Monday, December 29, 2008

Original Pizza Palace

Shirley here, guestblogging again. Although, this may become the more usual setup since Alex finds himself very busy with work/grad school stuff.

Original Pizza Palace isn't quite the real original. About 9 years ago, there was a Pizza Palace in the same location that was a great success, having been there on and off since 1953. It was a popular student hangout with food good enough to please the locals as well. Now the Pizza Palace has returned to the same location, a big house at 604 NW 13th street, after some legal proceedings way too complicated to go into here and some subsequent changes in management. Alex and I were excited at the prospect of trying what was once an age-old tradition in Gainesville. We got a big group of friends together to visit Original Pizza Palace when it reopened a few months ago. Unfortunately, we were embarrassed at having hyped the place up for so many of our close friends. We literally had to apologize to them for putting them through the ordeal that this trip became.


The atmosphere in Original Pizza Palace is actually pretty cool. It is laid-back hippie style, reminiscent of Satchel's Pizza on NE 23rd street (our favorite pizza spot). It is warm and welcoming, with plenty of interesting art and objects to look at, and a thrown-together, homey feel.


Horrendous. Granted, they had only been open two weeks, so it was still busy, but I didn't expect servers to be rude. It took about 2 hours to get a table.

Our server literally ignored us when we asked her to come over many times for missing items or water. An older man came over at one point who seemed to be a manager or superior of some sort, and we told him our server hadn't been over to check on us in about 45 minutes. Instead of apologizing and getting our server, he simply said, "Oh, she's busy, she'll come over in a minute." It took another 10 minutes before she actually did.

Alex and I returned a couple of months later to give the place another chance, and service was much nicer. We got a table pretty quickly, but the food still took a while. Basically, don't expect your server to check on you often, and don't go during a busy time of day. Perhaps they've gotten better with time, but the servers seemed completely unable to handle a busy night.


Good selection of pizzas and pastas. Even a good selection of beer. The menu actually had us fairly excited.


The first night we went, most of my friends were pretty sure they had been served Ragu or some sort of off-the-shelf sauce brand. I had a pasta that was supposed to have anchovy fillets in it, but there was just half an anchovy to one side of the plate. I had never really tried anchovy, so I was pretty disappointed when Alex ate that one and we found out I didn't have any more.

The friends that ordered the pizza didn't really like it. It was a thin crust with minimal toppings and sauce. Not too much flavor to it. It was suspiciously round, far too perfect to be a freshly made crust. Honestly, I feel that the pizza Alex and I make at home using pizza dough from Publix tastes better. When our friends requested some red sauce for dipping to help with the blandness of the crust, after waiting at least 20 minutes for it, it was cold and almost certainly Ragu or some equivalent.

Only one person of the group liked what they got - pesto pasta. And her comment was: "It tastes like canned pesto and pasta from a grocery store." Basically, it tastes good, but why go to a restaurant for it? Its saving grace was its cheap price.

On our second trip, Alex and I decided to try the pizza. It had improved a little bit. It was good, but still not quite up to par with Satchel's, Big Lou's or Mellow Mushroom. It was a decent thin crust pizza, fairly crispy.


Mid-range. It's not cheap, but it won't break your wallet. The pizzas are not large for the price, unfortunately.


I don't like to be mean. Maybe go once during a slow time of day, have some pizza or the pesto pasta, and be able to say you've been there. Don't take someone there to impress them. 3/10 stars...4/10 if I'm being extra nice. 0/10 if I'm only basing it on that first experience on opening night where they apparently ran out of everything and started serving Ragu.