$1 Slice-o-Rama: Roll and Go Throws Down the Gauntlet
Roll and Go has been an object of derision since even before its opening. While we all love a good underdog story, we like a generic-and-indistinct-food story a great deal less. Nevertheless, I come to review Roll and Go’s pizza, not to praise it. Midtown Lunch and its readers swiftly noticed Roll and Go’s add-on $1 slice initiative shortly after its opening, which is not at all ironic given its location catty-corner from 2 Bros and down the block from a generic fried chicken joint that also decided to do $1 slices. Here on 8th, from 38th to 40th, we now have three dollar slice options. One is 2 Bros, which was our flagship $1 Slice-o-Rama review, and one is our current target. Does Roll and Go compare? Only one way to find out.
Cheese: This wasn’t cheese. This was an under-spread, gap-ridden melted off-white substance that had a taste so neutral the Swiss delegation to the UN is trying to trademark the stuff. You can see for yourself in the photo above and judge for yourself based on the inner crust coverage: there’s no way the slice on the left can be more than 80% covered, on the right it’d be generous to put it at 90% coverage. It strung around like cheese and sure as hell let off a moderate grease pool like cheese, but this is the first time since Jerusalem Pizza in my former residence that I felt that a slice of pizza needed salt. I don’t know where Roll and Go gets their cheese but I hope for their sake it’s not what they use for non-pizza products. I hope even more for their sake that they give very real and serious consideration to changing brands sooner rather than later. 1 out of 5.
Sauce: I wanted to like this sauce, but it had a pervading sweetness – as in a sugar-like sweetness – that was very present on the first taste and gave way gradually to a mild tomatoey flavor. The recipe needs adjusting, and it’s a shame, because they do a fine job of even spreading and amount per slice. There was no complementary herbiness to it, no saltiness, no pepperiness, nothing to it. It did lend a good bond to the cheese, which stayed intact on the sauce throughout. It doesn’t take the cake, though, mostly because its apparent thick texture was simply a little too much on the liquid, watery side of saucy. I also would like to know where it stands on a pH test, since the sweetness didn’t give rise to any balanced acidity throughout its tasting. 2 out of 5.
Crust: I was surprised to measure the inner crust at a nearly consistent 6-8mm. It was quite doughy for a New York slice, and definitely one of the thicker showings. The thickness contributed to a good moist flavor, and the underside was just on the done enough side to hold together. The structural integrity of the inner crust didn’t flinch on the fold – it stayed together and bent quite nicely for the fold test. The point of the slice never drooped a centimeter and kept a straight line throughout, something that even 2 Bros had trouble doing.
The outer crust was just a tiny bit thicker, around 10mm thickness at measured points. Since the inner crust seems to be doing most of the lifting work, the outer crust did a great job of providing some structure to the fold. The underside was not stippled from a pizza pan, but there was a good amount of cornmeal on the bottom. That’s a darn good way to promote non-stick pizza in the oven, IMO. 3 out of 5.
Overall: There’s a ton of stand-up counter space and outside tables, and there’s an inside space in case you don’t feel like eating your pizza in the rain or snow. If you want some desperately needed condiments to lend flavor to this slice, there’s only two sets in the whole place – one right by the register and one set of typical pizza condiments scattered to the four winds across all the standing area. Napkin dispensers are thankfully a lot more liberal in distribution, I can say that much.
There’s plenty of uncooked pies on deck in this cart here, and those legs you see are of a guy who’s doing nothing but make more pizza. But a real tell-tale are three premade pizzas on the bottom of that cart, not under a heat lamp, just sitting there, radiating precious pizza heat into the surrounding air. On the pass for service was only one plain pie and about seven or eight pies with toppings, including the infamous teriyaki chicken pizza. Panned as one of the five worst in the city, I question that source’s process – who the hell reviews anything other than a plain slice to determine pizza quality? Let the pizza stand on its merits, not on the menu-planning decisions of a misguided restaurateur.
There was a constant low-level line of no more than five people, both in front of me and while I ate. If the turnover gets higher, I could see three pies on deck being necessary – but maybe it’s time to stop acting like Joey’s Non-$1-Slice Pizza and just focus on keeping the basics present, hot, and ready? At least the line moved fast and there was plenty of space to eat. 2 out of 5.
Final score: 2 out of 5. I can’t yet say with certainty if Roll and Go is the worst slice of the bunch but it’s the worst so far going up 8th. When you have a 2 Bros catty-corner and within clear view of your location, and you want to break into the $1 slice business, you sure as hell can’t get by when the main components of your pizza are more or less crappy at best, travesties to the pizza art at worst. I’ve chewed lollipop sticks that had more flavor than that cheese and I’m pretty sure tomato sauce shouldn’t start out tasting like candy. The crust was a balanced form, although too much on the thick side. Any more and it’d be focaccia or, perish the thought, a Chicago slice. While thick, it stood up well and performed admirable on a logistical front. Unfortunately, our pizza reviews encompass the entirety of the slices a place serves up – not just how well they fold, or in this case – how well they roll.
In our next $1 Slice-o-Rama adventure, we continue up 8th to find pizza amongst chicken – who knows how well a deep-fryin’ place can work the pizza ovens?