 

They came because Rio Rancho was a “lucrative investment” with half acre lots going for under $800 in the 1960s. They came because Rio Rancho offered “fishing, camping, swimming and golfing in a place where the sun shone 360 days a year.” They came to live in an area which sloped “among the greenest, most fertile valleys in the world.” 

The pizza oven at Davido's

The pizza oven at Davido’s

Middle income retirees from New York initially made up a significant percentage of Rio Rancho’s population, earning the community the sobriquet “Little New York.” The nickname is still bandied about even though Rio Rancho’s population is comprised of people from all over the country.  In its first decade, the fledgling newcomer became the sixth largest city in New Mexico and by 1990, the census indicated the city had grown to more than 32,000 residents. It grew by almost 20,000 residents by the millennium and as of 2009, is already the third most populous city in New Mexico.

Demographically, the City of Vision has become younger, and while it still attracts retirees, its growth is primarily attributable to first-time buyers moving to Rio Rancho for the quality of life advantages it offers (even without fishing and camping). Among the most apparent vestiges of the New York lifestyle in Rio Rancho is the sheer number of high quality pizzerias, many of them which launched years after the peak migration of New Yorkers.

A slice of cheese pizza with green chile

A slice of cheese pizza with green chile

In New York, pizza is practically a religion with nearly than 1700 restaurants in “Metropolis” containing the words “pizza” or “pizzeria” in their name. Not even in terms of per-capita can Rio Rancho boast of such pizza prominence, but it can sing the praises of  highly regarded New York style pizzerias  Sal-E-Boy’s Pizzeria and Venezia’s Pizzeria as well as a very popular gourmet pizza interloper, Turtle Mountain Brewing Company and Dion’s, a local chain.

Add Davido’s Pizza & More to the list of Rio Rancho pizzerias with a claim to the New York pizza heritage. The family patriarch (not named Davido) is indeed a transplanted New Yorker though it is his daughter and son-in-law who own and manage the restaurant. The restaurant opened in April, 2008.  Davido’s was initially situated just about as far north as you can go in Rio Rancho before you’re on Santa Ana Pueblo. It made Placitas, Bernalillo, Santa Ana Pueblo and northern Rio Rancho happy that they no longer had to order pizza  from nearby chains Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s.

A Meat Stromboli from Davido's in Rio Rancho

A Meat Stromboli from Davido’s in Rio Rancho

In February, 2013, Davido’s moved to a more centrally located location in Rio Rancho. Now situated on heavily trafficked Southern Boulevard, Davido’s now occupies the space previously occupied by Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus and prior to that Rocco’s Pizzeria.  All vestiges of Dagmar’s are completely gone.  In terms of ambiance, you can probably describe Davido’s as “utilitarian.”  With only one two-person table for diners to sit, it’s designed as a take-out and delivery operation.  Utilitarian does not, however, mean impersonal.  Davido’s remains a family-owned, family-operated restaurant run by a very nice family which appreciates your business.

The “more” in the restaurant’s name includes five different salads, sandwiches (6-, 9- or 12-inch), stromboli and calzones. The appetizer line-up features bread sticks, cheese bread sticks and wings. For dessert there is cheesecake, chocolate cake, cannoli, fruit cup and tiramisu.  Pizzas come in three sizes–12-, 18- and 24-inches. Features pizzas include the Mexican (refried beans, green chili, mozzarella, Cheddar, lettuce and tomato), the Hawaiian (Canadian bacon and pineapple), the Greek (garlic sauce, spinach, mozzarella, black olive, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta), BBQ chicken, veggie and even a Pizza Bianca (no red sauce).

Lasagna

Lasagna

No pizza menu would be complete without a pizza adorned solely with cheese. Some purists will argue that the crusty canvas needs no other topping.  Davido’s cheese pizza is very good. Sauce is slathered on generously, but not so much that it overwhelms the rest of the pizza. The crust is chewy and pliable; you can easily fold it over vertically the way some New Yorkers like to eat their pizzas.

