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Mar 21, 2006 12:59 AM

Review: Sauce - Phoenix (w/ photos!)

  • s

I am not really sure which I find more comforting: Mexican food or Italian food. Oh, there are plenty of reasons for choosing either, but it is a difficult choice for me.

So there I was debating on what to have for dinner. I wanted either Mexican or Italian. First, it was Mexican. Then Italian. Yeah, but tacos. Sure, but pizza. Mexican. Italian. Italian. Mexican. Sushi.

Um... No.

I decided to see what first came to mind and a little Mexican eatery I wanted to try was in my crosshairs. I drove to the spot, but they were closed. Since it was a family place, I wasn't too terribly surprised since it was after 9 PM. So, I decided to head to a relatively new pizza place on the scene.

Sauce is located in another non-descript strip mall on the northeast corner of 7th Street and Glendale Avenue in North Central Phoenix. The mall is anchored by a Safeway on one end and a Pei Wei on the other. I parked and walked to the restaurant.

I was pleased when I first saw the exterior of Sauce. It was bright, with big picture windows and pleasing colors. The strip mall motif did nothing for it, but it was a nice looking place. I entered and noticed that it is set up like Pei Wei. You follow a wall along the side where the menu is posted. You see the various choices as you move along. Or, you could simply grab one of the paper menus right at the entrance as well.

I looked at the various items on the menu boards and had a tough time deciding what I wanted. The choices included salads, lasagna, pizza and a few assorted pasta recipes, plus desserts. I had narrowed it down to a pizza, but the various choices were all inviting. Finally, I made my choice of a Caesar Salad ($5.00) and a Pepperoni and Crimini Mushroom Pizza ($9.00). I also selected a large drink ($1.50). I went to the register and placed my order. The person handling the register was nice and bubbly until I zeroed out the tip on my credit card receipt, at which point he turned cold to me. (Oddly enough, I like to tip at the end of the meal. Silly me.)

I got my number and my receipt and headed to the soda fountain and then a table. The selection of drinks was plentiful, but no Diet Coke. However, they had a Diet Soba Grapefruit and Cranberry beverage that was quite delightful. I highly recommend it. I filled my glass and headed to find a table. Near the window, I found a nice table and sat down.

It wasn't more than a few minutes before my Caesar Salad arrived. It was served in a shallow bowl, and accompanied by a yeast roll. I did not really understand the point of the roll in the parchment paper wrapper with a pat of butter tossed in for good measure, but the roll was very good.

The salad, however, was just ... strange. The romaine lettuce had been cut into 1/4 inch strips and then tossed with a Caesar dressing and topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and some croutons. The dressing was nothing special, but the texture was just odd because of the thin slices of lettuce. It reminded me of cole slaw in a way, but the Romaine wasn't strong enough to hold the dressing the way cabbage does in slaw. What could have been a decent salad was became a weird sensation.

I was still working on my salad when my pizza arrived. This gave me some cause for concern because from the time I ordered until the time the pizza arrived was under 10 minutes. Could they create, dress and cook a pizza in just a few minutes? When the pizza was placed on my table, I knew why it was so quick.

The crust on my pizza was ultra thin. Not quite a lavosh, but certain much thinner than the thin crust style at most pizza joints. The pizza was about 13" across and the pepperoni and mushrooms smelled wonderful. I sprinkled it all with a bit of Parmesan and some red pepper flakes and took my first piece away from the rest of the Italian disk.

Well, some of it made it to my mouth. Some of it didn't. This was because the cooks at Sauce had committed the cardinal sin of pizza making: they didn't prep the crust to prevent it from soaking up the sauce. So, while the circumference of the pizza was nice and crisp, a wide band surrounding the center of my dinner was as limp as a wilted spinach leaf. The cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms slid off the crust and back onto the tray. If only the cooks had either brushed the crust with olive oil or given the crust a quick one-minute pre-bake, it all would have been fine.

I finally got everything scooped up and tried my first bite. The pepperoni was excellent. The mushroom were cooked but not mushy. The cheese was top notch. All of these wonderful things were drowned out by the overly salty sauce.

I couldn't quite figure out if the saltiness was strictly a function of someone dousing the tomato sauce with salt or someone using garlic salt for flavoring and forgetting to scale back the regular salt. In any event, I ate my pizza and followed it with several glasses of the Soba beverage and then some water. Even after I left, I was still slugging down the water to compensate for the salt.

I finished my pizza and relaxed for a bit before heading out. I liked the interior of the place a lot with its deep burnt orange paint job, track lighting, and framed photos of scenes from Italy. However, I could have done with out the sting of 80s American pop hits. (Hint: - search engine - Italian pop music.)

My total bill was $17.13 including tax. The service was quick and efficient (save the register guy). The place was spotless and comfortable.

Sauce is a nice place, but it really needs to rethink the Caesar slaw and give the Morton canister a vacation. It could also do for a brief refresher course on "Why Limp Pizza Crust Is A Bad Thing."

