image from unclemaddios.com
Uncle Maddio’s has been claiming a spot in the new plaza on Mahan Road, near the new Publix (east of Capital Circle) for quite some time now. For the past few months, as I came and went to the gym across the street, I wondered when the pizza joint would be opening its doors. Finally, signs popped up announcing their opening in May. They have been in operation somewhere around a month now and I decided this past weekend that I would give it a try, after a friend had given it good reviews.
As my boyfriend and I approached Uncle Maddio’s, I noticed printed signs hanging on the windows and also on the doors. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it said that they were out of the gluten free crust. Strike 1! I’m not necessarily on the strictest gluten-free diet these days, but I have been trying to avoid it wherever possible. I’d been told that Maddio’s carried gluten free crust options and had been very excited to give the GF crust a try. I didn’t want this to sabotage my pizza experience and so I chose to get a whole wheat crust instead. (May as well go for the crust with more nutrients if you can’t go for the ideal.)
The decor of the restaurant was bold and cheerful. As you can see in the picture above, the walls boast about the restaurant’s ingredients–phrases such as “free-range chicken,” “served with love,” and “tomatoes are rich in antioxidants” certainly give customers the feeling that they are putting good, quality food into their bodies.
After much deliberation, I chose to go with one of the “Signature Pizzas” instead of concocting my own. The long list of ingredients was a bit too overwhelming at the time; I needed to make a quick decision because I was starving. The Greek caught my eye, but I noticed that they had eggplant as a topping choice so I chose to add that onto my Greek. The pizza preparation process is similar to that of the burrito-making one at establishments such as Chipotle or Moe’s. It is also reminiscent of the Subway lineup and how all of the ingredients are sitting out in the open so that the employee can go down the line and add whatever the customer likes and have them involved in the entire process.
I watched as my pizza was prepared on a ready-made whole wheat crust (I’m sure they make plenty of these in the morning to have on-hand throughout the day) and couldn’t help but notice that they weren’t very heavy-handed with the tomato sauce. It also wasn’t evenly distributed–applied in a somewhat careless manner, which irritated me slightly. Another employee set to chopping up the Greek toppings (artichokes, red onions, spinach and olives) and mixing them with the Greek dressing. At this point, I continued on to the register where my boyfriend and I paid for our food. We then sat down at an elevated booth near the door and placed our numbers in the holder, ready to wait patiently for our pies.
His arrived first and mine, just shortly after. They had tons of gooey mozzarella cheese (maybe too much…) on them and were sliced into about 8 pieces (which seemed a bit excessive for an individual 9″ pizza). What stood out the most to me were the huge pieces of artichoke that dominated my tiny slices. In my opinion, they could have been sliced into smaller pieces, which would’ve been better proportioned to the pizza. Also, I was not happy with the eggplant that had been added on. They were chopped into very small pieces and hardly had any eggplant flavor at all–just breading. Strike 2! Uncle Maddio’s lost major points for this one, especially because eggplant is one of my top favorite ingredients, whether as a pizza topping or as a delicious sub sandwich.
Strike 3 occurred with mediocre service. Most of the employees seemed pretty friendly, but some, were a bit distracted. The girl at the register asked if we wanted to sign up for their loyalty program and as I waited for her to ask for the information she needed, she simply stared at me and then proceeded to ring us up. And at the end of our meal, another girl came by and offered to get me a box for my last two slices. After a few minutes of waiting, I turned around to see that she was thoroughly scrubbing down another booth and had either forgotten, or wasn’t in much of a hurry to get that box.
Overall, the pizza was pretty good. It wasn’t the best I had ever had, but pretty basic and tasty enough to satisfy a pizza craving. In the end, I’d probably choose to go to Mellow Mushroom over Maddio’s the next time around–unless I was in a major hurry. On a more positive note, I will definitely give Maddio’s props for making and serving the food in a timely manner and I also give them a thumbs up for including less traditional toppings as offerings to their customers, such as: goat cheese, Daiya (vegetarian) cheese, tofu and of course, an option for gluten free crust.
In the world we live in today, which is full of people with food sensitivities (like lactose intolerance) and full-blown allergies (like Celiac Disease), it is very important to make all of them feel welcome. Accommodating every type of lifestyle and or/diet is a major plus in the restaurant industry. Some establishments are slowly transitioning into being more “special-diet” friendly while others, such as Uncle Maddio’s are starting with these great practices right off the bat.
Their motto is “Fast, Fresh and Affordable,” and I can easily agree that this is what they deliver. Though they will never go down in history as my favorite pizza place in Tallahassee, they will remain a good option for when I’m thinking, “fast, fresh and affordable,” oh, and of course indulgent. (Hey! Even pizza made with fresh local ingredients and gluten free crust is still a pizza in the end.)
My grade for Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint: B
Extra credit: points for “unusual ingredients,” gluten free options, and their Coca-Cola Freestyle machine…These probably kick them up a notch to a B+!
*As usual, this is only my opinion and I encourage all folks in the Tallahassee area to go give it a try and come to your own conclusions! It may not be my favorite, but I like to support new/locally owned businesses. Find their Facebook page here.