A combination pizza I recommend with great enthusiasm includes green chile, black olives, sausage, white onions and garlic. Davido’s uses a garlic paste instead of minced garlic, but it’s got plenty of garlicky zest. The green chile would barely register on any piquancy scale, but it has a nice flavor. The sausage has nearly as much piquant bite as does the green chile.

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Italian (prosciutto, capicola, salami) Sandwich

Right out of the oven, the crust has the intoxicating, memory-triggering aroma of baked bread. The edges are thick and have plenty of air holes, but what they have most of is the flavor of bread just out of the oven. There’s relatively little black char on the bottom of the crust.   It’s a good pizza  Rio Rancho will love and for which Placitas pizza aficionados such as my friend Dave will drive just a bit further.

5 April 2013: They’ll also love the Stromboli, an Italian turnover stuffed with various cheeses, vegetables and meats.  Carnivores will gravitate to one called simply “Meaty” because that’s what engorges its golden sheened crust.  The meats include pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage and spicy ground beef topped with melted mozzarella.  Omnivores who like a lot of vegetables with their meats will enjoy the Italian Stromboli which is stuffed with finely chopped green pepper, white onion, black olive with capicola and ham.

Pizza Pinwheels (cheese, pepperoni)

Pizza Pinwheels (cheese, pepperoni)

5 April 2013: The menu also includes several pastas: spaghetti with bread (to which you can add meatballs), ravioli, fettuccini Alfredo (to which you can add grilled chicken), lasagna and baked ziti.  The lasagna portion is large enough for two, not that you’d want to share.  It’s layers of pasta, ground beef and melted mozzarella slathered with a rich, red sauce.  The ground beef is nicely seasoned and the sauce straddles a fine line between sweet and savory.  It’s a surprisingly good lasagna considering it won’t be quite as oven warm when you get it home. 

27 April 2013: Sandwiches for all weather are a popular draw.  Summertime means cold sandwiches such as the Italian (prosciutto, capicola, salami) which is available in six-, nine- or twelve-inch sizes.  Sandwiches are crafted with lettuce, tomatoes, provolone and your choice of mayo, mustard or Italian dressing and a bag of chips.  The Italian is terrific and it starts with an excellent bread canvas.  The bread is soft and chewy, more than formidable enough to hold in all the flavors.  In the winter, you’ll want a hot hero: meatball, chicken parmesan, sausage parmesan, eggplant parmesan or sausage, peppers and onions.  The hot heroes are available only in six-inch size.

New Mexican Cheesesteak Sandwich

New Mexican Cheesesteak Sandwich

27 April 2013: Michael Gonzales, the affable owner of Cafe Bella and a classically trained chef with serious kitchen cred, is a huge fan of one of the smallest items on the Davido’s menu.  That would be pizza pinwheels, an appetizer available in quantities of six or twelve.  Pizza pinwheels resemble cinnamon rolls, but instead of icing, these scrumptious spirals are “iced” with tomato sauce and cheese.  As with much of the Davido’s menu, what makes these special is the delicious bread on which they’re made.  These soft pinwheels are absolutely addictive. 

12 February 2014: One of the highlights of serving as a judge at the 2014 Taste of Rio Rancho was the opportunity to sample some of the City of Vision’s very best foods, some of which were new to me. At the risk of losing my impartiality, one of my very favorite entries was the New Mexican Cheesesteak from Davido’s. “What,” you ask “is a New Mexico cheesesteak?” It’s essentially a Philly cheesesteak on a tortilla with the uniquely New Mexico touch (never mind what the mayor of Denver says) of green chile. More than the sum of its components, it’s sheer deliciousness: lean beef, ribbons of not-quite-caramelized onions, fragrant green peppers, molten white cheese and pleasantly piquant green chile. The tortilla is bursting at the seams with a moist, flavorful Cheesesteak our state legislature should consider for candidacy as the official New Mexico state sandwich.

