TASTE IT: Regents Pizzeria
The one I missed for S.D. Mag's best-of-pizza issue.
For 2013's “Best Pizza” issue of SD Mag, I went carb hunting. I ate at over 40 different pizza joints in San Diego, all of which had been hailed by some trusted source as the slice that would finally make my life make sense. My head was filled with an El Niño of mozzarella-fueled endorphins. But there was one place that I had heard rave reviews about, and I simply couldn’t visit. Maybe it was gluten fatigue. Maybe it was because I had a hard time believing a pizza joint in an office park near a mall could make a transcendent pie. I used to drink wine coolers in an office park when I was a teenager, but have found very little appealing about them since.
My oversight was Regents Pizzeria. And, well, I finally made it. It is, as heralded, damn good pie. Food Network once hired me to search America for the best pizza. You can temper your jealousy because they canceled my show. But that trip was fantastic, and I got to learn a lot of the secrets to the best pizza. The ovens. The flours with just the right gluten content. The flor di latte mozzarella. The olive oil and the cured meats.
Most pizza joints specialize in either the New York, Neapolitan or Chicago style. Regents does both New York and Chicago. It’s like that kid who played the flute and the sax in band. And they do both very, very well. You should go try it for yourself to decide if I’m full of it or not. I’m sure a transplant from the Bronx is reading this right now saying “this guy don’t know expletive about pizza.”
They’ve got a huge selection of craft beers (30-plus). UCSD students are the main décor. They have a new, bigger space now, on account of people saying yes after they ate at their original location (50 feet away). Here's what we tried, and what we loved (plus one that we didn't).
TOASTED GOAT CHEESE SALAD
Toasted? Seems more fried to me. And the only way you can go wrong with fried goat cheese is to not eat fried goat cheese. They do a lemon-lime vinaigrette that cuts through the milkfat, along with onion strings, apple slices, kaiware sprouts (sprouted micro-versions of daikon radishes) and red bell. If keeping to NYE resolutions or warding off dorm butt, this is a very nice option.
Jenga fries. It looks impressive on a table. There's a great polenta crunch. But we weren’t floored with ‘em. A tad too much rosemary. Rosemary is the Gilbert Godfrey of herbs. You can use it, but you also need to hush it.
THE CHICAGO DEEP DISH
The problem with many deep dishes is that they get too wet. There’s so much sauce, so much sausage, so much cheese—all of which give off moisture when baked. Regents manages to pre-cook and dehydrate some of the ingredients so that it’s not a soupy mess, yet still juicy enough. Many places, like the famous Gino’s East in Chicago, use cornmeal. Regents does not, which is a preference (even if it wouldn't be mine). Yet it’s still very good. Like a meat Napolean with pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and their tangy sauce. Very good.
THE WHITE NEW YORK PIZZA
It’s absolutely phenomenal. Fresh spinach, both ricotta and mozzarella cheeses with a rosemary-garlic olive oil sauce. It’s that cheese and the addictively good olive oil sauce (using quality olive oil is an absolute necessity for a good pie, worth all the cost, and they do). This one made me do the whole inappropriate food moaning thing.
THIS PESTO DISH
It’s just creamy pesto. But it’s delicious pesto, with herb flecks giving the occasional bolt of fresh flavor through the creamy mixture. Adding cream to pesto is like adding butter to butter (since pesto already has the fat of olive oil and nuts), but it’s tasty with tang from both artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. Sometimes taste trumps creativity, and the need for yes trumps the need for less. Well done.
THE PIZZA PAZZA
Aged mozzarella blend, goat cheese, marinated portabello mushrooms, onions, pancetta, white truffle oil and parmesan. Truffle oil is a scary proposition. It’s the Drakkar Noir of the food world, and some chefs apply too much like a 13-year-old boy. This is perfectly done, with just enough of a hint to give it that truffle intoxication. But it all comes down to the crust of a pizza, and that's where Regents goes very, very right.
THIS BRASS MONKEY
Yes, the picture is sideways. Sue me. This is a blog, and I'm not 16 enough to figure out the tech. And, yes, the drink from the Beastie Boys song. Brass Monkey is a legendary not-so-great-neighborhood drink made of malt liquor and orange juice. Noble Aleworks in L.A. makes a malt liquor (yes, like Olde English or Colt 45), and right now Regents serves it with a side of orange juice. Mix the two together, and it tastes vaguely like your drunk uncle has just taken a sip of your Orange Julius. Decently righteous.
Regents Pizzeria, 4150 Regents Park Row, 858-550-0406.