So, I left Sauce, got into the vehicle and headed home.

Perhaps I should have chosen Mexican.

742 East Glendale Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85024
Dress: Casual



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  1. Thanks for the review, Seth. I was planning on visiting their new Scottsdale location that just opened on Scottsdale Road, north of Thunderbird. I see they are also opening at The Waterfront across from Scottsdale Fashion Square. It's from the same owners of North, Bloom, etc.

    Sounds so-so! But, I'll probably give it a try!


    4 Replies
    1. re: Brian

      I swung by the Waterfront eatery for a lunch visit and was neither blown away or discouraged.

      They were very quick and efficient, Their style is Pei Wei. Every order is cooked to order and they reach for better fare,

      I wouldn't normally go for lunch ($12 )

      1. re: tastyjon

        Yikes, it posted before I was done.

        My point is that I was fine with getting a "to go" order since the pizza would last me 2 dining opps or more, which comes out to $6 a meal. If eating in house, it might get mighty pricey with salads drinks, etc.

        Regardless, I was o.k. with the pizza - but not with the sauce. I never noticed it. One can appreciate the traditionalists who don't care for tomato love, but for me I love a fantastic sauce. Heck, give me end crusst with a good dipping sauce and I'll be happy.

        1. re: tastyjon

          Just ate here for the second time last night. I had a panini the first time and I was quite happy with it.

          I had a pepperoni and sausage pizza last night and wasn't too impressed. It just didn't have a lot of flavor, I think primarily because of the lack of sauce.

    2. Thanks Seth.

      We used to live right down the street so Sauce was always a popular last minute choice for us.

      It's not the best pizza out there, but it's decent, and the little glasses of wine hit the spot when you aren't in the mood for a whole bottle between the two of you.

      I seem to come from a different perspective than other hounds here. My parents always took Brother and I out to dinner, and that's how we became good little restaurant citizens. I'm trying to do that with Kidlet, so that she's well rounded and practiced in being a good girl in public. So I look at a lot of restaurants as to how kid friendly they are. Will they not give me a sourpuss if I ask for a small plate so she can pick off ours, do they have boosters-hichairs/do they have a kids menu.

      Sauce far exceeded our kid friendly expectations when we first walked in. There are lots of families in the area, so Sauce and Pei-Wei are feeders for tired moms and dads who don't want to work. The restaurant is very accommodating to kids and families. Last time we were there Kidlet even got a 10" of her very own. Good Times.

      I have a point, I think :)
      Even though Sauce doesn't have the best pizza in the land, I can't in good conscience take Kidlet to Pizzeria Bianco on a Friday night - I wouldn't do that to her or the other diners who have been waiting for two hours(she's no saint).

      As it turns out, Sauce is a great place for getting decent pizza at a decent price, getting it quick, and not having to worry too much about a squirmy toddler.

      One tired and hungry parent's perspective...


      4 Replies
      1. re: rramirez

        My post should say: "Tired moms and dads who don't want to COOK."


        1. re: rramirez
          Seth Chadwick


          Can I recommend Red Devil Pizza for a family-friendly experience? The pizza is very good and the entrees are perfect for sharing.

          I can see the appeal of Sauce for families. Like I said, the space is comfortable. I just think they need to make a few adjustments.

          Thanks for the feedback!

          1. re: Seth Chadwick

            Sure you can recommend Red Devil, but you would be too late. It's near tops on my list!

            I'll let you in on my dirty little secret: While I was expecting, I made Husband take me to Red Devil every Saturday night for a pepperoni & feta pie, well done.


          2. re: rramirez

            I really like your perspective, rramirez. I personally don't have any rugrats and I appreciate your wanting to prepare your kidlet to act like an adult in a resturant. I worked in food service for years and hated nothing more than kids running all over the place acting like.....KIDS!
            Nothing is more annoying than having new parents bring a infant into the movies or a restaurant, only to have the child scream the entire time...and always RIGHT behind me. or to have seasoned parents bring their wild kids in and let them play in the aisles or the bathrooms.
            Here, here rramirez!

          3. We've been there a number of times and haven't encountered a soggy pizza crust. Maybe it's the luck of the draw, or maybe there was a new line cook. And I've had the ceasar salad (not recently) and don't recall having any objections.

            We often agree with your findings, Seth, but in this case we seem to have had more positive experiences than you. It's certainly not fine dining, but for semi-fast food we think it's pretty good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sarah C
              Seth Chadwick

              I think it may be the luck of the draw. Of course, my reviews are only a "snapshot in time" and should always be taken as such. I know that it does work both ways in that I have had great experiences at place X only to have someone talk about what a horrible experience they had.

              That is why I always encourage input from others because it gives any reader the chance to look at various aspects of different visits and make his or her choice on whether or not to have a meal at a particular restaurant.

              That is what I love about CH. It does invite good discussion, different viewpoints, and a chance to find out about places to eat.

              Thanks for the input!