Philly Cheesesteak

Philly Cheesesteak

12 February 2014: In addition to the New Mexico Cheesesteak, Davido’s offers a Philly Cheesesteak that hearkens back to the days of its predecessor tenant, Rocco’s Pizza. Call it heresy if you will, but Davido’s Philly might be better than Rocco’s. I can only say “might be” because my Kim would only give me one bite of her sandwich. The most obvious difference from Rocco’s is the moistness and texture of the beef. Where Rocco’s used waifishly thin shaved beef, Davido’s slices its beef into strips, retaining moistness and flavor. The creamy white cheese is rich and unctuous, so much better than the Cheez Whiz you’ll find on South Philadelphia’s mean streets.

Davido’s Pizza & More has given Rio Rancho residents another New York inspired pizza and so much more restaurant to call its own.

Davido’s Pizza & More
2418 Southern Blvd
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 234-6955
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 12 February 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 20
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Cheese Pizza (by the slice), Pizza, Cannoli, Meat Stromboli, Italian Stromboli, Lasagna, Italian Sandwich, Pizza Pinwheels, New Mexico Cheesesteak, Philly Cheesesteak 

Davido's Pizza & More on Urbanspoon

Wise Pies Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Wise Pies Pizza

The connection between the Mafia and pizza is hardly novel. Throughout the fruited plain you’ll find any number of pizzerias sporting Mafioso names, including Godfather’s Pizza with which Duke City diners are well acquainted. It can be debated elsewhere that the Mafia-pizza connection is an offensive Italian stereotype, but no public outcry seems forthcoming as there was when the “Frito Bandido” was used to sell corn chips. In any case, if stereotypes have any basis in truth, the “pizza connection trial” in the 1980s helped perpetuate those stereotypes. That trial centered around the use of independently-owned pizza parlors as Mafia fronts for narcotics sales and collections.

In January, 2014, Michael Baird, the impresario who brought us Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse and Prime launched the first of several planned pizza restaurants which, much like their elder scions, embrace the storied history and machinations of the Mafia–thematically and whimsically, not operationally. The restaurant’s name, “Wise Pies” is a not-so-thinly-veiled play on the Mafia term “wise guys,” which describes someone who is part of a secret criminal organization (can you say Mafia?). Even the specialty pizzas, called “La Cosa Nostra” on the menu, include such familiar organized crime syndicate names as Luciano, Gambino and Bonanno.

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The toppings bar where you’ll find thousands of options

The Mafia theme extends to the name tags worn by Wise Pies employees. Names such as The Enforcer, The Muscle and Gams (she is cute) may sound as if they were they gleaned from any of a number of Mafia nickname generators on the Internet, but they’re actually descriptive of their bearers. The Enforcer, for example, is the shift manager, ostensibly a “capo” or captain within the “family.” The greeter wears a Prohibition era style fedora, today often referred to as a “gangster” (as opposed to “gangsta”) hat. Faux Chicago brick lines the walls.

Despite all the money spent developing the Wise Pies concept, children of all ages will invariably gravitate toward the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine which dispenses dozens of Coca-Cola product flavors. The mad scientist in you might want to mix and match different flavor options, but foodies among us will concentrate our creativity in building our own custom pizza or modifying one of the aforementioned specialty pizzas to our exacting specifications. The options are plentiful—and quick. On the conveyor oven heated to about 600 degrees, your pizza will be ready in just over three minutes. It will probably take you longer than that to decide what you want on your pizza.

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The Bonanno

The eight specialty pizzas on the La Cosa Nostra section of the menu are all prix-fixe at under seven dollars. That prix-fixe rate  also applies to build-your-own. Build your own options include four crusts (including a gluten-free option) made on the premises, five different sauces and six cheeses. Eight meats–including some unique options such as gabagool (capicola in the vernacular of non-family members), green chile chorizo and Andouille sausage—will appease carnivores while vegetarians will find some sixteen veggies to sate their cravings.  The ingredients are of high quality, especially the sausage which is made by the Vernon’s butchers.

