Great Pizza, Not an Annoying Bird

Magpies backs up its boast about having the best pizza in town.

When I moved to Tucson and learned that there was a set of pizza joints named Magpies, I wasn't too impressed. This is because I find magpies, as in the birds, to be highly annoying creatures.

They're loud and aggressive. Heck, if you look up magpie in the American Heritage College Dictionary (a copy happens to reside on my desk), the third definition is: "a person who chatters." That says something.

Thus, I had a highly irrational bias against Magpies when I first walked in to the Broadway Boulevard and Houghton Road location--the nearest of the five Magpies to my humble abode--and ordered a large chicken picante pizza ($16.95, although you can find it and many other Magpies pizzas on special often; the normal prices for all of Magpies' "Family Favorites" range from $9.95 for a small to $22.95 for a jumbo). My mission was to order three different pizzas on three separate occasions to review what The Weekly's readers seemingly always deem as the best pizza in town (a fact that Magpies not-so-subtly boasts in a large neon sign at the restaurant).

Located along the side of a shopping center, this Magpies is not very big, obviously built for more takeout and delivery business than dine-in customers, although a handful of tables are present. Thus, I ordered my pizza--featuring spicy tomato-pesto sauce, mozzarella, feta cheese, chicken breast chunks, cilantro and tomatoes--and wandered across the street to Starbucks.

About 25 minutes later, I returned, got my piping hot pizza and started the short drive home. The damn pizza smelled so good that I was tempted to pull over and snork down a slice or two at one point, but decorum and manners won out over slobhood and gluttony.

The pizza's taste was almost as good as the smell, I was glad to discover when I arrived home. It was delicious--the chicken was plentiful and moist, and the ingredients complemented each other well. The regular crust (sourdough and whole wheat are also available) was perfect--not to thick, not too thin, and cooked to a golden brown. My only complaint was that the sauce was not "spicy" at all as advertised. If anything, it was a bit bland; thankfully, the cheeses, chicken and cilantro made up for it in the taste category.

About a week later, I returned to get another pizza. I ordered a pie oddly named "The Giant." (Question: If you order a small "The Giant," isn't that something of a conundrum?) I ordered a large (same price as the chicken picante) and headed to the supermarket to do a little shopping.

After picking up the pizza this time, I wasn't tempted to eat and drive at the same time. While it smelled good, it didn't tickle the olfactory nerves like the chicken cilantro did. Fortunately, it was as yummy as the chicken cilantro.

Featuring mozzarella, Italian sausage, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, black olives and mushrooms and the house red tomato sauce, "The Giant" is basically Magpies' combo pizza. I ordered mine with extra sauce and no bell peppers, and it was a treat. The ingredients were all abundant, and the sauce had a peppery flavor--it seemed spicier than the "spicy tomato-pesto sauce," go figure. It made my Top 10 Combo Pizza list--it was good with no surprises.

For my third pizza, I decided to take a different approach and have one delivered. This time, I decided on the Pueblo, featuring spiced chile sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, ground beef, scallions, roasted green chiles, tomatoes and black olives. I got a large ($14.95; it and the rest of the "Tastes of Tucson" pizzas range from $7.95 to $20.95). I also decided to try an order of sweet stix ($2.95) for dessert. The friendly woman told me it would arrive in 45 minutes to an hour.

Almost exactly 45 minutes later, the delivery man showed up gave me my dinner. Like the chicken picante, the Pueblo had an aroma that made my mouth water instantly.

Too bad it didn't hold up in the taste department.

The Pueblo wasn't a bad pizza; it was just disappointing. The delicious chicken picante and "The Giant" pies set the expectations bar rather high. All the ingredients were abundant and fresh on the Pueblo, but it suffered from blandness. The "spiced chile sauce" was not spicy at all--the person who named these sauces should be disciplined--and the roasted green chiles were almost flavorless. The ground beef was dry and tasteless. While the cheeses and the other tasty ingredients made the pizza more than edible, it was a letdown overall. The sweet stix--dough with a cinnamon sauce--were exactly what they were advertised to be.

Despite the sub-par Pueblo, Magpies impressed me, and I'll certainly be making many return visits and delivery calls. And I am working on getting over my hatred of the word "magpie." I keep thinking of "magnificent pie" and not the bird. It's quite therapeutic, really.