When we heard that Proper Brick Oven had a wood-fired oven for making their pizzas, we knew we had to check the place out. You pretty much can't go wrong with a pie baked in one of those.
On our recent visit the pizza didn't disappoint, but nearly everything else was uninspiring at best- even the service.
Going for a Cross Section of the Menu – A Bad Idea
We had a seat at the pizza bar just a few feet from the action at the wood-fired oven. It was fun to watch the pizza makers at work, tossing the dough into perfect circles and expertly loading and unloading the pizzas into and out of the oven with a flick of the wrist.
We even got a few tips on making pizzas at home by chatting with the workers.
We started out our meal with the pepperoni pagnotta which was a small round loaf of bread stuffed with cheese and pepperoni and served with tomato sauce for dipping. The flavors were there but it had a taste like it had been baked the day before and reheated to a not so warm temperature (although, given the slow service, it may have just been a while to get to our table).
The beer list here is pretty solid with over 30 beers on tap, many of which are from local breweries including Voodoo, Rivertowne, and East End, just to name a few. We had the Rivertowne Pineapple Ale and their Grateful White, a hefeweizen, two styles that never disappoint.
For our entrees we split the Pig and the Fig pizza and a special pasta dish with lump crab meat.
First, the bad- the spaghetti was made in house but was mushy, likely from being cooked too long. The entire dish lacked any sort of flavor whatsoever. It was like someone had completely forgotten to salt the pasta water and even the sauce. There wasn't much crab in the dish and not much else in it, either, besides a few slices of peppers.
I wanted to like this dish (because who doesn't love crab meat pasta?), but it was disappointing.
The pizza, on the other hand, was practically perfect. The crust had a nice char on the edges as well as on the bottom. The pie was topped with crispy, salty prosciutto which played very nicely with the soft, sweet figs and creamy goat cheese. And the icing on the cake was a drizzle of fig-infused balsamic vinegar.
There was a lot going on on this pizza, but it was all balanced and perfectly executed by the expert team at the pizza station.
A Slow Service Experience All Around
The service was another low point which likely influenced our food in more ways than one.
Aside from slow service and a lack of attention you'd come to expect at a restaurant, we were first given two pasta dishes and were worried the waitress had gotten our order wrong (we only ordered one- much to the confusion of the poor staff member who brought the food).
That was a minor mishap but more annoying was the fact that we ordered a second beer when our food came and didn't receive it until we had finished eating- a good 15-20 minutes later. And to make matters worse, we watched the beer sitting up on the bar for half of that time as the waitress passed by time and time again to help the much larger groups in the restaurant.
Overall, we can overlook the mediocre pasta dish and deal with the service issue because the pizza was that good.
Add in the fact that the pizza chefs were laying down their fresh house made mozzarella the whole night on countless beautifully crafted margheritas, you can be certain that we will be back to try a more traditional tomato sauce pizza in the very near future.
Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room is located at 139 7th Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
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