It goes against one of my rules of dining out.
When you go to a pizza place, you should get pizza. Or at least something close to it.
But Oleys Pizza Shoppe at Lake Avenue and Coliseum Boulevard has me rethinking my policy a bit. The item which I am recommending has no sauce, crust or cheese. But it has become a favorite of Mrs. DuValls and, given it is much healthier than the gargantuan double-crust deep-dish pies I have grown to love at Oleys, I can actually persuade her to go there more often now.
Oleys baked cod dinner was as good as about any broiled or baked cod I have had at similarly priced eateries. Two sizable fillets were baked in a pool of melted butter (not really healthy, but more so than pizza) and touched with just the right amount of Italian seasonings. With an acceptable baked potato and dinner salad, and a slice of crisp garlic toast, it was a fine meal.
The fish was nicely prepared – slightly browned and flaky – and it was a good-sized portion for the price. The salad was pretty basic, but made with care. It contained hand-cut iceberg and a little cabbage, and was topped with freshly shaved carrots, mozzarella cheese, tomato slices, red onion and a slice of boiled egg.
The barbecued rib dinner did not impress as much. Like the salad, it, too, was pretty basic but not to a fault. The bones fell out of the giant slab of baked ribs, and although they were dry as, well, a bone, the rib meat was moist and tender. Oleys own special sauce coated every inch of the meat and it was super-sweet and runny.
A couple of non-pizza-like appetizers also fared well. The Wings of Fire were not too fiery, but they were plump and had a nice peppery flavor from the sauce. They could have maybe spent more time in the oven to crisp up a little, but I still enjoyed them.
The cheesy mushrooms were, indeed, cheesy as they arrived on a large plate completely covered in a blanket of bubbly brown melted mozzarella. The big white mushrooms clung to the cheese, which explained the accompanying pizza cutter. They were tasty, but there wasnt much garlic flavor even though the menu said they were baked with garlic. Had they had a little freshly chopped garlic with them, they would have been amazing. Still, they were worth having again.
I also would have the house special sub sandwich again. Usually made with just ham, salami, green peppers, onions, lettuce, oil and spices, I opted to have cheese with mine because, well, why wouldnt you want cheese on it? The oil and Italian seasonings coated the lettuce, which wilted a bit in the oven and sort of mimicked a hot slaw. The amount of oregano, basil and garlic was perfect and there isnt a thing I would change about this sandwich except, of course, making the chewy mozzarella a permanent part of it.
The lasagna at Oleys had issues. Served in an individual little baking dish, it was layered with ricotta and, like the mushrooms, was blanketed with mozzarella. But under that mozzarella was a ton of sauce. The meat sauce was good and distinctly different from the pizza sauce, with nice chunks of ground beef here and there, but there was so much of it. The dish resembled baked pasta more than lasagna and the excess sauce flooded the ricotta, making it barely detectable.
There were no problems with the standard pizza shop items. The garlic cheese bread was great with plenty of nicely browned cheese, the bread sticks were crusty and perfect when dipped into some of the spicy cheese sauce, and the pizza oh, the pizza.
The double-crust pie at Oleys starts with a thick bottom crust made with brewers yeast, which gives it distinctive beer-like aroma and flavor. That crust is topped with a layer of mozzarella and that cheese is then covered with another thin layer of dough. Then it is topped with tangy sauce, more cheese and whatever toppings you may want. It is deep-dish pie at its best.
It is filling, the crust is delicious and it is easily one of the best pizza creations I have ever had. The cod was good, but good barely cracks the surface of the excellence of the pizzas at Oleys.
Service was not an issue there, either. The motto on the website says, Enter as strangers; leave as friends, and the folks there seem to take it to heart. The owners and rest of the staff bounce around from table to table talking to customers, and they seem to love what they do.
The restaurant is tidy, and although the atmosphere is not remarkable, it is charming and comfortable. The most eye-catching feature is a giant tropical fish tank that, naturally, was big with the kids.
Restaurant: Oleys Pizza Shoppe
Address: 1427 Coliseum Blvd. N.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Bread sticks ($1.99 half; $3.99 full), garlic cheese bread ($1.99; $3.99), ribs ($11.95), baked cod ($9.95), lasagna ($9.95), house sub ($2.99; $6.25), double-crust pizza (5 sizes ranging from $7.45 to $33.95 depending on toppings)
** 1/2 (3-star maximum), atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).