Alleycat’s Pizza (Taipei)

January 18, 2012 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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.

One of the cats at Alleycat's

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.

Inside the calzone (+ some marinara sauce)

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!

Details

Alleycat’s Pizza

Website: http://www.alleycatspizza.com

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.

 

Pizzas we had in Italy! (with pics)

April 22, 2009 in Food, Travel

Rummaging through some more photos from our recent European adventure I came across a common theme: Pizza!

So I thought I’d post some of the pictures we took of the pizzas (and calzones) we had throughout Italy.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get photos of all of them.  These were the only ones I remembered to snap before we devoured them!

First off, Pisa – it was our first day, fresh off the plane, and we stopped for a short visit to see the Leaning Tower.  After much wandering we settled on this touristy-looking restaurant and sat outside, with the Tower still within our sights from where we ate.  We shared a sausage pizza, which was average, a tad on the salty side.  We also had a ham and mushroom calzone.  Those who follow my Travel Diary will know that I had the best calzones ever in Barcelona, so when I saw calzone on the menu I just about flipped out.  Unfortunately this was a traditional calzone (unlike the ‘gondola’ style ones I had in Barcelona) and it was surprisingly bland (though still salty).  6/10 for the pizza and 5/10 for the calzone.  They weren’t bad, but this was Italy, and my expectations were high.  Check out the pics below.

A Pizza in Pisa

A Pizza in Pisa

Ham and Mushroom Calzone

Ham and Mushroom Calzone

Next stop, Florence – where we went into one of these little pizza shops on the side of the street, lured by the tasty smells emanating from their ovens.  This place sold squarish pizzas, and they sold it according to weight (I believe).  We had ourselves a square pizza (either sausage or meatball, can’t recall) and a calzone.  This place was about half the price of the Pisa restaurant but was much tastier.  8/10 for the square pizza and 7/10 for the calzone. Photo below.

Square Pizza and Calzone - cheap but tasty

Square Pizza and Calzone - cheap but tasty

Venice was next, and I’m sure we had more than just the one taken below but I must have forgotten to take photos before eating them – a sign that they were too enticing!  This one was prosciutto I think, and we got it in one of those typical pizza vendors in the narrow streets of Venice near St Mark’s Square.  Very delicious and very big, with a thin base.  Very cheap too, like 2 or 3 Euros a slice!  I’d have to give this one a 9/10!

Big slice pizzas in Venice

Big slice pizzas in Venice

Of course, we ventured into Rome, where we stayed for 4 nights and enjoyed pizza I think almost once a day (what else is there to eat in Italy?).  I know, fat city, but we had to try as many as we could get our hands on.  The two photos below were from this family Italian restaurant on the same street as our hotel, very close to Roma Termini station.  We had a plain Margherita (with garlic) and another, you guessed it, sausage pizza.  Both were nice, but very different.  The Margherita had a very crispy base, and it was simple yet flavoursome.  The sausage one had a thicker base and had cheese on top, but it was a little stingy on the sausage.  I’d give each 7.5/10.

Your plain Magherita in Rome

Your plain Margherita in Rome

Another sausage pizza

Another sausage pizza

Just before we left Rome, we had one last meal at Roma Termini station.  We went for this average, chain-store looking place called Spizzico and got 2 slices there.  Can’t remember the flavours but one was plain and the other had meat with buffalo mozzarela, but both were sensational.  Surprisingly, the best pizza we had on the entire trip!  Hot and juicy and the flavour was simply superb, really hitting the spot.  It was so good that we got another slice (the meat one), but for some reason it wasn’t quite as good as the first, as it was slightly salty.  I guess that just means they’re a bit inconsistent.  Nevertheless, I give their pizzas a 9.5/10 (because nothing’s perfect).  See below.

The best pizza was had in Italy

The best pizza we had in Italy

Spizzico at Roma Termini Station

Spizzico at Roma Termini Station

Lastly, here is a photo of another pizza was had, but it was taken in Freiburg, in the South-Western corner of Germany (in the Black Forest), so technically it doesn’t belong here.  We had this at a restaurant near the train stration that was supposed to serve both German and Italian food, but it was all Italian from what we could tell…Nevertheless, we had this one with 2 types of meat and mushrooms.  It was okay, a bit on the oily side (evidence below).  Clearly not up to the Italian standard.  I’d give it a 5/10.

Pizza in Germany too

Pizza in Germany too

We haven’t had pizza for a while…