Our Gourmet: The Pizza Man satisfies the family

December 06. 2016 6:57PM

The Pizza Man
254 W. River Road, Hooksett; 626-7499; www.thepizzamandelivers.com

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.

Cuisine: Pizza/Italian/American.

Pricing: Appetizers, $3.95-$11.95; salads, $5.75-$13.95; pizzas, $11.95-$19.95; specialty pizzas, $16.75-$22.95; entrees, $7.75-$15.95.

Scores for The Pizza Man:
Atmosphere: 16/20
Menu: 17/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 16/20
TOTAL: 84/100

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Some roads don’t get traveled much these days, given other options, unless you live there. Route 3A in Hooksett, north of the shopping mecca around I-93’s Exit 10, is one such stretch.

We found ourselves on it recently, for no good reason, and the FussBudget was hungry. That’s how we happened upon The Pizza Man, the Hooksett version of a three-store chain that also does business in Manchester and Lyndonville, Vt.

It was a nice find. Located in a small, mostly vacant plaza on West River Road (Route 3A), about halfway between the Exit 10 and Exit 11 interchanges, The Pizza Man has a neighborhood feel, though there doesn’t seem to be much neighborhood around it. It felt more like a bar than we expected, decidely focussed on pizza, but we were pleasantly surprised with the varied menu.

Decked out in holiday decor, the restaurant features a 13-seat bar on the back wall, with booths, tables and high-tops throughout the room. Three or four TVs were tuned to sports when we were there for an early dinner. Not being crowded, the place was fairly quiet, with piped-in rock classics playing. Service was offered by a young gentleman handling both the bar and food service himself. He was quick, attentive and offered knowledgeable suggestions from the beer and food menus.

Pizzas come in three sizes, including mini cheese and 1-topping pies ($6.75-$7.75, good for one diner), and 12- and 18-inch versions with the usual toppings. A large cheese runs $11.95, but you can add up to four toppings, as well as extra cheese and a double crust, which would set you back more than $25. Higher-end specialty pizzas, from a chicken fajita ($19.95/large) to BBQ beef (20.95) to vegan and gluten-free options are available. Calzones ($9.95-$14.95), salads, pasta, a long list of sandwich options and several dinners are offered.

We started with draft beers while we perused the menu, a Tuckerman’s Pale Ale for Our Gourmet (OG) and a Cranberry Ginger Shandy, recommended by our server, for the Dining Companion (the DC). The FussBudget (FB) went with a chocolate milk.

The FB decided to forego the children’s menu, which, with 21 offerings including everything from spaghetti to a veal parm bulkie plate, is one of the most extensive we’ve seen anywhere. Instead, he ordered a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup ($4.95), which he loves at home out of a can. The Pizza Man’s version came loaded with spinach and tiny meatballs and pearl pasta and was quite good.

The FB, however, already had chugged his chocolate milk and after just a bit of soup, declared himself full and promptly fell asleep on the comfy banquette. His leftovers came home.

OG ordered the Steak Tip Dinner ($15.95) off the dinner menu, which came with two sides. We opted for the Caesar and macroni salads. The Caesar, served early, was fresh and crunchy, topped with croutons and Parmesan. It disappeared quickly when offered to the DC.

The steak tips and macaroni salad, served on a large, black plate, looked small. It wasn’t. A half dozen steak tips — about 12 ounces — were cooked to medium rare, as requested, and were very tender. The marinade was a smidge sweet for OG’s palate, but was noticeably less so where the meat had charred more and the sauce caramelized. The macaroni salad, a mound the size of a good scoop of ice cream, was coated in a thick, creamy dressing that offset and complemented the steak nicely.

It being The Pizza Man, we tried a couple pies, ordering a mini vegan ($11.65) and a 12-inch white pizza ($15.05), half with sauce and half without. The vegan was surprisingly good. A crisp, thin crust was topped first with a vegan sauce, then vegan Diaya “cheese,” and finally mushrooms, spinach and onions. The sauce was mild and sweet, and the vegan cheese melted into a smooth creamy mess under the vegetables. It was good enough to consider as a future meatless option.

The white pizza was rich, as expected, and carried bits of fresh garlic under the molten cheesy goodness, a nice surprise. As usual when it’s an option, the feta overpowered the milder cheeses and required frequent sips of beer to keep in balance.

Before tip, our meal and drinks topped out a tad over $60, which seemed a little high. On the other hand, we left with soup, two steak tips and half a pizza, which made for great snacking later that night.

It’s possible that later in the evening, or on a weekend when there’s more of a bar crowd, The Pizza Man might get a bit noisy, but it was quiet and relaxed during our visit. If you find yourself out that way, out of the way, it’s a nice spot for some informal dining or snacking.

FoodOur GourmetHooksett

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