When I was told there was a place in Angola that specialized in pizzas and pies, I was pretty sure I would like the place.
And when I visited Monument Pizza Pub – aptly named as it is right along Monument Circle – I did, indeed, love the pizzas and the delicious cream pies.
But neither of those items impressed me most.
It was the french fries that deserved a monument of their own.
They weren't a secret find. There were three varieties – truffle, loaded and garlic-Parmesan – on the appetizer menu so it was clear they must be good. And it really wasn't the makeup of these fresh-cut “style” fries with bits of skin on the end that made them so good, it was the level of perfection in how the restaurant prepared the frozen fries that made them so good.
A server said the secret is simply changing the oil often and – here's the kicker – finishing the fries in the super hot pizza oven so they crisp up even more.
The Parmesan on the truffle and garlic-Parm was melted perfectly and added in just the right amount to not overload these beauties. The truffle oil and garlic followed suit and added just the right amount of flavor.
I could have eaten buckets of these fries.
Monument's approach to its pizza was refreshing, especially when it came to the use of cream cheese, which I seldom see incorporated on pizzas. Two of the best pizzas I had – the Philly Steak and the Circle – featured cream cheese instead of standard red sauce.
The Philly also had green peppers, onions, mushrooms, thinly sliced beef and the restaurant's standard pizza cheese blend on top. A Philly Chicken was also offered. The Circle had both cheeses, pepperoni, sausage, banana peppers and chopped tomatoes.
The steak on the Philly was quite tender and the vegetables still snapped. The Circle had the right zest mix of flavors with a nice added bonus of a vinegar bite from the peppers. And the cream cheese was so good I didn't even miss the red sauce.
The cheese pizza I tried with that red sauce was also top-notch. Its crushed tomato sauce was a little chunky and had a savory, straightforward tomato flavor.
But what really stood out was Monument's crust.
It was a little thicker and had risen a little more than a standard hand-tossed pie, and had the perfect texture. The edge had browned well and had a little crunch, the bottom had just enough crispiness and its interior was soft and chewy like good bread.
The crust was even better on Monument's flatbread. It had a haphazard shape from being stretched by hand and its edges caramelized even more which added a little charred essence.
The Hawaiian flatbread with bacon, ham, onions, pineapple, cheese and barbecue sauce was flawless with just the right amount of sauce. That same charred crust treatment made the garlic cheese flatbread a great appetizer choice.
The Feisty Feta Dip with pita chips was not as great, however.
This cold dip had a chunky salsa-like texture and the puffy fried pita chips were a perfect vessel. But this dip seemed like it was begging to be warm with oozing cheese. I would pass on it next time.
If you pass on pizza, Monument also offers four pub burgers and they, too, were interesting.
My Monument Olive Burger was topped with melted Swiss cheese and a pile of green olives. I had Onion Twizzlers – basically lightly breaded rings – on the side and found them to be quite good. But it would be hard for me to order them again instead of the french fries.
The burger was cooked just right, was of good size and had a nice rich beef flavor. Its buttery, toasted bun also hid its minor lack of seasoning, so it was a decent choice.
All of the cream pies were better than decent.
Monument co-owner Joe Hysong said the credit for the pies goes to chef Jon Gnagy, who is pretty well known around Angola for his cooking skills.
Gnagy also gets the credit for the usage of cream cheese in place of sauce on those pizzas.
There were two types of peanut butter – chocolate and vanilla – coconut, French silk, key lime, banana and chocolate-almond.
All of the pies were tall, whipped masterpieces and all were quite scrumptious, but the coconut and vanilla-peanut butter were easily the best. The coconut was loaded with its name ingredient and its flavor was prominent. The vanilla-peanut butter had more peanut flavor than the too-chocolatly chocolate-peanut butter.
Monument Pizza, opened by former Piggy's Family Pizza owners Hysong and Brian Boyer three years ago, is pretty basic in terms of looks, but it has a comfortable vibe. There is a bar in the back, and the restaurant has a pretty nice selection of beers, which always go good with pizza if not pies. The service was impeccable during all of my visits and only added to the great experience.
Restaurant: Monument Pizza
Address: 60 N. Public Square, Angola
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Truffle/garlic Parmesan fries ($4.49), feta dip ($6.49), Onion Twizzlers ($4.49), garlic-cheese flatbread ($4.25), Philly pizza ($13.99), Circle pizza ($11.99), cheese pizza ($8.99), Hawaiian flatbread ($7.29), olive burger ($8.99), pie ($3.75)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★★ 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: ★ (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Monument pizza Pub
Out of a possible five