Here on the Midpeninsula alone, there are more than 100 restaurants serving pizza between Menlo Park and Los Altos. The upshot is: Muscling into the business isn't easy. But, build a better mousetrap and ...
Blue Line Pizza in Mountain View hasn't reinvented the wheel. However, it's found a niche that few local pizza restaurants occupy: cornmeal-crusted, Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza, with the crust being the crucial element.
Pizzeria Uno, in the Windy City, is credited with inventing deep-dish pizza in the 1940s, but it was Gino's East (after hiring a cook from Uno's) who popularized the genre and has been a Chi-town hot spot since the 1970s. The Gino's deep-dish never appealed to me: too much dough, heavy, ponderous, a fleet of toppings that sat on the stomach like a cannonball for hours. The yellow gold crust seemed a tad artificial.
Popular belief is that Gino's and Uno use cornmeal to achieve golden crusts. While their recipes are proprietary, there is some evidence to suggest wheat and malted barley flours and colorings, not cornmeal, gives the golden hue. Some pizza operators use combinations of wheat flour and cornmeal. Not so at Blue Line. Their deep-dish pizzas really do have a cornmeal crust. Wheat flour is used for the thin-crusted offerings.
Why cornmeal crust? It is lighter than wheat flour, doesn't have a doughy taste, is less refined and (some say) more nutritious than wheat flour, and delivers good flavor with a nice crunch. It's also easier for the kitchen to handle because the cornmeal is pressed into the baking dish and not rolled out or twirled. It is a very different take on the traditional Neapolitan flatbread pizza.
Open since late June, Blue Line Pizza is an extension of Little Star Pizza in San Francisco, owned by Brian Sadigursky. He teamed with Angela Pace to open Blue Line, which also has branches in Campbell and Burlingame. The name derives from the Chicago Transit Authority train line (CTA) that runs from O'Hare through downtown Chicago, the ancestral home of deep-dish pizza.
"We wanted to expand the scope of our pizza business, lunch in particular," managing partner Angela Pace said. "We added salads, panini, desserts and a children's menu. In the near future, we should have a full bar to compliment our beer and wine business."
Deep-dish pizzas take 25 to 30 minutes to bake. The deep-dish pizzas are visually deceptive, too, as the diameter is smaller than one might expect. Yet they are inches thick and quite filling. Don't be fooled by the diameter.
On a recent visit, I found the signature Blue Line deep-dish pizza overladen with rich tomato sauce, spinach, ricotta and feta cheeses, mushrooms, onion and garlic. The meatball pizza was similar with red bell peppers as well. Both were delicious: compositions of baked-in savory flavors. The crusts had a subtle crunch that added to the depth and character of flavors.
Deep-dish pizza comes in six varieties and three sizes: individual ($8.95), small 9-inch ($17.85-$18.95) and large 12-inch ($17-$24.25). The thin-crusted offerings are similarly priced with slightly different varieties.
The White Pie thin-crust pizza was enticing with its garlic-infused olive oil base, roasted zucchini, feta and fresh tomatoes. The crust was not blistered and the rim was uniformly browned, flavorful and crisp with a slight crunch, just enough to hold the toppings.
Salads are salads, more or less, and I don't devote time describing them in reviews. The Blue Line Mixed Salad ($6.25/$9.75), though, is worth a few words. It had eye appeal and was piled high with crisp organic greens, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, red onion, gorgonzola and chopped walnuts, all tossed in a house-made vinaigrette. It amplified the appetite.
Caramel apple bread pudding ($5.95) was a tasty finish with house-baked bread, spiced apples and caramel sauce, with a side scoop of vanilla gelato.
A children's menu, half-baked pizzas for take-home, and gluten-free crust options are all available. There is no delivery service, but to-go orders can be picked up on Wild Cherry Lane behind the restaurant. Overall, Blue Line is pizza worth diving into.
Blue Line Pizza
146 Castro St., Mountain View
Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: city lots
Alcohol: beer and wine
Outdoor dining: yes
Private parties: no
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: excellent