As pizza should be | November 2, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - November 2, 2007

As pizza should be

After 25 years, Maldonado's has perfected its hand-tossed pizzas

by Elaine M. Rowland

Pizza is everywhere. Good pizza is not. But since finding the good stuff sometimes requires precious time out of our busy lives, we may settle for greasy, flat slabs of flavorless goo. As the cheese hits our stomachs, we're mollified, for a time.

But, oh, when we find one of those places where the pizza-makers are craftsmen, not assembly-line workers, we remember we once had standards, too. On this score, Maldonado's will slap your taste buds out of their funk. The family enterprise has been hand-tossing crusts and lovingly baking them with fresh-tasting veggies and toppings for a quarter century.

They don't skimp on the portions, either. Maldonado's New York-style pizza is tossed into four sizes, from the "personal" size at 10 inches to a large at 16 inches. The personal pizza dwarfs the typical 6-to-7-inch personal pizza of many chains. In size and price it's comparable to other places' "smalls," but I like the fact it's called "personal," because that means I don't have to share.

On my first visit, a regular customer helped me overcome my indecision, recommending the Stromboli ($9.10 personal; $19.30 large), a flat pie with Italian sausage, mushrooms, salami and pepperoni over a well-seasoned tomato sauce. There's something old fashioned but sublime about this combination, and everyone I tried it out on agreed (after all, I did share -- when cornered).

We tried the Super Hawaiian pizza, too, with bell peppers, ham, pineapple and mushrooms ($9.10 personal; $19.30 large). The mushrooms mellow the acidity of the pineapple, producing a creamy flavor most "Hawaiian" pizzas don't seem to have. It was very good, in large part because of the crust: thin enough to be crispy around the edges and slightly chewy.

Like any good pizza joint, Maldonado's lets you design your own oeuvre. The nearly 30 toppings include the slightly unusual -- clams, jalapenos, pastrami, cilantro, linguica and broccoli, to name a few -- as well as ingredients that make up the standards of American pizza: anchovies, sweet bell peppers, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes and garlic.

To help you ease into your carbo load, you could prime yourself with an appetizer such as garlic bread, bread sticks, cheesy bread or jalapeno sticks. The bread sticks come with sides of pizza sauce, bursting with oregano, and ranch dressing. The sauce is better, turning each bread stick into a marinara pizza, though they were a tad undercooked.

The huge green salad ($4.85) adds such filling ingredients as kidney and garbanzo beans, croutons and cheese to the usual lettuce, bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes, creating a real stick-to-your-ribs meal, if you can say that about a salad.

On another visit, I tried Maldonado's Special pizza ($9.61 small; $20.55 large). While I thought the coalition of pepperoni, sausage, salami, linguica, peppers, 'shrooms and onions would turn out a great pizza, for some reason the flavors didn't balance as well as the Stromboli.

(If you're beginning to think it must be hard for vegetarians to eat here, I should mention there are also vegetarian pizzas, calzones, sandwiches and, of course, the big salads.)

I also ordered a hot sub sandwich ($6.24) with pepperoni and salami, dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo, mustard, oil and vinegar. What a sandwich: juicy, spicy and wonderful, and stuffed to overflowing into a fresh French roll. If I'd eaten the whole thing, I, too, would have been stuffed to overflowing. It's a steal for the price, and more exciting than the pizza sub with meatballs ($6.24), which tasted flat in comparison. Next time I may create my own combo sandwich.

For a more traditional pizza sandwich, try Maldonado's calzones. They tuck cheeses, mushrooms, sausage, basil and pizza sauce inside a hearty crust that doesn't turn out soggy from the sauce. This calzone sits on a much higher plane than the cheese footballs many restaurants serve. Being a very flexible pizzeria, Maldonado's lets you request your own selection of ingredients, too. At $6.98, it's more than many people (OK -- girls) will eat in one sitting. Throw in a giant salad and you could feed two people for lunch. Lesser appetites go for the house special: a slice with one or two toppings, small salad, and soda ($5.55).

Unassuming on the outside, this mostly take-out pizzeria has been quietly accruing devotees from many walks of life: families, sorority girls, an ice-cream man replete with cart -- and at lunch, a shirt-and-tie, pointy-shoed salesman dining at the eat-in counter that seats maybe a half dozen. Everyone was welcomed with courtesy and efficiency.

What's your favorite local pizza joint? Let us know by joining the conversation at TownSquare. Go to

Maldonado's Pizzeria

615 South Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View



Sun.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-midnight. Delivery hours vary


Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 6, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Thanks to the review of Maldanado Pizza restaurant a friend of mine and I will visit tonight. Though more costly than Round Table, we are willing to pay in order to find pride of ownership and an out of the ordinary pizza. Thank you . . . we've been looking for a better pizza since El Camino Round Table closed.


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Posted by Lance Briggs
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2007 at 5:22 pm

I would love to see Zachary's open up a joint here in Palo Alto or Mountain View. As a native Chicagoan, I will testify that Zachary's is the "real deal" in terms of Chicago Style pizza. Every other California Chicago style isn't really Chicago-style at all, in my opinion. I enjoy the decor of Pizza Chicago, and I do appreciate that they have Vienna Beef hot dogs, but the pizza consistantly dissapoints me, and even if it tasted better, it still wouldn't be Chicago style.
Its hard to think of excuses to drive from here to Berkeley, but I just might have to again some time.
Go Bears - the Chicago football Bears (the only REAL Bears)

Like this comment
Posted by Yum Yum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2007 at 5:31 pm

The best pizza I have ever had was in the pizzerias in Italy. The smell of yeast from the dough being mixed and tossed as you enter the place and then the smell of the charcoal burning in the real brick pizza ovens makes your taste buds go into overtime before you even see your pizza. The charcoal brick pizza ovens give the pizza a flavor you just don't get on the gas burning conveyer belts here.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 7, 2007 at 7:48 pm

I wish that North Beach pizza would venture further south than San Mateo. When I'm up that way, I often stop in and bring home their traditional, cheesy, wonderful pizzas, which the whole family loves.

A completely different style of pizza that I also love is Pizza Antiqua at Santana Row. Extremely thin and crispy, this pizza is almost more flatbread than pizza, but it's also awesome.

Now I'm hungry - !

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Posted by hank
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2007 at 7:41 pm

There is one real Chicago style deep dish pizza place in PA, its the Patxi's off university ave.

check it out and they have a website.

Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2007 at 5:30 pm

deep dish pizza is the worst food choice next to china takeout for anyone remotely concerned about health

deep dish pizza can easily have 2000 calories per serving with mounds of artery clogging fat

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Posted by Epicure
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 26, 2007 at 5:43 pm

sara, everything in moderation. One pound of carrots can really mess with one's estrogen levels. Who eats a whole pizza, anyway?