When I got a text from my very Italian buddy Jeff last night at 10pm about a pizza he discovered, I knew this was big. Being Q105’s junk foodie, people know not to come at me with just better-than-average food recommendations. Jeff’s text last night read: “Pizza Box downtown St. Pete. Best pizza I’ve had in Florida. Boston guy told me about it. Wood fire 720 degrees.”
That was all it took to get me to jump in the car after the show today and head downtown St. Pete. The first sentence didn’t say much to me. When you tell me it’s the best pizza you’ve had in Florida, that’s like saying this is the best piece of bread in this generic loaf in a plastic bag I got at Publix for $1.99. Florida doesn’t have a lot of great pizza. There I said it. Sorry not sorry. There’s a lot of good pizza in Florida, but there are very few great pizzas in Florida. But as soon as he told me a Boston friend gave it his endorsement and it’s a legit wood-fire prep, I was in.
Pizza Box, welcome to my Top 10. Now let’s be clear. That’s not saying you’re the best. But you’re among the best. I’m not even willing to put you in that “great” category yet. I’m going to wait until I drop in again and have a second pie. Next time I may go with my buddy’s suggestion: the Carnivore. I went with a basic pepperoni with extra sauce.
Jeff’s one complaint about the pie he bought was how expensive and small it was. Lesson when it comes to great pizza – you can’t get one for under $10. And there’s no reason to ever order a small. It costs just as much in time and effort to make a great small pizza as it does to make a large great pizza. And my rule of thumb about great pizza… it’s gotta taste great as a leftover the next morning for breakfast. So always go large.
That said, Jeff was right. I did find this particular pizza to be a bit overpriced. But the big factor here is you’re in the hipster skinny jeans millennials’ neighborhood. You’re not going to get any bargains #dtsp (hipster speak for downtown St. Pete…come on keep up). This was worthy of a $12-15 price tag. My pie was $20.
There are two things about Pizza Box pizza I dug the most. First – the crust. It’s perfectly charred in a few spots because it’s prepared the right way – with that wood fired oven. It had some crunch and some chewiness. I gotta have both. Their crust was near perfection. Problem is crust is probably the least important thing to me when I judge a pizza.
Loved the pepperoni chunks. That was the other big plus about Pizza Box. I hate circular slices of pepperoni. Especially if it’s sliced thin. Why even bother? Chunks is how meat should come on a pizza. My only suggestion – make those chunks bigger. Even use fewer if you have to. But the pepperoni chunks made this pie stand out.
Where Pizza Box fell flat for me was the most important part of any pizza for me… the sauce. I almost always order extra sauce and did on this pie. If that’s extra sauce, I’d have been miserable with a normal pizza. The flavor was good but not great. The cheese had some flavor, but nothing that wow’d me.
I’m going B+ borderline A- for Pizza Box. The gold standard is still, and probably always will be, Cristino’s in Clearwater. If you suggest a pizza place to me, I’m probably going to ask you if you’ve been to Cristino’s. If you have and tell me you’ve found something better, I’m intrigued.
#GenoAteTampa: Geno’s pizza tour of Tampa Bay
Let me show you around Detroit, New York City and Chicago… without leaving Hillsborough and Pinellas County.