Pizza Castle – Albuquerque, New Mexico
There’s nothing like a topic about which opinions are wide and varied to stir up a good old-fashioned, highly spirited debate–an exercise in the Constitutional right of free speech.
One topic which has been known to elicit energized dialogue is pizza. Whether the debate is New York style versus Chicago style, thin crust versus thick crust, brick wood-fired oven versus gas oven, mom-and-pop pizzeria versus the corporate chains or even slices versus whole pie, Americans sound off like England’s Houses of Parliament on CSPAN, only with more class, dignity and intelligence.
Such was the case when the forum topic “Where Can I get a good Pizza” was introduced on Albuquerque’s most popular blog, the Duke City Fix. The blogosphere became electric with debate as Duke City pizza lovers weighed in with their opinions.
As with most debates on pizza, there was nothing approaching consensus on where good pizza could be obtained. Respondents lobbied for their favorite pizza, in some cases only to have their opinions dismissed (without prejudice, of course) by others.
The topic was so wonderfully charged that it elicited a related forum topic “The Worst Pies (Pizza) in Albuquerque.” This debate also raged on with several candidates being named. Some of the pizzas named in the good pizza forum also made the worst pie list. That may be ironic, but it’s not at all surprising. Opinions about pizza really are that wide-ranging.
Ultimately, the opinion which resonated most with me was that of Adelita who declared, “I’m not sure I’ve ever met a pizza I didn’t like.”
Adelita, by the way, is a wonderful writer who shares her sweet memories of days gone by in Albuquerque every Wednesday on the Duke City Fix. I look forward to her weekly column with the same giddy anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. She’s that good.
But, I digress. One of several candidates which made both the “good pizza” and “worst pies” lists was Pizza Castle, a small pizzeria on Eubank.
Pizza Castle has been tossing dough for more than a decade and like every other pizzeria in Albuquerque, has its supporters and detractors. It’s one of several Duke City pizzerias for which supporters will invariably claim “it’s the closest to New York style pizza” in town.
Lending credence to that argument is the presence of transplanted Metropolis residents who frequent Pizza Castle ostensibly for a taste like home. In every one of our visits we’ve run into New Yorkers who tell us the castle’s pizza is “just like New York.”
There are some similarities to New York City pizzerias. First of all, the slices are enormous and have the pliability to be folded lengthwise, the way so many Big Apple residents eat their pizza. Secondly, the sauce is slathered on generously which I like only if the sauce is flavorful–and Pizza Castle’s sauce is terrific (maybe good enough for spaghetti good). Thirdly, the dough is fresh and baked only long enough for just a hint of char on the edges. Airy pockets of flavor and thick edges are another plus.
The pizza is baked in a deck-oven configuration. It bakes the pizza evenly so the edges are crispy and the rest of the pie is softer and chewy, perfect for the lengthwise fold.
Quality ingredients are also a bonus. While several Duke City pizzerias offer green chile with their pies, only a couple (Pizza Castle being one of them) will ask you if you want mild or hot chile. The chile is neon green and does have a piquant bite, but any self-respecting New Mexican will consider it fairly tame.
Pizza Castle also uses white onions which have a pronounced onion flavor–and it uses minced garlic.
Pizza is available in three sizes–a 12-inch medium, a 15-inch large and an 18-inch jumbo. Single slices are also available for a pittance plus a small charge for additional ingredients (and there are a treasure trove of those).
If you like cold pizza, ask for the jumbo so you’ll have plenty left over for the following day. Like truly great pizza, the Pizza Castle’s pies are nearly as good cold as they are out of the oven.
The Pizza Castle also serves sandwiches: six- and twelve-inch cold sandwiches with a variety of condiments and five- and ten-inch hot sandwiches (sausage, meatball and chicken).
The Pizza Castle’s take-out business is booming. Could it be because there is very little ambience of which to speak? To say the building which houses the Castle is showing its age is an understatement.
The counter in which you place and pick up your order is bedecked in 1960s style faux wood paneling. Red vinyl booths are in dire need of reupholstering. The time-worn carpet has been trod on heavily and is frayed and tattered in places. The ceiling tiles are stained and indecorous. Come to think of it, I’ve visited a few places in New York City with nearly the same ambiance.
Okay, so maybe the Pizza Castle has as much style and panache as a castle dungeon, but one bite of a just-out-of-the-oven slice and you won’t remember what the restaurant looks like.
I’m not sure why the Pizza Castle was mentioned on the Duke City Fix forum’s “worse pies in Albuquerque” discussion. Perhaps the complainant was having a bad day which I suggest would be much improved by reading Lita’s latest musings.
1309 Eubank Blvd, N.E.
LATEST VISIT: 22 March 2008
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Jumbo Pizza with green chile, black olives, onion and sausage; cheese pizza slice