New dine-in Tony Boombozz location hits the spot

Sure, we all know that the big, publicly traded pizza giants sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pizza a year — and that many of those millions are forked over in cash to a delivery-person standing on the porch during a basketball game. But did you know that in 2002, Americans consumed 9.6 pounds of mozzarella per person — for the first time exceeding our consumption of cheddar? And as pizza demand grows, so grows the demand for items like mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, pork sausage and tomato sauce. And who knows where the anchovy industry would be without pizza. We eat 100 acres of pizza a day, 350 slices per second, at a cost of more than $30 billion a year.

Huh. No wonder nearly 20 percent of all American restaurants are pizzerias.
And aren’t we lucky that we live in a market-driven pizza economy that places a high premium on quality, flavor, attention to detail, loving craftsmanship and all that stuff.

Um, wait a minute! That’s what I found in the Pizzatopia — the parallel pizza universe I visited a couple of weeks ago. That’s not exactly what we find here in the real world.

But back here on planet Earth, where most pizzas are best soon forgotten, the Tony Boombozz pizzerias on Frankfort Avenue and Bardstown Road are welcome bright spots, offering an imaginative assortment of “gourmet” pizzas and sandwiches. I don’t think there’s any consensus on the definition of “gourmet” pizza, but in the case of Tony Boombozz, it means they top their pizzas with all sorts of things: roasted potatoes, feta, prosciutto, ginger chicken, fresh spinach, Portobello mushrooms, chipotle peppers (well, chipotle peppers were a gourmet ingredient for a while, anyway, before they started showing up throughout the fast food universe) and the like.

Heck, even the conventional ingredients are pretty darned good. When Tony Boombozz puts sausage on a pizza, it has a flavor and texture that tingles in your mouth and doesn’t summon that old joke about the relationship between sausage-making and law-making (a joke that nowadays wears increasingly thin for loyal C-SPAN watchers).

Although the Boombozzeries have mostly been take-out and delivery operations (which is great, except for folks like me, who live in Old Louisville, where they don’t deliver … ahem) the newest Tony Boombozz operation, Tony Boombozz Pizza-Vino, on Hurstbourne Lane, ups the ante with a full-fledged, attractive dining room and a serviceable list of beers and wines. The room is a lively mix of rust-red and teal. Seating choices include booths and tables. On the walls there are what appear to be old family photos and a few sentimental shots of youngsters playing with dough.

Customers order at a counter, but in a nicely civilized note, tables are made up with plates and silverware (wrapped in unusually thick, luxurious paper napkins) ready and waiting. And though the kiddies will enjoy those refillable soft drinks, grown-ups can quench their thirst with bottles of crisp, bubbly Pellegrino.

Three types of pizza are available: “signature,” “traditional” and “Neapolitan.” Traditional pizzas feature the usual suspects: sausage, ham, onions, olives, anchovies and the like, and they come in a host of build-your-own variations that run from $8.45 for a simple cheese pizza to $15.95 for a large disc with all kinds of stuff on it. Signature pizzas have lyrical names like “D’Sienna” and “Pollotate” and include the various “gourmet” combinations (priced $11.95-$13.95). Both the traditional and signature pizzas are based around shredded mozzarella (and other cheeses) and are available on both hand-tossed crusts or the perfectly round, thin crust used for the “Neapolitan” pizzas. The Neapolitans (all $8.95), by contrast, use fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.

My wife Mary and I like our pizzas simple, so we opted for a Margherita: fresh mozzarella, diced plum tomatoes and Romano cheese on a crust flavored with garlic and herbs. It was a reliable and handsome pizza: light brown bubbles encircled the rim, with nary a pool of oil to be found; threads of pine-green basil and a generous sprinkle of tomato gave it a festive look, though neither the basil nor the herbs seemed to generate much aroma. The crust, the key to all pizzas, was thin (though not as brittle and crisp as the pizza of my dreams) with a wholesome crunch, a bit of flexibility and enough structural integrity to bear the weight of the toppings with dignity and grace. And in the end, isn’t that all we can ask of a crust — that it stand up until the toppings stand down?

Better still was a sandwich from the list of panini. My Italiano ($5.95) was well worth the drive: richly flavored fennel sausage, slices of ham, roasted peppers and onions, marinara and some nicely melted marinara on crisp, toasty bread.

That, a couple of canoli ($4.95 for an order of two), a glass of Erath Pinot Noir ($6/$24) and a robust, very satisfying bottle of Moretti Rosso ($3.75) made for a fine December night.

Tony Boombozz Pizza-Vino is at 2813 Hurstbourne Lane. Dining room hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week; delivery is available until 11 p.m. Call 394-0000 for info or to place an order.