Crown Pizza in Waterford excels at Greek style pies, more

Time for another review of a pizza restaurant. Y’see, here in Connecticut, where pizza and grinders were invented — along with Nathan Hale Schoolhouses — we have more pizza restaurants than there are hand gestures in a Bernie Sanders stump speech. Pizza and grinders are a big part of Connecticut lore and business.

As such, our state legislature, several sessions ago, enacted a law requiring all daily newspapers in the state to allocate at least 10 percent of their restaurant review space to “critical analysis of or folksy features on dining establishments wherein pizza is either spelled out in neon at the front of the building and/or any leftovers or take-out items are transported in square cardboard boxes with hilarious and exaggerated characters of mustachioed Italian men in chef hats flipping flat circular pies in grandstanding fashion.”

Last week, with The Day facing a not-insubstantial state fine because we’d slipped and hadn’t complied with the Pizza Review Statute, I raced south through Niantic, looking for a place to review. The village, though, seems lacking in pizza places. On Main Street headed towards Old Lyme, for example, I could only spot Palmieri’s, Family Pizza, Vincitori Apizza, Castello of Niantic, and Village Pizza and Grille. Hmm. Bereft, essentially. Maybe I missed a few? I decided to juke up to Waterford and Boston Post Road, turned toward I-95 and finally found a spot that looked promising. Crown Pizza.

I figured, fine, I can knock this out and get back in the good graces of the state. I pulled out the official reviewer’s check-list we follow for pizza.

Greek or Italian style? Greek. Cheese? Check. Tomato sauce? Yepper. Ingredients? You bet! Plenty! Paper placemats with reprinted business cards on the periphery? Of course.

OK, see you next time!

Just kidding.

In fact, I take pizza joints seriously, and I really like Crown Pizza. It’s a small, stand-alone building owned by the Vitsas family. Walk into an entry foyer with a cashier stand and chairs if you’re waiting for take-out. You can study an autographed game jersey from Rajai Davis, the New London native and major league baseball player who once appeared on national television after a World Series homerun wearing a Crown Pizza ballcap!

The dining room is ringed with high-back booths, and four-top tables are organized in the center of the floor. The walls boast folksy wooden signs about Family and Happiness interspersed among black-and-white beach and fishing boat photos (and, curiously, a stand-alone image of a headless stone angel that looks like vandalized graveyard statuary. Maybe the seraph’s head was knocked off by a Rajai Davis home run ball?).

The waitresses are always pleasantly efficient, quick with drink refills, and the food comes out at top speed.

In a review context, now’s the time to point out that Crown is the first place where I’ve repeated a dish on the second visit. I ordered a black olive and hamburger pie ($10.99 small, $14.99 large) on our first stop. It was loaded with plenty of shredded and lightly seasoned beef and mucho diced olives, and surface flavors and textures melded well with that chewy, Greek-style spongy crust. And sparring in friendly fashion were a slightly sweet tomato sauce and what seems a blended, sharp cheese mixture.

On our following trip, I ordered the same thing. My wife Eileen said, “You had that last time.”

“I know,” I said.

“But this is a review. You already know what this is gonna taste like.”

“That’s OK. I want it again.”

So, there’s that.

Here's other stuff we enjoyed from a menu that includes appetizers, club sandwiches, hot and cold grinders, salads, seafood and chicken dinners, pasta dishes and even two "healthy option" dishes.

• Fried Pickle Appetizer ($7.99) — First, 200 pickles died for this, or that's what it looked like. It was a very large platter of sliced, mild dills in a tightly battered crust. We're used to a sharper tang, but the mellow quality worked well, particularly with the dipping bowl of rich blue cheese dressing. I suspect this was a frozen item, but it was fun.

• Banana Peppers Pizza ($9.99 small, $13.99 large) — This was a custom one-topping job for Eileen. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it worked. The peppers had some lingering torque that tap-shoed on the tongue and worked in fine fashion with the crust, cheese and sauce.

• Roast Beef Grinder ($7.50 small, $9.50 large) — Very fresh bread with a modest heap of lean beef. Both flirted with rich provolone, sliced tomatoes and confetti'd lettuce. The oil, salt and pepper were proportioned with an experienced hand. Good stuff.

• Fish & Chips ($14.99) — The meal came with coleslaw, fries AND onion rings, and a side salad. I asked for fries only and was presented with a dance-floor-sized plate heaped with four husky chunks of fish and a rising faultline of steak-cut potatoes.

• Grilled Chicken Club ($13.99) — Odd how I expect a club sammich to be quartered. This one? Cut in half. I was only able to resist cutting the two halves into quarters because it was a sky-high contruction. Juicy boneless breast, plenty of extra crisp bacon, cheddar, lettuce and tomato on toasted white bread. Yay. Oh — and again with the burial mounds of fries and onion rings.

As humorously indicated above, there are plenty of pizza joints closer to our New London abode — and a lot of them are good and we'll keep going to them. But I also know we'll occasionally head for Crown because they do it well and with qualities unto their own establishment.

Crown Pizza

430 Boston Post Road, Waterford

(860) 447-0596

Cuisine: Classic Greek pizza and grinder family spot

Service: On point — briskly, smilingly efficient

Atmosphere: Living room-style worn comfort and familiarity

Prices: Perfectly reasonable and in line with most pizza joints

Handicap access: Helpful ramp from both sides of the parking lot and plenty of room inside

Credit cards: Yes

Hours: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 a.m. Fri.

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