Sometimes when you want a single chicken wing to go with that slice, you literally mean one wing – not a single order of 10.
So we were intrigued when a co-worker tipped us to the fact that he often visits Carbone’s Pizza & Subs in the Old First Ward and grabs a slice and a few wings.
Here's the deal: Walk in, choose a slice from a variety of pizzas waiting piping hot in a carousel ($2.44 cheese and pepperoni; $2.99 for specialty) and tell them how many wings you want – from one to eight at 97 cents each. If you want a slice and a wing, the cost is about $3.50.
During the day, the wings are cooked medium; at night they are barbecue, too. Sometimes, both are available, and you can make a “custom” order. Call ahead, and they said they can usually adjust the heat for you.
Established in 1978 at the corner of South Park Avenue and Hamburg Street, Carbone’s serves exactly what you expect from a neighborhood pizzeria. There is plenty of free parking in a side lot. Order at the counter for takeout or eat in at the dining room located to right side of the building. Televisions are sprinkled throughout the waiting and dining areas.
Carbone's is about a two-minute drive from the Canalside/Cobblestone area, so it’s a popular lunch spot for downtown workers. We called in a variety of food for hungry co-workers – a sub, fingers, fries, specialty pizza and salad. While everything was good or better, there was a surprise standout.
One co-worker ordered his usual tuna salad (as in salad, not sandwich; $6.99). We've always commented on it because the tuna is piled so high atop the lettuce, onions, carrots, chichi beans and croutons, that the box has to be taped shut. It comes with three breadsticks and dressing. Other salads range from the julienne ($4.99) to a large taco salad ($10.99).
We got a single order of chicken fingers (five for $10.95; or $11.75 barbecue/from the "pitt"). While we picked honey mustard, other choices were country sweet, Cajun, honey and honey barbecue. Though we were late getting our order, the fingers retained some deep-fried crunch despite generous sauce application. The fingers – a solid tangy-zesty blend – came with a sizable order of fries (always a plus), carrots and blue cheese.
From the submarine side of the menu you can choose from 23 hot subs and five cold subs with variations on all. We ordered the Carbone Special ($9.10 whole) with assorted Italian cold cuts and Italian sausage. Though such a meat-diverse sub runs the risk of burying individual flavors, these worked surprisingly well together. The sub proved more spicy than hot, good news for the sub-sharer with low heat tolerance.
While those choices sound like mundane pizza/sub fare, the quality was above average and the cost was reasonable.
But then came the surprise, thanks to a co-worker's adventurous ordering. He picked a personal pickle pizza ($6.60) and, as funny as that sounds (say it three times fast), it was a hit.
A simple mix of ingredients – oil, garlic, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and dill pickle chips – there was something unexpectedly playful in its taste. The abundant pickles ensured a crunch in almost every bite, keeping the flavor profile consistent and compensating for the dearth of sauce.
The pizza drew a surprised “mmm" and even some laughter on the first bite as several tried it out of curiosity. We ended up cutting it into even smaller pieces and passed it around, getting the same response. Can a pizza be legendary? Judging by how often it comes up in office conversation, yes it can. We may have gone to Carbone's for a single wing, but we go back for the pickle pizza.
568 South Park Ave. (855-1749); second location, with slightly different menu, at 1126 E. Lovejoy St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.