The website of Alleycat’s Pizza says that it is the best pizza in Taiwan. I figured it must be true so we decided to check it out.
On a rainy evening we went to the store near Taipei’s Yong Kang Street (on Li Shui Street), which is supposedly the original store and the origin of the entire franchise. The small front door led us down a long set of stairs and into a surprisingly spacious, dimly lit restaurant with a bar and predominantly black and red decor.
We thought we were the only ones there, but we were wrong. Lying around on the seat opposite us was a cat. A real cat. It was staring at me with his big green eyes…and I’ll admit, it freaked me out! It wasn’t the only one there either. Lying in a couple of other booths were more cats, staring silently at us. I thought Alleycat’s was just a name but as it turned out it was actually the home of several real cats.
Look, I’m not a cat person (more of a dog guy), but even if I were, and even though they’re supposed to be clean and all, I wouldn’t want cats hanging around my table when I’m eating. Especially not when they’re staring at me with those freaky eyes.
As I would discover later, Taiwan apparently has a lot of cat lovers/store owners who keep their pets at their restaurants and especially cafes. And there are apparently also a lot of cat lovers/restaurant goers who don’t have a problem with it. In fact, they love playing with the cats as they eat their food and drink their coffees. I’m sorry, and no offense to people who do it, but I think it’s gross.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the food. Alleycat’s is known for their stone-oven-baked pizzas. They don’t have pastas but they do have a wide variety of pizzas (with all your regular stuff like spinach, chicken, seafood, four cheeses, sausage, salami, mushroom, capsicum, onion, etc) and an assortment of calzones, salads and appetizers. On the back page of the menu is a “Top 10″, but we went with the waitress’s recommendations instead (though both may have been on the list anyway): the Pescatora seafood pizza (NT$459) and the Capriccioca calzone (NT$420), which is filled with sausage, peppers, onion, mushrooms, etc.
For some reason, even though we were the only customers in the restaurant, the food took an inexplicably long time to arrive. I understand the pizzas and calzones are freshly made, but 30 minutes feels like an eternity when you have cats staring you down.
At last the food arrived. The calzone was half-moon shaped, fluffy, and with hot melted cheese in the middle as advertised. The filling (sausage, mushrooms, vegetables, etc) was good but light on flavour, though there is chunky marinara sauce on the side which more than makes up for it. Together with some fresh salad on the side, I’d say the calzone was a moderate success. Nowhere near the best I’ve had but nowhere near the worst either.
The seafood pizza was a disappointment. It looked pretty good but the crust was average and the toppings were rubbery and did not taste fresh at all. Maybe it was an off night or maybe it was the wrong pizza, but to be honest I don’t get the Alleycat’s hype at all.
To top it off, it was actually quite difficult to get the waitresses’ attention, which was a minor miracle in itself considering we were the only customers in the restaurant. The 10% service charge is automatically included, so it wasn’t like I could refuse to tip. Plus the restaurant is cash only, which was a surprise considering the 2-person meal set us back in excess of NT$1000, quite costly even for pizza.
The cats, the service and the food — unfortunately none of them (with the exception of a decent but not spectacular calzone) made my experience at Alleycat’s Pizza an enjoyable one. Given the restaurant’s lofty reputation, I wish I could say I’d give it another chance, but with so many other pizza joints around (some of which I will review later), I simply can’t see it happening for now.
5.5 out of 10!
Locations: Taipei has 9 locations in total — you can find them all here: http://alleycatspizza.com/Location2_AC1.aspx?Branch_ID=003
PS: Just as a warning, according to their Facebook page, the Li Shui, Nei Hu and Hua Shan stores all have cats.