Last week I told you about the very good pizza I found at Papa Gio’s in East Orlando. Today we’re going to look at two other pizzerias, separated by several miles but connected in a number of ways.
Many of you will remember Alfonso’s Pizza & More in College Park. It was, at times, my favorite pizza maker in Orlando and the winner of numerous Critic’s Choice Foodie Awards when they were mine to hand out. I say “at times” because the quality of the pies at Alfonso’s flagged occasionally. It was to pizza what Johnny’s Fillin’ Station is to burgers. You never knew if you were going to hit them on one of their good days. Changes in ownership over the years may have had something to do with that.
Now the space that was Alfonso’s in College Park is Ragazzi’s Pizza & Restaurant. But Alfonso’s is back, too, with a new restaurant on South Orange Avenue at Gatlin Avenue, next door to Le Coq au Vin. I thought it might be interesting to compare the two. What I found was one excellent pie, but the problem is it is a compilation of the two pizzerias.
At Ragazzi’s the crust was just about perfect. It was not the least bit doughy, the thickness was exact to within millimeters of what a pizza crust should be, and it had just the right balance between crispness and elasticity that allowed a slice to be folded for mouthal insertion.
The problem was that the toppings were applied so stingily that my sausage and pepperoni pizza could have been mistaken for a vegetarian selection.
At the new Alfonso’s, I found just the opposite. The toppings were ample, the sauce applied evenly and the spicing just right. But the crust was disappointingly doughy.
What’s the reason for this? More important, what’s the solution? Knowing that Alfonso’s is capable of doing good pizzas, at least in the old location, I wonder if the old location is the key. As important as the oven is to baking the ideal pizza, could it be that Alfonso’s new location, which most recently housed a barbecue joint, lacks the proper oven? If that’s the case, the solution is easy but expensive: buy a better oven.
If the oven is capable, then you need to instruct your pizzaiolo on how to use it.
Ragazzi’s is in a better position to win this pizza race. Simply improve the toppings you put on your already good crust. Hint: visit Alfonso’s and take a look at what they’re loading on top -- not too much, not too little.
There is a connection between the two businesses that goes beyond just having the ideal components for the perfect pie. Ragazzi’s owner, Alex Jonai, worked at Alfonso’s, but after owner Rich Alfonso sold it. Still, on the Ragazzi’s website, the Admin responded to a question asking if Ragazzi’s is opening a restaurant at Orange and Gatlin. The response referred to “my friend” Rich, who was opening a restaurant unrelated to Ragazzi’s.
So it’s good to know the two owners are friends. How about we all get together, have a couple of beers, and discuss how your two restaurants can produce the best damn pizza Central Florida has ever seen?
Ragazzi’s Pizza & Restaurant is at 3201 Edgewater Drive, Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. This link will take you to ragazzispizza.com. The phone number is 407-999-9973.
Alfonso’s Pizza & Sports Bar is at 4718 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The website for Alfonso’s connects to Ragazzi’s. (When I asked a woman who answered the phone at Alfonso’s for the website address, she told me I should Google it, and that’s what came up; very helpful, she.) The phone number is 407-850-8055.