I’ve been pimping New York Richie’s pretty hard lately, and there’s a reason for it. I love the place, or at least I loved their La Grande location. You see, almost five years ago at the ripe old age of 30 (oh, it was all in front of me then!) I had a kind of an interesting summer. My family used to go camping at Wallowa Lake every year when I was growing up, and while they more or less continued the tradition, for one reason after another I didn’t go along for about a decade. Then one of my loved ones had a successful battle with cancer and a bunch of us decided to go celebrate. As a bonus, my mother and I decided to quit smoking on the trip. Since the family comes from two separate directions for the camping trips, we tend to meet in La Grande to hit up Walmart for last minute supplies and groceries, then stop at a restaurant to grab a bite before the last leg of the journey. That was the year we discovered New York Richie’s. We liked it enough that we stopped again on the way back home, partly so everyone could have one last meal together before going their separate ways home, partly for a couple of us to celebrate making it through the first few difficult days without a cigarette, but mostly because we just loved the food.
Of course, La Grande is a long way to go for pizza, so I haven’t gotten to New York Richie’s very often. I’m sure you can imagine how pleased I was a few weeks ago when I spotted the “New York Richie’s Coming Soon” signs on the old Atza Pizza location on Glenwood Street in Garden City. I drive up and down Glenwood pretty much daily, and I watched intently for any change. Just over a week ago, there were colored flags strung all over outside the restaurant, and a phone call to them revealed that were open for business. By the time they finally did the official grand opening on Friday, I decided I’d waited long enough.
Of course things tend to change over time, and this is especially true in restaurants. I found out a little while back that New York Richie’s in La Grande changed owners. Whether it was just that location or the entire chain, I’m not sure. And you know how it is with franchises, how many of us debated going to one Denny’s or the other because one of them was the “good one” back before they ALL started to suck? The point is, I was insanely curious how similar the food at the Boise location would be to what I’ve had in La Grande. Of course a grand opening celebration probably isn’t the best time to get the full effect, especially when they’re churning out half-priced slices and free sodas all day, since it’s possible that maybe the quality would suffer a little.
|Look, I included something for perspective!|
Even though it’s a stretch to get that far into Garden City and back on our lunch break, Sis and I decided that it was worth it. When we got there, the place was doing brisk (but not crazy) business. Sis ordered a slice of cheese pizza, while I decided I needed a slice of cheese and a slice of meat & veggie combo. After grabbing our free sodas, we gave the place a once-over. Some HDTVs are hung strategically, and most of them were broadcasting sporting events at the time. The whole place was impeccably clean, and is decoratted more like a NY-themed diner than an actual NY place, with identically-sized glossy pictures hung along one wall. The divider between the two halves of the dining room is actually a sihlouette of a cityscape, which I actually thought was pretty cute. Anyway, busy or not it doesn’t take long to heat a few pizza slices, so our order was up pretty quickly. Each of us were given a box that was large enough to hold a respectably-sized personal pizza, and off we went.
|A giant slice of New York Richie’s cheese pizza|
Even inside that rather large box, the very tip of the pizza slice had to be folded under a bit so it would fit into the box. Since I guess comparisons to the other NY-style pizza place in town are inevitable, let’s just get straight into it. Simply put, I love Guido’s, but if we’re going purely on flavor alone, Richie’s wins. It’s true that Guido’s is more authentic to the type of pizza I had while living in NY, and it’s true that their slices are perfect for folding and eating on the go. I like the cheese blend at both places, but Guido’s sauce is a little on the sweet side for me (which isn’t a big deal because you don’t get a lot of it on a slice and the fresh basil I always get ends up taking center stage anyway), and their crusts really are super thin and thus more easily prone to overcooking. On the other hand, Richie’s is a lot greasier, and that slice of cheese pizza was the first one I’ve dabbed with a paper towel in a long time. Still that grease does add flavor, and between that, their zestier sauce, their liberal application of herbs and their perfectly cooked crust I was a pretty happy camper. I’d definitely say that Guido’s is the way to go if you’re looking for authenticity and something a little healthier, but if you’re looking for substance and bolder flavors Richie’s wins hands-down.
|New York Richie’s meat & veggie combo|
It’s also true that Guido’s prices are quite a bit better, at least on the surface. A slice of pepperoni pizza will run you $2.05 at Guido’s, while it’s $2.75 at Richie’s. An entire 20″ pepperoni pizza is $13.50 at Guido’s and $20.50 at Richie’s. However, Richie’s has thicker crusts and is more generous with the sauce and the toppings (look at the pictures from my Guido’s review to verify this). The slice you see above is almost buried in fresh tomatoes, drink coaster-sized pepperoni slices, mushrooms, ground Italian sausage, onion, olives, and most importantly roasted red bell peppers. In fact, even after folding a slice from Richie’s in half, you’ll still need to support the narrow end for the first few bites. I would dare to say that a slice from Richie’s on the whole has 30-50% more substance depending on the toppings, so in the end the prices are probably fairly comparable. I’ve taken down three slices from Guido’s before and felt fine afterwards, but two from Richie’s kept me full for about eight hours. So, you get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for here is delicious, filling, unique pizza. Hopefully people will figure this out, because I’d like Richie’s to stick around, but given their location, their prices and the economy, who knows? If it ends up not working out for them here I’ll definitely be taking a lot more trips to La Grande, as I think roasted red peppers are going to become a pizza necessity for me at this point.
Value: B- (taking normal prices into account)
Final Grade: B+