Olde Town Pizzeria and Pasta, Plant City

While New York style thin crust is my absolute favorite pizza, there is a place in my heart for Chicago Deep Dish, too. When Pizzeria Uno expanded years ago and opened one on LI convenient to the movie theatre my dad, sister and I patronized most often, it got a lot of our business. Years later, I even got a job waiting tables at Uno's, because I loved their product.

Here in Florida, we've got several places that serve the pizza that you eat with a fork and knife. This is good, because the nearest Uno's locations flank either side of Walt Disney World and are way too hectic to consider on anything but a weeknight. Enter Olde Town.

Their Brandon location is in the same little strip mall as Carvel, so it was a matter of time before we decided to give them a try. When we did, we agreed that it was dumb to wait so long, because their representation of deep dish is so good: flaky crust, bright tomato sauce, plentiful fillings and an atmosphere that is pleasant and relaxing. Even with a full house, it's not too loud.

What we didn't know until about six months ago is that they have a location closer to us in Plant City. We found this out about the same time that we'd realized Down Under Chicago was right in Lakeland, so we waited to try. Down Under got progressively more disappointing after several really good visits and ultimately closed last month, so the desire for deep dish meant we were going to finally do a 20 minute (instead of 40) trip down 39.

When we walked in the door, it was almost like we'd walked into a carbon copy of their other location. Same dark woods and red and white checkerboard tablecloths. The servers are just as friendly and we were at a table in moments.

Something to know: the menu: they are not joking about that famous Strawberry salad. It is probably the best restaurant salad we've ever had. There was no question (nor is there ever) that if we're going to Olde Town, whether we're getting it. The question is just what size. Tonight, a large:

This salad has diced strawberries, shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese, candied walnuts and romaine leaves, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. If decorum didn't reign, I think the men would be licking the bowl. It's light, slightly sweet and a good balance between the flavors.

(The funny thing is that I make my interpretation of this salad with candied pecans, bring it to school potlucks and then get begged for the recipe-the combination is well loved)

It must be noted that they serve appetizers, sandwiches and pasta. We've had several of the appetizers, the cheesy garlic bread is a nice starter, the Italian beef a respectable nod to the Chicago staple, but we have yet to try a pasta. Their gnocci comes in a vodka sauce and I probably will order it next time, just to resolve my curiosity about those.

Now, the pizza. They do thin crust and deep dish. As with any place, deep dish is going to take longer-but it's worth the wait. That said, after the last few visits to Down Under and waiting almost an hour, the 25 minutes to get them here is fine-and in line with Uno's, Giordano's and the other Chicago style places. While we've had the thin, it's like going to Portillo's in Chicago and asking for a hamburger. Good, but stick with the specialty, okay?

We ordered the Olde Town, which comes with smoked bacon, sausage, and pepperoni. Tradition states that these pies are assembled meat, cheese, then sauce. It seemed like we had a stuffed crust, the way that the meats went all the way out into the crust. As mentioned earlier, their sauce is very bright, sweet and acidic, a good balance to the salty meats. The crust is crisp and on the lighter side. Cheese melted perfectly, too, which means you'll have strings of it following your slice to your plate. Cut them with a knife or twirl the pie server, you'll eventually get them to let go!

The sauce wasn't quite puree, with a few chunks of tomato here and there, which was nice. In the ratio of meats, the bacon and sausage were ample, the pepperoni was there, only less than the other two-but still, a generous amount of meat overall.

Ed worried that I had only ordered a large for the three of us, but I didn't quite finish a piece, Chef had 2 1/2 and, Ed had two and the rest of mine, so they'll each have pizza tomorrow, too. Follow the guidelines at the top of the menu as far as ordering your size-they are accurate.

I think the best news was that our server told us that they are in the process of opening a location in Lakeland. While this one was definitely nice, not driving is nicer.

With all the dining options that have cropped up in Plant City the past five years, it can be easy to overlook some of the restaurants in town. Olde Town is not one to be passed by, definitely a good filling meal for a reasonable price.
Olde Town Pizzeria & Pasta Co on Urbanspoon


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