|Friday, 20 April 2012|
By Matthew H Glasscock
The term “hidden gem” has become something of a cliché, especially when referring to eateries in Tuscaloosa. Since most restaurants have wisely positioned themselves among the busier thoroughfares in town, there isn't exactly a whole lot of hiding going on. Whether you're cruising down 15th Street, McFarland Boulevard, University Boulevard, or any other major street in T-town, you're bound to pass a handful of restaurants eventually. Some hot spots have even garnered renown beyond the county lines, while other restaurants simply remain beloved by the locals.
Broadway Pizzeria fits somewhere in between a locals-only destination and completely obscure. To begin with, they are located at the intersection of Rice Mine Road and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Bridge. Okay, the location isn't exactly hidden, but the area still remains a secret to some lifelong residents. The surrounding area is an amalgamation of industry, bait and tackle shops, and flourishing upper-class properties devoted to the genteel of North River. Broadway is poised directly in the middle of this cacophony of zoning and development. In spite of all of this confusion, Broadway shines as one of the true “hidden gems” this town has to offer.
I've been eating Broadway's pizza for several years. It's a staple at my day job. However, I've never actually set foot in the restaurant itself. Hell, I didn't even know where they were located until yesterday. I've enjoyed a few slices of pie here and there while at work, and I've ordered the occasional muffaletta to take home after work. All of which have always been delivered to me by the same flour- dusted woman, each and every time. Even though I've been nourished by Broadway for years, I knew it was time to first find, and then visit this esoteric bistro.
Broadway's menu is first and foremost dominated by pizza. And it should be. They make the best pizza in Tuscaloosa, hands down. Forget all of the bad chain pizza places that proliferate this town. You'll never need to call them again. Not only is Broadway cooking their pizzas in wood-fired ovens, but they're hand tossing their own dough for their New York style crusts (thin and crunchy) and serving the freshest and tastiest ingredients on each and every pie. I'm serious here. You will not eat a better pizza in Tuscaloosa.
In addition to the pizzas, Broadway is also cooking up other tasty treats. If you can actually lay your hands on a menu (the one at work is cherished and revered and has outlasted most employees) you'll notice a selection of sandwiches, calzones, wings, lasagna, spaghetti, cheese sticks, etc., all of which are cooked in the same wood-fired ovens as the pizza. Since I've already had the fine pizza numerous times and eaten the scrumptious muffaletta, I decided to try a calzone and the wings while on my visit.
The wings are my new favorite. Because the April 27th tornado claimed Mike & Ed's on 15th Street, I've been looking for a new place to get decent, non-fried wings. Mike & Ed's smoked theirs in their pit along with the ribs and pork butts. This process yielded a healthier and tastier alternative to the traditional buffalo wing you can find almost anywhere. Broadway's bakes their wings in the wood-fired oven, making the wings juicy and tender while not relying on the deep-fat-frying method implemented by everyone else. While I still long for that smoked flavor Mike & Ed's achieved, Broadway's wings are almost a perfect surrogate.
The calzone begins simply as just dough and cheese. You get to decide what else goes inside. Making that decision is the hard part. You are free to stuff up to six ingredients off the pizza topping list into your calzone before it enters Broadway's wood-fired oven. When it comes out, it almost rivals the pizza in flavor. The calzone is about the size of a football and could easily feed two. The ingredients within are evenly distributed and as a result, you're assured satisfaction with each bite.
Believe it or not, there are still a handful of menu items I've yet to devour at Broadway. The Long Island footlong hotdog and baked lasagna both beckoned to me during my visit but I passed and I scanned over their selection of salads. I'll have to get back soon, to complete my, uh...research.
The interior of Broadway is deceptively mundane. You'll notice plain, black chairs and tables and the walls are peppered with ubiquitous icons from the Big Apple. There are posters of Ellis Island, playbills from Broadway shows, etc. The aesthetic reminds me of Art Deco meets the 1990s. I'm not sure why the owners chose the New York motif for their restaurant. It seems almost as out-of-place as the restaurant itself. Whatever the reason, it’s the food that you'll remember the most. And it’s the food that'll bring you back.
Matthew H Glasscock
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