Over the past week, there’s been something of a pizza binge going down in the Jones household. It kicked off on a lazy Sunday evening that involved one of Tesco’s finest pizzas (with the addition of some much-needed feta cheese!), quickly followed a trip to a Pizza Hut takeaway on Stephanie’s request the following night. Strike three came after Áine had invited us out to eat on Tuesday, whereupon it soon became apparent that it was gourmet pizza she was after. We went straight to Hell and found everything we needed. Hell on Aungier street that is; a gourmet pizza bar that – up until checking out the menu that very night – I had always thought to be just a takeaway with a catchy name! I’ll be revisiting that particular eatery in the not-too-distant future, but for now this review is concerned with how we ended the pizza binge: at Extreme Pizza in Rathmines.
For those of you who don’t know, Extreme Pizza is a relatively small American franchise that originated from California. No prizes for guessing what they deal in, if you’re looking for a burger or bucket of chicken then look elsewhere my friend! Stateside, you’d call the kind of pizza they serve ‘Californian style’; here, we simply refer to it as ‘gourmet pizza’. You know, the kind that makes you think ‘now that surely wouldn’t work as a topping?’ That kind. It followed closely on the coat tails of smoothie and bagel bars in the mid naughties, with Millstone on Dame Street amongst the pioneers.
Extreme Pizza eventually caught wind of our nation’s recent embracing of all foods chic, and in December of last year they chose to open their very first international branch on the emerald isle. Slow as ever, I only learned of this development just a few days ago courtesy of a friend joining their fan page, and in keeping with the week’s running pizza theme it had to be visited, never mind the fact that I’d oogled over their menu some months beforehand!
Roll on a sunny Saturday, some truly incredible bruschetta and lemonade in Ranelagh (I didn’t get Rathmines and Ranelagh confused again, don’t believe anything you hear!) market and we eventually made it to Extreme Pizza’s rather busy corner location.
The walls of Extreme Pizza do their best to live up to the name; action shots of mid-air snowboarders and stunt bikes on the walls are punctuated by the odd surfboard or skateboard with American flag decals. Think a toned down yet sportier version of TGI Friday’s. Quiet as it was, and with songs like Brown Eyed Girl piping in overhead, the only extreme I felt was a mildly relaxing one. Then again, it makes me wonder how they could fit a genuine ‘extreme’ into the meals they dish out. Throw the pizza like a frisbee at your table maybe? Or they could have you kill the cows and chickens that eventually supplement the meat. I know! Just serve the food on fire and make you hunt for an extinguisher, that’s definitely extreme. And, if I’m going to be honest, it might even end up tasting a little better.
Which brings us onto the pizza itself. Extreme Pizza is advertised as a gourmet pizza restaurant and the menu certainly looks to deliver with exotic toppings that include marinated artichoke hearts, new potatoes, gorgonzola, shredded pork and even mandarins! You can create your own, and a choice of calzones are also on offer. Sides include the usual suspects of chicken wings and salads, with the addition of the interestingly named ‘extremely twisted sticks’. I opted for the eight-inch ‘kickin’ chicken’ which included scallions, fontina, mozzarella, coriander and chicken marinated in a spicy ginger peanut sauce. Rebecca chose a ‘yard sale’, topped with sausage, pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, black olives, green pepper and onions, tomatoes, mozzarella and a kitchen sink. Phew! We shared two of the extremely twisted sticks and dips to match: blue cheese and garlic.
Everything looked the part as it arrived, and we both had high hopes after the past week’s pizza shenanigans. By the time we’d each finished a slice, it was difficult to go any further. The problem was a simple matter of taste, or lack thereof in this case. You’d bite into the pizza, chew for about three, maybe four seconds and suddenly, all you taste is bread. For me, bread and spice. With all of the ingredients listed above, you’d expect either pizza to be a symphony of flavours, even if a bit scattergun. In either event, there was literally nothing, which only served to make the entire thing a chore to get through for both of us. I disassembled a slice of Rebecca’s ‘yard sale’ to see exactly how much of each topping there was and this is the amount I gathered:
That should collectively taste of at least something, right? Eating the ingredients separately revealed three things: 1) each component was flavourless; these were simply just bad ingredients, 2) said ingredients can be found in many of the set pizzas, so it can’t just have been a bad pick on our part, 3) the tomato sauce underneath was virtually nonexistent, and the base itself stodgy. The extremely twisted sticks meanwhile turned out to be cheesy garlic bread twisted into a roll, though we ended up barely touching them just to avoid going into a bread induced coma.
In total we paid only twenty-two euro (which also covered two cokes), so at least one positive to take was that it really didn’t end up costing us an arm and a leg. Such pricing did, however, raise more serious questions about whether or not it would have been worth our while to simply walk down the road and get ourselves a meal deal in Dominos instead. An extra fifteen minutes added onto that would then have led us straight back into Hell, which offers gourmet pizza cooked with a lot more care and flavours that don’t go MIA. More importantly, Hell is no pricier than Extreme Pizza, making it a no-brainer of a choice at the end of the day. This, topped off with an absolutely nonexistent Saturday lunch service, spells out potentially bad news for Dublin’s latest pizza franchise. The extreme food may just be a gimmick, but there’s nothing catchy about extreme disappointment.
1, Upper Rathmines Road,