Brickside’s small shop makes a big splash
When The Day’s sister publications at Shore Publishing in Madison revealed the winners of its inaugural Best of the Shoreline Awards, I discovered a huge lapse in my extensive pizza coverage of the region. There, listed as the first-place winner in the pizza category, was Brickside Pizza in Ivoryton, a small shop less than five miles from my abode. We’ve literally been to every other restaurant in the vicinity — on the Ivoryton Green and across the street from the beautiful Ivoryton Playhouse — and yet, we’d neglected to sample the goods at Brickside.
We’ve since completed two tasting missions at Brickside, and here’s one thing that I love about the place: The menu is pretty much entirely pizza. No dithering with apps and salads and cheese fries — you get a choice of about 20 types of pizza or you can build you own calzone or stuffed bread. The only other item is the equally carbtastic Garlic Parm Bread ($5), which, despite the plethora of great options on the pizza menu, we recommend. For $5, you get a hearty portion of crispy, puffy, parm-, garlic-, and herb-covered bread with a light coating of olive oil to lock it all in. The side of house-made sauce knocked our socks off almost as much as the tasty bread. It tasted of excellent tomatoes and sunshine. That’s it. One could easily make a meal out of the parm bread and be quite content.
We’re pros, so we saved half of the parm bread for the next day (and it held up beautifully) to save room for our first pizza sampling: one Mashed Potato pizza ($15 for a small; $20 for a large; smalls are 12 inches and larges are 16 inches) and one Sunday Dinner pizza ($15, small; $20, large). You’ll be shocked to hear that the mister and I have tasted our share of mashed potato pizzas. For us, BAR in New Haven makes the one to beat, but I’m hereby placing Brickside’s in a close second place. What sets Brickside’s apart is the addition of smoked Gouda cheese to the usual mix of potato, mozzarella cheese, garlic and spices (Brickside adds Pecorino Romano, too). Typically, mashed potato pies come with bacon sprinkled throughout, but the gouda accomplishes the same savory, earthy task as bacon but with less grease and salt and more smooth consistency.
We liked the Sunday Dinner pizza well enough, although it fell a little short of (high) expectations. Check out the ingredients: Home-made tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, home-made meatballs, ricotta, garlic, Pecorino Romano and olive oil. Ricotta and meatballs? Yum! And yes, indeed, the medley of toppings blended well to create a great tradeoff of texture and flavor balance. We just expected a little more … something. Maybe more spice kick to the meatballs? More gooey mozz? Less creamy ricotta? We’re not sure, and we could be wrong. Regardless, the quality of the ingredients was spot-on, and the crust hit that perfect soft-interior-to lightly-crisp-exterior ratio perfectly.
Come round two, we labored to pick a few more pies that, to us, represented the impressive variety of specialty pizzas available. It’s a wide swath of creative and curious options, but I settled on a Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza ($15, small; $20, large) and a pesto-tomato-mozzarella pizza off the build-your-own menu ($12 for a small red-sauce and mozzarella pizza, plus $1.50 for each topping).
Do not balk at what sounds more like a tasty wrap than a pizza, because you will miss out on a really great creation. Observe the ingredients: Cheddar Jack cheese, balsamic marinated chicken, bacon, fresh tomato, Ranch drizzle, Pecorino Romano and olive oil. And not only is the chicken brightened by balsamic dressing, it’s also pulled and piled throughout the surface of the pizza in a most palatable fashion. The Ranch drizzle might seem an intruder on a pizza, but when applied by an expert, it complements the bacon and tomato beneath beautifully. Try. This. Pizza.
The pesto pie did not disappoint, thanks in part to a very good pesto sauce that was applied generously. I don’t know about you, but I love when cheese, pesto, and tomato essence merge together to create that fresh, green, zesty burst of cheesy flavor amid soft dough and crisp crust. We appreciated Brickside’s use of small tomato slices on this pie, thereby eliminating rogue strips of hot tomato on one’s chin between bites.
For our final trick, we built a calzone ($10, plus $1.50 for each add-on), and where the parm bread could feed two easily and comfortably, the giant calzone will feed two people who will likely want to change into elastic-waist pants afterward. Of course, we added sausage and red peppers to ours, which certainly contributes to the calorie count. My take? The very good, crumbly sausage added an enjoyable layer of texture to the overall mix. It could’ve been spicier, but it was tender and fresh. The menu says Brickside calzones are filled with mozzarella, ricotta, and Pecorino Romano, but I mostly noted ricotta and would not have turned down more mozzarella. As for the peppers, they added a pleasant, slightly sweet note, but they were few and far between in all that ricotta. Still: Great crust and dough softness, and, once again, the sauce served on the side added the welcome addition of bright, tangy flavor. My tasting companion gave it raves all around.
As for Brickside’s big win in the Best of the Shoreline poll, I’ll say this: the pizzas are quite good, and the menu very creative, and they clear the hurdle of proper crust construction consistently. Is it the number-one best in a region known for its pizza ubiquity? Arguable. Brickside beat out Marco’s in Branford, and Alforno in Old Saybrook and Otto in Chester didn’t make the cut at all. All of those shops make excellent pizza. Clearly, we’ll have to suggest a Tournament of Champions to determine the one true best pie in the region, but for now we can easily recommend the fare at Brickside and will gladly return again for another slice.
104 Main St., Unit C, Ivoryton
Cuisine: Pizza! No really — the menu is about 85 percent pizza. Add the calzone, Garlic Parm bread, and stuffed bread option, and that’s about it. Bonus: Foxon Park sodas in several flavors.
Atmosphere: Small shop with a big brick oven in a charming old building in Ivoryton. You’re either picking up or getting delivery. No seating inside, but a patio with about six tables is a nice option in fair, mosquito-free weather.
Prices: The average small pizza will run you $15; add $5 for a large and $4 for gluten-free options
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, noon-9 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Credit cards: Yes
Handicapped access: Parking is spotty in this section of Ivoryton. Brickside has a few “spaces” in front of the shop, but they’re typically occupied, and a few in the rear of the building, but it’s not an ideal set-up for anyone with mobility challenges. The interior is very small, with no seating.