For some people, it's about filling an empty void in their gut. For others, it's about the comfort of a familiar friend. For still others, pizza is the common denominator that brings people together over a raucous table of melted cheese and cold beer.
The crowded restaurant category known as "pizzeria" is filled with mom-and-pop joints, aged icons like Pizza Hut and, ever so occasionally, a marketplace newcomer that deserves attention.
One such is the new Jet's Pizza on Abercorn Street. This Michigan-based franchise boasts more than 200 locations in the U.S., with most of those being a dominating tour de force in Jet's home state.
These are not bargain-hunter pies. I would call these premium pizzas. Dough is mixed from scratch in-house every day, just like its tomato sauce. Its signature rectangular pies are thick (Jet's calls them "Detroit-style"), with a nice balance of toppings, not the sketchy hit-or-miss surfaces of lesser-priced pizza. The square shapes also allows Jet's to build a unique "8 Corner Pizza" where every square has its own, thick, delicious edge crust.
Adding to the local franchise's focus on quality is its owners, Mark and Adrienne Wallace. Mark Wallace has 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry and the couple is hands on in the restaurant to ensure attention to detail.
The topping will look familiar, and customers can "flavorize" their crust for free with a choice of eight flavors: Butter, poppy seed, parmesan, garlic, cajun, romano, sesame seed or Jet's Turbo Crust, a combination of butter, garlic and romano cheese.
I chose a small veggie pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives and tomatoes. The six slices were plenty for me and Ms. TJ and we had a couple of square pieces left over for lunch the next day. The consistent application of the nicely diced toppings and freshness showed through in each bite. I see now why local Michiganders are flocking to get a taste of home.
I also tried an order of Jet's Bread, a round platter of dough topped with cheese and, in this case, bacon. Need I say more about pizza dough, cheese and bacon together? The breads can also be topped with cheese only or with pepperoni pieces.
The menu also offers wings or chicken strips, salads, sweet and crispy cinnamon sticks and a small-but-tasty-looking range of hot subs.
Mark says they are going to add a handful of tables, but this is primarily carryout or delivery. There is online ordering.
7929 Abercorn St. (Near Best Buy), 961-5387, jetspizza.com
Oliva, a restaurant featuring authentic dishes from Italy, the Basque country of France and Spain, is opening in the former Screamin' Mimi's location on Whitaker Street. Juan Manuel Rodriguez, his wife Ana and their partners expect to be open within six weeks or so. Many of the restaurant's recipes come from secrets handed down through Ana's family, who lived in an all-Italian neighborhood in Venezuela. Juan also owns Rancho Alegre, the Cuban-inspired eatery on MLK Jr. Blvd.
Speaking of Rancho Alegre
The food is great and the place has become a hotspot for jazz on the weekends, often hosting the Jody Espina Trio. On March 28, the restaurant will offer two dinner shows by the group Flamenco, featuring internationally recognized flamenco dancer Jose de Guadalupe and guitarist Marija Temo.
Reservations are required for both shows. Cover is $15 for the 7 p.m. show; $10 for the 9 p.m. show. The dinner menu will feature authentic paella.