Restaurant Review - The Slice is Right

Pizza and martinis on Peters Street? Uh-oh. Slice sounds like the sort of place that gives me the howling fantods. I imagine skinny patrons clad in black from head to toe, chain-smoking and quaffing Cosmos, picking at $10 pizzas the size of English muffins served by a snooty staff. But how wonderfully wrong I am. Yes, Slice is brimming with warehouse chic, and it is young and hip, but it's also deliciously unpretentious. An all-glass shop front allows natural light to pour in, and high, exposed-ductwork ceilings lend a clean edge. Yet a squishy suede sectional in the corner provides a warm, living room feel. The long, blond wood bar is host to neighborhood folk who sip beers and enjoy large, floppy slices of 'za.

Meager, not mystical: The martini end of Slice appears to have been axed early on. Except for the lack of a drinks list ("We just updated it again and haven't gotten it printed yet," our server explained), Slice has the cool 'n' cheap concept nailed down. The simple menu means service that is commendably smooth for a 6-week-old restaurant. However, some items should be axed altogether. An appetizer called "Kim's Mystical Mushrooms" is overpriced at $6 for seven stuffed mushrooms reminiscent (although not in a bad way) of Pizza Rolls. Gooey with mozzarella, bits of pepperoni and tomato sauce, the teeny caps are presented on a skillet so large the already small portion seems stingy.

Go for the pie: The chicken parmesan sandwich ($6) is an open-faced disappointment, with cutlets so dry and overwhelmed by tomato sauce that it's hard to distinguish meat from bread. The cappicola and salami in the cold, pick-your-fillings sandwich ($6) are top-shelf tasty, but the hoagie bun they're wedged into looks like someone sat on it. Lasagna ($8.25) is a build-it-yourself, vegetarian friendly option. Smothered with cheese and sloppy with marinara, the piping-hot pasta dish is red-sauce satisfying. But with good, cheap pizza as an alternative, why bother?

A pizza by any other name: Starting at $8.50 for a 12-inch, and $11 for a 16-inch pie, the pizzas are a great value and delicious eating. Despite names that are more about inside jokes than the appetite ("Raging Agee" sounds like an ailment that necessitates penicillin), specialty pizzas are even cheaper than choosing toppings, which range from 65 cents to $1.25. "Not So Plain Jane" ($11.50) with pepperoni, black olives and the hottest banana peppers on Earth, delights pizza traditionalists. Although the abundance of toppings leaves the otherwise chewy, golden crust soggy toward the middle, the slices nonetheless disappear as quickly as they're served. A pizza we load with artichoke hearts, fresh baby spinach and green olives ($10.85) is pleasantly piquant. Tiramisu (what else?) and Oreo cheesecake are offered for dessert, but they aren't house-made, so we opt out.

Knowing the tab will be wonderfully small, we feel free to end the evening with another ice-cold PBR. Even with generous rounds of cocktails, Slice is one of our cheapest nights out by far. But it doesn't feel cheap at all. In fact, it feels pretty darn cool.

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