You can always smell the fresh-baked pizzas at Phoenicia Specialty Foods located downtown when you walk by the prepared foods section. It's almost hypnotizing as you find yourself wandering over to the glass case with four different pizzas (BBQ Chicken, Cheese, Pepperoni and Vegetarian).
The same thing happens at the Whole Foods on Waugh. Sometimes during lunch there's an employee directing you to the back corner of the prepared foods section by the bakery saying, "Hot pizzas! You know you want one!" And other times the smell of a fresh-baked pizza is too much to resist and you end up taking home a large for only $13.99.
Both of these specialty grocery stores offer cheesy, gooey pizzas to-go, so we decided to find out which one is the best. Should you get your pie at Whole Foods on Waugh? Or should you head downtown for thick-crust personal pizzas at Phoenicia Specialty Foods? We decided to sample the BBQ chicken pizza at both locations as it has lots of cheese and requires distinct flavors to make it stand out among the rest.[jump]
At Phoenicia each pie is approximately 20 inches in diameter and oval-shaped. The crust is super thick and loaded with cheese on top, regardless of the flavor you chose. All of the pizzas sit under a hot lamp, unless they run out and they have to make some from scratch. Once you make your pick, the Phoenicia employee pops it on the conveyor belt to warm up, and get bubbly. Unfortunately, this method of baking the pizzas results in a doughy crust, rather than something crispy and crunchy. But, it is quick.
The BBQ chicken pizza isn't ordained with barbecue sauce, nor is it topped with extra goodies like green onions or red onions. The chicken is diced and coated in a sweet barbecue sauce underneath the thick layer of cheese. The entire pie could benefit from a little extra something something, such as more red onions, extra barbecue sauce drizzled on top and a stronger difference in the cheeses. A presence of more cheddar cheese with the Mozzarella would have been nice. The crust was also too thick to enjoy the ingredients on top; sometimes you're overwhelmed by the amount of dough. Each pizza at Phoenicia costs $7.50, and feeds one hungry person, or two people sharing it with a side salad.
At the Whole Foods in Montrose, you can either call ahead and order your pizza, or sit and wait for an entire large pie to be prepared and baked, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes if there are orders in front of you. If you're really hungry, then get a single pre-baked slice to-go; it only takes five minutes for it to warm up in the large oven.
The large 16" pizza only costs $13.99 and will feed two people easily, and provides leftovers.
The BBQ chicken pizza at Whole Foods is strikingly different than the one available at Phoenicia. First, it includes a generous blend of two cheeses (Mozzarella and Cheddar), and you can add bacon slices (no extra cost!) to enhance the sweetness from the barbecue sauce, which is spread on the bottom first, then drizzled on top before being popped into the oven. The addition of thinly sliced red onions adds a hint of bitterness to counter the sugary sauce and bacon.
Phoenicia had more chicken on its pizza, and each cube was juicy and tender, unlike the ones at Whole Foods, which are smaller and not as prominent throughout the pie.
The use of an oven to bake all of the pizzas, even to just warm up single slices and calzones, sets the Whole Foods BBQ chicken pizza apart from the one at Phoenicia. The crust is crispy, crunchy and balances nicely with the rest of the toppings, plus, the pizza maker adds a finishing touch of an olive oil-herb spread to the outer edges so you're not left with a thick hunk of dough for your crust.
Verdict: Whole Foods on Waugh takes more time to prepare its pizzas. Phoenicia's pizzas are made quickly, and the extra time Whole Foods spends on adding ingredients and baking (or re-heating) the pies in an oven, rather than warming them up on a conveyor belt, makes Whole Foods the winner in this pizza food fight.