Because the people-pleasing staff at Wise Pies won’t balk at requests to modify even the specialty pizzas, you can truly have them your way. For me, the selling point on the Bonanno is the spicy barbecue sauce (on par with the Turtle Mountain’s Habanero stout barbecue sauce for flavorful heat) while the roasted chicken should be whacked. No problem. The pizzaiolis swapped the chicken for gabagool and Italian sausage, perfect complements for caramelized onions, a provolone cheese blend, roasted red peppers, banana peppers and feta cheese, only about half those ingredients starting off as part of the Bonanno. My additions (pizza my way) proved quite satisfying, making for a good, solid pizza.

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The Siciliano

Similarly my Kim customized The Siciliano (roasted red pepper marinara, gabagool, Italian sausage, red onions, roasted garlic and a Provolone cheese blend), opting for a double portion of roasted garlic. If these specialty pies are indicative of other Wise Pie offerings, capos and their crews as well as families will enjoy Wise Pies. Each pizza is about nine-inches around with a thin crust formidable enough to hold up to all the ingredients you might pile on to your pie. The quick-baking process imbues each pizza with a light brown char. Being thin-crusted, there’s not much of a cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza. With only nine-inches of crusty canvas, that’s a good thing because it means more ingredients, less bread.

Wise Pies offers three (Greek, Classic Caesar, Garden) salads as well as a build your own salad option with four dressing options. Sweet stuff includes a chocolate chip cookie, an apple cinnamon pizza and Wise Pies Gourmet Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Bars. The chocolate bars are made especially for Wise Pies by Joliesse Chocolates of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The chocolate bars are kept in the freezer until ordered so they’re cold and hard if you bite into them immediately. Give them a couple of minutes and you’ll bite into some of the best chocolate in town. The milk chocolate bar is filled with salted butter caramel while the dark chocolate bar is imbued with hazelnut gianduja.  Both are terrific!

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For dessert, Wise Pies Dark Chocolate bar and Wise Guys Gourmet Chocolate Bar

Albuquerque’s first Wise Pies on Alameda is relatively small at 1,600 square feet, but it offers two patios for Albuquerque’s sunny days. Ultimately, Michael Baird plans to open more than a dozen Wise Pie franchises throughout the Land of Enchantment with stores in Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Roswell planned.

There’s a code of silence in the Mafia called “omerta” to which members have to swear when they join the Family. Mafiosos and pizza aficionados alike won’t be able to keep silent about Wise Pies, a pizzeria with great value and customization opportunities which truly let you have pizza the way you want it.

Wise Guys Pizza
4545 Alameda Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 821-5260
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: The Bonanno, The Siciliano, Dark Chocolate Bar, Gourmet Chocolate Bar

Wise Pies on Urbanspoon

Brickyard Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Brickyard Pizza on Central Avenue across the street from the University of New Mexico

Brickyard Pizza on Central Avenue across the street from the University of New Mexico

“The Brickyard” is the commonly used nickname for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. A Duke City pizzeria with the sobriquet Brickyard Pizza launched near the University of New Mexico in August, 2004, but has absolutely nothing to do with the famous race. It isn’t even affiliated with Albuquerque’s famous racing family, the Unsers, several of whom have won motor racing’s crown jewel.

Brickyard Pizza occupies the Brick Light District area edifice which previously housed Rebar, an eclectic Asian inspired restaurant which just wasn’t an economic or conceptual fit for the collegiate demographic.  Cash-strapped students who subsist on a diet of the four food groups–frozen food, fast food, canned food and when they can get it, free food–just didn’t get Rebar.  For one thing, Rebar didn’t serve pizza, the favorite food of collegians across the fruited plain, a food students love so much it would be every university’s mascot were it not for the boards of regions.

Our amiable server bringing a beverage to our table

Our amiable server bringing a beverage to our table

Entrepreneurial founder Derek Young understood what the college crowd wanted: pizza, beer, big screen televisions, free Internet access and wireless connections in an unpretentious and informal ambiance–the quintessential college hang-out experience.  Beer and pizza alone make it better than being at home.  Even better is having attractive servers bring them to your table.  It’s certainly not  pandering if you give your demographic what they want and Brickyard Pizza has been doing just that for nearly a decade. 

