Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve always really liked Radius Pizza, and on my previous visit (perhaps 2-3 months ago), I thought the spaghetti with meatballs was as good as any I’d ever eaten.
My friend and I went into Radius Saturday night mainly because we were still hungry after four small plates at Marx Cafe (harumph). I purposely over-ordered by getting a large special Winter Pizza ($22 for 18″), knowing one or both of us would take home leftovers.
I started with a wonderful bottle of Dark Starr Stout ($5.50) from Starr Hill Brewery (Starr Hill seems to be rapidly expanding, at least in this area, but their quality seems to still be largely intact for now).
The pizza was disappointing. Described as being made with celery root puree, fontina, roasted pine nuts, and golden raisins, it was really nothing more than an ocean of fontina cheese, with occasional dots of color dispersed throughout; I tasted virtually no celery root, and this was pretty much just a giant white pizza, and not a very good one, either. The crust had an even, golden char, and was neither interesting nor compelling; the second half of the pie did not go home with me.
Knowing full well how much I admire Radius as both a neighborhood gathering place, and a serious cross-town destination, I gave up 2 out of my 3 weekend nights and returned here on Sunday, certain that I’d get a better meal.
Well, I did, but not by as much as I’d hoped.
I got there early for their “$5 pint and a slice” special, and my thoughtful bartender, Matt, was nice enough to let me get a couple slices with my two pints of The Gift, also from Starr Hill. Radius has a small, but worthwhile selection of beers and that alone makes it a good neighborhood spot.
But I was here not for pizza (which I took home), but the tried and true – two things I’ve had here before and absolutely raved about: a small order of Spaghetti and Meatballs ($8), home-made pasta with Berkshire pork and Angus beef meatballs, and Parmagiano Reggiano; and also a small order of Prince Edward Island Mussels (a ridiculous $5 for happy hour, normally a still-ridiculous $8), served with Jersey tomatoes, smoked paprika aioli (to mix in), and outsized, grilled “croutons” (to dunk).
I have to say that neither the spaghetti (which was overcooked, and drowning in an overly-assertive sauce) nor the mussels (which were also suffering from too spicy a sauce) lived up to my previous visits. Nevertheless, the sheer quantity of both of these dishes left me unable to finish – I was absolutely stuffed, and I hadn’t eaten a thing all day long. No doubt, this was an incredible value.
But to make matters worse, when I got home, I tried a slice of the pizza which was just awful – the second half, I’m afraid, got discarded.
So, two visits in one weekend to Radius – the first one on a crowded Friday night with both owners there; the second one on an empty Sunday with neither owner there, and, as much as it pains me to say it: both disappointing.
Radius Pizza is still the best restaurant in Mount Pleasant by a substantial margin, but this weekend was not indicative of it being a crosstown destination. Has it changed for the worse, or did I just catch it at the wrong times? I was one of the earliest, most ardent supporters of this independently owned restaurant, and I’d hate to see it go downhill – I’m hoping that it hasn’t.