subject: Doctor Ho's Humble Pie
take-out vehicle: pizza box
I hate mediocre food. I mean, at least awful food provides a certain amount of inspiration, but food that's just okay gives me as much motivation to write as I have hope for this UVA football season (and that would be very little, for those of you who weren't aware that UVA, instead of practicing actual plays, apparently spent the summer inventing new ways to turn the football over to the other team). but I digress...
I have to say that I was really excited on my trip down 29 South. For years, I'd heard that Dr. Ho's was the gold at the end of Charlottesville's pizza rainbow. In fact, I was so confident in its goodness that I made up new names for the restaurant, on the off-chance they asked me to rename it.* My top two were "Dr. Ho-ly Crap This is Frickin' Good!" and "Dr. Ho-ld Me Because This Pizza is So Good That I Just Messed My Pants and My Knees Are Weak." I was kinda partial to the second one.
The place itself was pretty cool. Located in the big white crossroads store in North Garden, Dr. Ho's was not at all what I imagined. Based on their website, iI was expecting a larger space with a stage in one corner and booths all around; instead, I entered a very well-worn, very intimate space. Every wall, and even the ceiling, was decorated with seemingly random bits from thirty years worth of college dorm rooms. Among them: an old, framed, and slightly crooked picture of Bob Marley; a rubber chicken; a hanging wooden fish; and a racing-esque sticker on the Coke dispenser that read "chronic thc - super kind." To say that it had character would be an understatement.
I arrived earlier than I had planned, so after about fifteen minutes of looking around and politely turning down offered drinks, the very nice waitress (who seemed to know everyone else there except for me) finally handed me my pie and wished me a good day. Even more excited than before, I strapped myself back in my car, cranked up my iPod, and shot back up 29.
Okay, first of all, pizza and cheddar do not mix. They just don't. I'm cool with lots of different cheeses (ricotta, feta, chevre, parmesan, pecorino, even the occasional gouda), but I draw the line at cheddar. It's just not right.
Of course, someone could say, "Well, wait a minute, John. Half your pizza was 'fajitaza' and had chicken, peppers, onions, and salsa on it. How does cheddar not go with that? And it's not like salsa is supposed to be on a real pizza either."
To which I might reply, "Well, someone, you might have a valid point there, but you can shut right up. Number one: cheddar is for sandwiches. Number two: the 'fajitaza' was a lot better in concept than in execution so I won't be getting that again. And number three: UVA embarrassed themselves this weekend so I'm a tad bit irritable at the moment."
Someone would then probably feel bad and say, "Hey, sorry man. I didn't mean to cause trouble."
And I would likely respond by saying, "I apologize, someone. I was rude. Ooh, I know! Let's go to Mellow Mushroom and I'll buy you some pizza without any salsa or cheddar on it."
Tex-Mex influences aside, the "fajitaza" was pretty disappointing. The crust was soggy from the salsa, and, on its own, the chicken was rather bland. Unfortunately, the dominant flavor—and texture—was the cheddar. There was just too much.
The other half of my pizza was called "humble pie": green peppers, onions, mushrooms, italian sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, and more cheddar. Finally! Real pizza!
It didn't make me think of new names for the restaurant, but this half of the pizza certainly redeemed the other...except for the cheddar. Still, I could taste the spices in the crumbled sausage, the earthiness of the mushrooms, the grease of the pepperoni slices. There was still too much cheese, but I could stand it here; its taste was manageable.
The crust, in all honesty, wasn't that special to me. It was certainly better than many other crusts I've tasted, but for this style pizza (hand-tossed, droopy slices), the edges could've been a little airier and a tad more chewy. To each his own, though.
After some reflection, If I were to eat Dr. Ho's pizza again (and I'm not saying I would), I would do two things: 1) specifically ask—nay demand—that they hold the cheddar, and 2) go there and eat it at the restaurant. Personally, I don't think it's worth the drive, but if the cheddar disappeared, and the ambiance was there, I might be able to more fully appreciate Dr. Ho's humble pies.
* In case you're curious, I was not asked to rename the restaurant. It's probably for the best.