Thematically, Brickyard Pizza proudly affiliates with the University of New Mexico Lobos without overdoing it.  The menu includes breadsticks, a calzone (“zoni”) and a pizza prefaced with the name “Lobo.”  There are also a zoni and a pizza named “The Neal” for Lobo men’s basketball coach Craig Neal.  It had previously been named the “Alford” until the immaculately coiffed former coach announced his departure for ostensibly green(back)er pastures.  While the dapper Alford can probably identify with pesto and chicken, for the fiery Neal perhaps green chile, jalapenos and Sriracha sauce might be more appropriate.

Lobo Breadsticks:  Breadsticks with cheese and green chile (garlic butter dipping sauce)

Lobo Breadsticks:
Breadsticks with cheese and green chile (garlic butter dipping sauce)

Because students and other guests cannot on pizza and beer alone subsist, the menu offers four appetizers: two types of breadsticks, buffalo wings and a spinach artichoke dip. It’s not usually advisable to order a bread-based appetizer when your main course is also bread-heavy, but the hand-rolled breadsticks are hard to resist and a half order (four) won’t fill you up (though you will be tempted to order four more). The Lobo breadsticks are delightfully yeasty, fluffy knots impregnated with melted, stretchy cheese and topped with green chile. They’re addictive especially with the dipping sauce (ranch, bleu cheese, nacho cheese, garlic butter and marinara) of your choice. The garlic butter is terrific.

Pizzas are available in several sizes—from single slices to an XL Deep Dish behemoth—with a price structure for all budgets. If you find decision-making a daunting process, four specialty pizzas and four signature pizzas are already configured with ingredients which ostensibly go well together. Otherwise, you’ll ponder at length over a list of sixteen meats and cheeses and eighteen veggie toppings. The amiable Brickyard staff will also let you add or subtract an ingredient or two from one of the specialty or signature pizzas so you can truly have it your way.

The Supreme

The Supreme

We had our way with a Supreme pizza (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers and black olive) by swapping green peppers with green chile. The cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza is chewy and rigid with several air holes, all good things in my book. You can’t bend your pizza vertically as can New York style pizza. The crust is thick enough for multitudinous ingredients which are generously piled on, though because it tapers toward a thinner middle, you may have to employ your fork skills for a few bites before you can pick it up. The sauce is light and sweet with virtually no acidity.  A generous blanket of cheese is applied to the crusty canvas while the Supreme’s ingredients go very well together. After far too many visits to restaurants offering “gourmet” style pizza, Brickyard Pizza is a heaven-send.

The Lobo from the Signature Pizza menu is almost as much a winner as Coach Fishbein’s soccer teams. From an ingredient perspective, it’s rather sparse with solely the triumvirate of pepperoni, sausage and green chile piled high on a crusty canvas and slathered with Brickyard’s sauce. Frankly, when you’ve got green chile who needs much else. The chile has a pleasant piquancy and nicely roasted flavor.

Pizza Cookie

Pizza Cookie

If, miraculously, you have room for dessert, Brickyard Pizza has three options: a scoop of Vanilla ice cream, a pizza cookie and a root beer float. The pizza cookie is intriguing and delicious, albeit offering a week’s worth of calories and sugar. A warm, soft cookie is presented on a personal sized pizza pie plate then topped with your choice of toppings (chocolate, caramel, raspberry) and three scoops of ice cream. It’s a good dessert if you’ve got a very sweet tooth, but may offer a bit of an overload if you like sugar in moderation. Students probably appreciate it because their metabolisms are faster than mine.

Brickyard’s pizza is a very good option for students and pizza aficionados. Order a large pizza and those of us who prefer cold pizza will find out the next day that it’s even better out of the refrigerator than out of the oven.

Brickyard Pizza
2216 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 262-2216

LATEST VISIT: 4 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Supreme, The Lobo, Lobo Breadsticks, Pizza Cookie


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