Maybe you can stomach an entire pizza alone, maybe you and your friends can’t even decide on a half and half, or maybe you just want a slice. Where do you go? There are three “by-the-slice” shops in Nanaimo: Ali-Baba, Fresh Slice, and Mambo’s. Each of them succeed in their respective areas to fulfill the customer’s “slice needs.”
One would think only three categories are necessary to evaluate a slice of pizza: cheese, crust, and sauce; but it became quickly apparent that bottom crust and edge crust needed to be separated. There also needs to be a category for the temperature of the slice, because it’s been sitting out (even under a warmer) and it matters to the consumer if the slice is hot or not. So, there are five: bottom crust, edge crust, sauce, cheese, and heat level.
You might be wondering why I didn’t just order a cheese pizza for the sake of having the cheese pizza instead of whining about all the toppings. There’s just something about the “slice” that’s different from a fresh pie. The fresh pie is just that: fresh. It can’t be compared to a slice because the slice has been sitting out. Slice ‘za has different textures: the cheese isn’t stretchy anymore and it won’t destroy the roof of your mouth; the edge crust is either crunchier (staler, but in a good way), or softer (not in a good way); the bottom crust is usually softer, and the sauce becomes thick enough that it won’t drip down your pinkie, wrist, forearm, etc.
Ali-Baba on Bowen Rd.: $6.50 for one slice, but don’t be discouraged because their “slice” is actually a quarter of an extra large pizza. I went to Ali-Baba on three different occasions to get a cheesy slice, but was sorely disappointed each time as they only had deluxe or ‘zas without tomato sauce. They go heavy on the toppings, which meant one Ali-Baba “slice” was enough pizza for one evening. Now, I’m not one to walk in and not order a slice just because there isn’t cheese, so my pizza intake over the last few weeks has been above average. I made the the mistake of going to Ali-Baba first and with a half-full stomach. This led to the end of my first attempt at hitting all three venues in one day.
- Bottom Crust: thickest by a mile and quite sturdy.
- Edge Crust: so crunchy and thick, but with just enough baked on cheese that I still ate it all.
- Sauce: On the dry side, and not super punchy on either end of the herb or tomato-y flavour.
- Cheese: By far the brownest cheese and the least stretchy.
- Heat Level: The slice wasn’t reheated, but it was at a comfortable temperature.
Fresh Slice on Bowen Rd.: $2.26 for a slice, the smallest slice of the three venues. I could probably eat three and be about as full as if I’d had one Ali-Baba slice. I’ve found that Fresh Slice consistently has the most variety to choose from, but that’s besides the pizza point. They set themselves apart by using a herby white sauce for their cheese pizza rather than tomato, so I got a slice of pepperoni too for the sake of sauce testing.
- Bottom Crust: By far the floppiest and thinnest of the three, but this gives tribute to the toppings, even if it’s just cheese.
- Edge Crust: Also soft and thin in width.
- Sauce: This tasted like a cooked tomato sauce, quite acidic. (In a good way.)
- Cheese: Very cheesy, very satisfying.
- Heat Level: I’ve never had a Fresh Slice slice that wasn’t reheated, they always reheat their slices even if it’s just for 15 seconds. This slice was nice and hot.
Mambo’s on Commercial St.: $3.75 for a slice of four-cheese pizza. Mambo’s is known for being the downtown slice after a night of drinking, and for having great prices for an extra large pie (18″). They go through their slices fast. Rarely is there still a whole pie sitting in the warmer; they puzzle their pieces together to make room for more as the day progresses. I was delighted to see a four-cheese pizza.
- Bottom Crust: Sturdy, but a happy medium thickness compared to Ali-Baba and Fresh Slice.
- Edge Crust: Crunchy, a good ratio of crust to toppings.
- Sauce: Very herby and fresh tasting, probably an uncooked sauce.
- Cheese: Their cheese slice is a four-cheese, this added to the rich flavour profile while still being a simple, humble slice.
- Heat Level: Their slices sit under a warmer and it wasn’t reheated before it was served to me. The temperature was okay, maybe next time I’ll ask for a quick warm-up.
If you are a lover of all things pizza, here are some resources to fuel your pizza flame:
- Alex Delaney Eats 23 New York Slices in 36 Hours
- What Makes The Perfect Pizza?
- The Perfect Pizza Dough
- The Perfect Pizza Sauce
- The Perfect Pizza Cheese
- The Perfect Pizza Toppings
- Cooking The Perfect Pizza
- 50 Minutes About Pizza