Friday, August 31, 2012

TBG Eats: Oggi's Pizza and Brewing Company

Current Weight: 172.2 lbs.

Oggi's Menu

Would you believe me if I told you there was some pretty good pizza sold in San Diego?

My personal favorite is the thin crust at DiCresenzo's*. Mrs. Bootleg and I have been known to annihilate a large pié ( I saying that right? I presume it's pronounced "pee-AY" like the erstwhile Baltimore Orioles outfielder...) in a single night. Well deserved honorable mentions go to Borrelli's and Bronx Pizza. But, don't take my word for it. Just look at the Italian surnames and New York boroughs referenced in the pizzerias' names! That's the kind of quality most Californians can practically pronounce!

* -- The original owners of DiCresenzo's sold their restaurant a few years ago. The new owners turned the place into a Chicago(?!)-themed spot, introducing deep dish pizza and those inedible celery salt, dill pickle and sport pepper hot dogs to the menu. The quality of the thin crust pizza fell WAY off when the new owners first took over, but they've improved the product to about 80% of the original. It's still a pretty steep decline, but it speaks to how superb their thin crust used to be. Now, it's just "very good".

On an unrelated note, can ANYONE make a compelling case for placing a dill pickle spear on a hot dog?

Oggi's Pizza and Brewing Company is a regional restaurant with 15 locations in southern California and one in Arizona. Oggi's (OH-gees) is arguably the most popular sports bar-y spot in San Diego, serving up ubiquitous platters of pizzas, wings and burgers alongside an assortment of macro and microbrews. It's my eight-year-old son Jalen's favorite restaurant and a ridiculously frequent postgame location after our Little League adventures.

Oddly enough, I'm not all that crazy about their pizza.

My son could eat their pepperoni pizzas morning, noon and night -- which he might've actually done on the one occasion we came home with leftovers. I think their entrée-sized pizzas, for the most part, are decent, but uninteresting. Oggi's "thin crust" -- which my son prefers -- is just a flatter version of their regular hand-tossed crust, offering little in the way of crunch or char. Their pepperoni pizza is straight from the kid-friendly, casual dining handbook with inoffensive flavors that are easily accessible to the casual palate -- cheese, sauce and salt.

Oggi's "Field Goal" is the best of their specialty pizzas. Topped with blackened chicken breast, sweet corn, cilantro, green onions, roasted garlic and would undoubtedly be met with disdain from pizza aficionados, but the subtle harshness from the blackened chicken are softened by the corn's natural sweetness. The whole thing is carried by a mildly spicy "Santa Fe" sauce (Albuquerque's equally bold-flavored brother) and a small garden's worth of garlic.

The Margherita pizza is decent -- a bright union of olive oil, fresh basil and Roma tomatoes. Unfortunately, most of Oggi's other specialty pizzas are more gimmick than balance. The barbecue chicken ("World Series") pizza is overpowered by the sticky sweetness of the BBQ sauce on top. And, the buffalo chicken ("Slam Dunk") pizza is covered with a combustible wing sauce that's almost obnoxiously hot. Although, it's listing in the menu includes the words "...served with ranch dip...", so it's not like anyone's expectations should've been elevated.

Oggi's does feature four appetizer-sized thin-crust pizzas that are actually better than most of their regular pizzas. The "Speedway" includes an uncomplicated combination of sausage, peppers and olives, while the "Marathon" is a veggie offering with zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and a superb pickled punch of artichoke hearts.

My Oggi's go-to food is usually one of their monthly off-menu specials. And, from that list, I'll always order the sandwich or burger since they're served with their fantastic lightly-battered French fries. Last fall, Oggi's featured a turkey and cranberry Monte Cristo that was on the short list of best sandwiches I've ever eaten ( least once a week, from November to New Year's Day). More recently, their bacon-bruschetta chicken sandwich was a mishmash of muddled flavors that even the bacon couldn't save. (My wife makes the best bruschetta in the black community and pairing it with bacon seems like an abomination. I should've trusted my gut.)

From their regular selections, the "Baja 500" chicken sandwich has a wee bit of a kick from the roasted jalapeño peppers and Cajun aioli sauce. The "Matador" burger is the red meat equivalent with identical toppings, but a little less flavor as the burger is seemingly always cooked "well" despite my repeated "medium" pleas.

Oggi's features a selection of their own beers. I've had them all and my favorite is probably the Sunset Amber Ale. It pairs well with most of their menu -- or at least the areas of the menu that I frequent -- and benefits from not being a heavy accompaniment to all of the starches that are served up. Oggi's also has a surprisingly strong -- albeit small -- rotation of other beers. In recent months, I've had some fabulous Scotch ales and my first experience with the hyper-popular Pliny the Elder -- far and away the best IPA I've ever tasted.

The dessert menu includes some beer-inspired offerings. Oggi's carrot cake and molten chocolate cake are flavored with their own brews. But, my son's absolute favorite dessert in the whole wide world (his words, not mine) is the Black Magic Stout Brownie:

A rich double chocolate fudge brownie that has been baked with Oggi’s Black Magic Stout. The brownie is drizzled with a chocolate ganache that has also been flavored with Black Magic Stout. Served warm with ice cream.

There aren't many other dessert that can elicit reactions of dorky (thumbs up!) and ecstasy. And, maybe some "this hot fudge burns my tongue like a thousand suns" reaction, too.