Salad Pizza: Friend, Foe and Faves?

I was leery at first, I admit it. My neighbor – an enviably successful Weight Watcher – once raved about this stuff, “salad pizza,” which consists of a lightly-sauced pizza crust topped with a tossed salad. Ghastly, I know … but in her defense, her lovely son is allergic to dairy.

This notion of a salad pizza strikes me, a pizza lover, as deeply, horribly wrong. I fundamentally agree with this Gothamist take, which opines that salad pizza was spawned by the overlap of pizza-lovers and the lactose-intolerant. Where’s the luscious cheese, the gooey, fatty, bubbling matrix? Then I saw Ted Allen on the Food Network sing the praises of Graziella’s arugula and Parmigiano pie. Though not lactically-challenged himself, Allen claims that the crunchy, oil-dressed greens – showered with shaved Parmigiano – are fabulous on Graziella’s thin, wood-fired crust.

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Well, I guess if you put it that way….

It turns out that I’m not alone in my ambivalence toward salad pizza. I called Johnny’s Pizzeria in Mount Vernon, and my ears are still ringing with the “NO!” I swung by Frankie and Fanucci’s, and they took the hands-off approach. After a world-weary sigh, I got, “Look — I can sell you a pizza, and I can sell you a salad. What you do with them is up to you.”

To check out the genre, I took a steer from my skinny neighbor and her dairy-afflicted son; she likes the salad pie at Deanna’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in New Rochelle. Though she opts for the unspeakable whole wheat crust, I went for the white – and its arrival was a revelation for me, a committed pizza purist. (Though – go figure – I love the un-trad clam, or, better yet, clam and bacon, pies at Pepe’s).

Deanna’s salad pie was cool, lightly-tomato-sauced, and piled high with a chopped salad. It was the basic iceberg/tomato/red onion slaw of any non-gourmet childhood. Though Romano- or Parmesan-free (and I felt their palpable lack), the pie was loaded with meaty circlets of nostalgic black olives. It also showed up with an entire pint of practically oil-free balsamic vinaigrette, whose black, sugary/salty tartness was a pleasant counterpoint to the bread and greens.

Cool, crunchy, tart and bready….it’s an interesting pie for scholars, but I’m not totally convinced. Help me out, here, folks. One of the new features here at Eater is called an “Eater Smackdown”; it’s a comparison of similar dishes at different Westchester restaurants. To get the ball rolling on a future salad pizza smackdown, I posted this query on Chowhound’s local board. Who slings your favorite salad pizza and what do you like about it? Perhaps Il Bacio’s avocado chunks mimic the richness of cheese, or Dom and Vinnie’s marinated artichokes add some briny complexity, or does Sal’s back-to-basics classic take the salad pizza prize?

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Let me know your picks, and we’ll get this pie in play. Reply below, and when we get the results, we’ll grab some pies and compare. (P.S., I wasn’t alone in my salad pizza bafflement. Chowhounder Roxlet asks, “Do you put it in the oven to get the pizza hot, which would make the salad all wilted and slimy, or do you eat the pizza cold with the cold salad on top? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t think I get it either way.”)

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