There are pizza "purists" who can't imagine enjoying anything more complicated than cheese, pepperoni or mushrooms on their pies.
Others like the idea of the dough as a blank canvas, with endless choices for experimentation. Brussels sprouts? Fried eggs? Peanut butter? Hot dogs stuffed into the crust? It's all been done, on a scale of "intriguing" to "downright horrifying and let's please never speak of this again."
Manchester's Mulberry Street, known as The Mulb to its locals and regulars, isn't afraid to get creative with its New York-style thin-crust pies. Its Blockbusters all boast film-related names and themes to match: the White Castle has meatball, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and ketchup; the Blazing Saddles features taco meat, salsa and crushed nacho chips; and the M*A*S*H tops carbs with carbs — a layer of mashed potatoes, joined by ham and jack and cheddar cheeses.
The Italian Job was our standout favorite of the cinematic pies, thanks to its almost improbable combination. Lemon in its cream-sauce base brightens the richness and somehow balances both salty bundles of prosciutto and sugary caramelized onions. Fresh basil chiffonade flavors it further, lending a touch of color and aroma to the mix.
Our red-pie choice, the Untouchable — with crushed tomatoes, sausage, pesto and Romano — was solid and enjoyable but lacked the sheer wow factor of its intricate sweet-salty-citrusy counterpart. Noteworthy: the sausage appears to be shaved thinly, instead of crumbled or cut into thicker slices.
Original tomato pies with mozzarella, available in 12-, 16- and 18-inch sizes, start at $10.25 with additional charges for toppings. The Blockbuster pizzas, also available in the three sizes, are priced at $15.95 to $21.95.
CTNOW's resident nacho expert Suzie Hunter had spent hours testing cheese-laden recipes for a Super Bowl feature the day before our lunch, so she ordered a salad. At Mulberry Street, even the healthier foods are far from punishment — the tequila-lime chicken salad with citrus vinaigrette, an enormous serving, arrived with a substantial portion of still-steaming grilled chicken. Though it's $13.50, it could easily be stretched to two meals.
We also liked the meatball sliders ($8.95), which, like the salad, don't skimp on meat. The oversized beef spheres come three to a plate on miniature rolls, livened with roasted red peppers and provolone. (And yes, we've been told we need to return for the Mulb's nachos, topped with pulled pork and mango.)
Mulberry Street also offers a dozen flavors for its wings, from buffalo to peanut butter ginger; sandwiches on rustic focaccia ($9.25 to $9.75), entrees and pastas ($13.25 to $18.95) and a rotating menu of house-made desserts. There's also a wide selection of beer, wine and cocktails (martinis, rum punches, margaritas and sangrias.)
In its 11th year, Mulberry Street has become a staple on Manchester's Main Street, joined by many more impressive locally owned restaurants serving everything from upscale burgers to pho to Cuban sandwiches. Manchester has always been a bit of an underrated food town in Connecticut, but those who frequent the area know of its treasures.
Mulberry Street, 981 Main St., Manchester, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. 860-645-8646, themulb.com.