In a city like Phoenix, full of transplants from everywhere else in the country, pizza discussions often get heated. Residents originally from New York or Chicago often cling to the regional styles they grew up with and maintain those loyalties as vigorously as they cheer for their favorite sports teams. Even people who have lived here for decades often express some degree of chauvinism in favor of their “hometown” style of pizza. What then to make of Slices, located on the Sixth Street cul-de-sac three blocks south of the Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station?
|two slices with peppers, olives, and artichoke hearts|
At first glance, Slices seems like a typical New York pizza place. It’s cramped and casual. There are a few high-top tables and two counters, most of them adorned with shaker jars of crushed red pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. The front counter usually has over a dozen types of pizza on display for sale by the slice. Most are the familiar round shape, but there are always a few rectangular Sicilian pies at the far end near the cash register. The restaurant caters to the Mill Avenue bar crowd by maintaining late hours until 3 AM Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Look a little closer, though, and Slices appears a little less New Yorky. The walls were once covered with Boston sports memorabilia: posters, newspaper front pages, and even a few Wheaties boxes, all of them celebrating the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Red Sox. More recently, the decor has changed to a giant photo of the Boston skyline that dominates one wall. The pies themselves have a slightly crisper crust, speckled with cornmeal, and less grease than the easily foldable slices associated with New York pizza.
|tomato, basil, and mozzarella|
Is this Boston-style pizza, then? It’s hard to say. Occasional posts on blogs and message boards are inconclusive about what Boston pizza really is. Let’s just say that Slices is an East Coast-style pizzeria with owners who went to college in Boston and learned to make pizza while living there. Along the way, there has been some California-style innovation in the way of pizza toppings that might have once been considered atypical. The result is an East-West amalgam that works well as a place to either eat a quick slice or pick up a whole pie or calzone to go.
|slice with fresh tomato and mozzarella|
Freshness and variety may not be at the same level at all times of day, but during the lunch rush each day, Slices displays an impressive pizza bounty. There are always a few classic pies such as pepperoni, sausage, or plain cheese, but much of the rotating selection explores more interesting territory. Some of the pies have a Greek influence with feta and Kalamata olives. Others add toppings like chicken, potato, or eggplant. A few of the more inventive pies are salad pizzas, in which some sort of cold, crisp greenery is placed on top of the pizza after baking.
|slice of gyros pizza and slice of eggplant pizza|
The same pattern applies to the Sicilian pizzas. Slices of plain and pepperoni are almost always on display, but there’s usually a less conventional Sicilian model available as well. One variety is a pizza topped with sliced potatoes, bacon, freshly grated cheddar cheese, and scallions. For the person who like crust as much as sauce and toppings, the real magic of a Sicilian pie, however, lies in snagging a corner slice. The slices are generously sized whether triangular or rectangular in shape. One slice will do for moderate eaters; two will satisfy a hearty appetite.
|corner piece of Sicilian pizza|
As with any pizza-by-the-slice situation, the pies are made in advance with the slices reheated for a few minutes before being served. For the most part, this systems works well due to the high volume of pizza produced. Freshness is not compromised because everything moves so quickly. Nevertheless, if ever the pizza on display fails to impress, it’s a good idea to look into the open kitchen and see what the staff are working on. Sometimes, a fresh pie is being sliced up right at that moment, and the customer who expresses interest can enjoy the inaugural piece.
|slice of chicken caesar salad|
Of course, Slices makes whole pizzas and calzones to order, with just about every combination of toppings imaginable. The pizzas are available in both 16-inch and 19-inch varieties. The calzones are huge. In fact, a single calzone, formed from a 16-inch crust folded over the chosen assortment of toppings can easily feed two people at a cost much less than ordering an entire pie or more than two slices of pizza. When these behemoths come straight out of the oven, steam billows out the moment they’re cut open.
A sandwich board outside announced a daily special, usually a slice of a specific pie and a drink. There are no desserts on the menu, and beverages are limited to fountain sodas, iced teas, and a few bottled juices and energy drinks. No alcohol is served, and that’s probably for the best since a lot of the late night clientele has already imbibed somewhere else nearby. Given its small size and tall tables, Slices isn’t going to be a destination for business entertaining or family meals, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a slice of city life serving pizza by the slice.
11 E. 6th St., Tempe AZ 85281
Mill Avenue / Third Street Station