Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in Indianapolis. —The Mgmt.
334 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis IN 46204 (map); 317-636-7662; bazbeaux.com
Pizza Style: Thin-crust
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: The undisputed king of Indianapolis pizza serves up pies with good toppings and a tasty cheese mixture that are undermined by a thick flavorless crust
Price: 12-inch pies start at $9.25
Since I started writing for Slice, I try to make it a point when visiting a new city to find either the best local pizzeria or one with a particularly longstanding local following. Finding the most popular is usually easy, but identifying the one commonly thought of as the best is often a challenge because there are usually so many divergent opinions on the question. That is decidedly not the case in Indianapolis, which I drove through this weekend. In that town, Bazbeaux Pizza stands alone in the hearts and stomachs of the natives.
From its founding in 1986, Bazbeaux was named the city's best pizza by Indianapolis Monthly every year for two decades. That streak came to an end in 2007 when the magazine found a new favorite and chose Dom DiCarlo's as the area's best pie. In 2008, the editors of Indianapolis Monthly did not weigh in on the best pizzeria, but the people voted and they chose Bazbeaux. It’s not just the mainstreamers who are on the Bazbeaux bandwagon: Nuvo, Indianapolis' alternative weekly paper, named Bazbeaux the town's best pizza this year.
Bazbeaux's menu includes a wide variety of specialty pizzas and one of the more interesting arrays of toppings I’ve ever seen, including snow pea pods and black bean dip. I went with the Bazbeaux Special, which comes with fresh basil, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. I made a significant modification in adding sausage, a decision I made both because I almost always try the sausage at every new pizzeria I try and because I thought the pizza would need something else of substance to balance out the sun-dried tomatoes.
The first thing I noticed when I saw the pizza was that it was cut in slices instead of squares. Someday, I hope to learn the origins and development of the square cut. We have it in Chicago and it’s prevalent throughout the Midwest, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Omaha and St. Louis, and even extends east to Cincinnati. It apparently exists in Indianapolis: Maria's, which has been serving Indianapolis since 1955 and was under consideration for my Indy pizza pit stop, cuts their pies into squares. But for whatever reason, Bazbeaux opts to buck local tradition and cuts their pies into the internationally better known 8-slice configuration.
Every pizza at Bazbeaux’s is topped with a combination of provolone, mozzarella and Pecorino romano, which results in a nice slightly tangy cheese layer that I really enjoyed. And while the cut of the pizza may have been out of place in the Midwest, the thick layer of the unique cheese combination was very much steeped in local dairy-loving tradition. The sauce had a very light sweetness to it and had small chunks of tomato, which added some nice light bursts of flavor. The application of fresh garlic was great – enough to balance out the rest of the pizza, but not so much as to overwhelm it.
The sausage was a good addition in that it definitely worked to balance out the sun-dried tomatoes, but in the grand scheme of sausage, it was not particularly good. Given that Italian Sausage is listed as a higher priced “exotic topping” on the menu, I was expecting particularly good things out of Bazbeaux’s sausage. And while it looked good – the fennel seeds were readily apparent – it tasted like a slightly above average processed sausage. Still, I appreciated the extra fat and chew the sausage added to the pizza.
Normally, when I have a pizza with good cheese, good sauce and decent to good toppings, I’m one happy little boy. But the crust at Bazbeaux’s was a massive disappointment. Anyone who reads my weekly missives with any regularity knows that I am pretty forgiving with crusts. I’ve had multiple pizzas that I think are delicious despite having decidedly unremarkable crusts that seem to serve little function beyond being edible plates. The problem with Bazbeaux’s crust is not just that it has the texture and flavor of an over-toasted piece of store-bought white bread, it’s that it was so thick. Not close to deep dish thick, but still thicker than a standard thin crust. Baxbeaux’s does offer it’s crust in thick or thin varieties and I did not specify when I orderd. I assume that I got the thicker one, but perhaps a reader more familiar with the three-location chain can fill us all in on that important detail as well as thoughts on other pizzerias worth checking out in Indianapolis.