Back before Mary Lake was just a lake and not a subdivision, when Buenaventura was a city in Colombia, when the Benton landfill was a landfill and not a rolling landscape, there was a laundromat and little store at Placer and Pleasant in Redding. The store went under different names – Rex’s Market for a time and maybe one of the Holiday chain – while the laundromat was grim and slightly seedy. You didn’t linger any longer than necessary to wash and dry.
As the population grew on Redding’s west side and beyond, a much larger supermarket and shopping plaza came in. Now that old store is a church and part of the laundromat has become Zippy Food Mart (where they once served Korean food) with a gas station on the corner. (Curiously, just a couple of blocks away Google maps show “Methodist Church Ferry Road Anderson” on Mesa Street. What’s up with that, Google?) Redding’s Ultimate Pizza fills out the north end of the old laundromat.
Though it’s got the look of a strip-mall place serving cardboard crust with ancient freeze-dried cheese, M. de Joie took note that Redding’s Ultimate Pizza’s been quietly chugging along since 2008. If it was truly awful, the law of the jungle surely would have done it in by now, so it was time to check the pizza out. The interior is modern and cheerful but utilitarian with easy-clean floors and tables. Pizza by the slice is available if you just want to grab and go. There’s a TV constantly on that apparently only gets basketball games. Service is friendly.
The menu includes the usual beer-friendly appetizers (garlic beer-battered extra spicy cheesy whatevers), salads, sandwiches, and a variety of pizzas and calzones, some with cute names like the Elvis Pesto and the Diestlehorst Delight. Pizza takes about 15-20 minutes from the time you order – a good sign that they aren’t just defrosting and nuking.
Small dinner salad, $4.19
If a restaurant kitchen gives consideration to the simplest dishes, that’s a sign management is looking at the entire menu rather than just focusing on one or two mainstays. What Femme de Joie was expecting was a pile of Costco bagged lettuce. She was pleasantly surprised to get a well thought out composed mixed green salad with sliced zucchini, olives, onions, and tomatoes. The small salad, fresh and crisp, was a generous enough serving to be shared.
Primavera pizza, $13.39 individual size
A variation on the classic Margherita pizza, the Primavera shows off the tender thin sourdough crust. Minimalist toppings – garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, cheese – made for a very light, non-greasy pizza. Of the items she tasted at Ultimate Pizza, this was Femme de Joie’s favorite.
Original calzone (Canadian bacon, salami, mushrooms, onions, garlic), small $8.79
Calzone in Italian means “trouser leg,” not to be confused with pantaloni, “pair of pants.” How it got from trouser leg to pizza parlor is one of those culinary idioms that probably makes more sense in the original language. (After a quick look at Reverso Context, M. de Joie could amuse herself all day by looking up sentences such as “Fuori dai pantaloni, orribile donna.”) The crust becomes more important in a calzone as it has to prevent leaks while remaining tender and pliable, and this one filled that bill. Despite the heavy ingredient list, this calzone held together nicely. It wasn’t quite as hot on the inside as one would expect so the ingredients were completely cold and/or it wasn’t baked quite long enough. Still, the flavor and texture combination worked well.
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Artichoke Hearts Gourmet Veggie pizza, $13.39 individual size
Femme de Joie couldn’t bring herself to say the entire name when ordering. However, the pizza was really quite good – even the thicker crust didn’t seem bready and gummy like many thick-crust pizzas. Artichoke hearts are the vinegary slightly pickled ones, so that tang may not appeal to everyone, though the taste is a nice contrast with white sauce. And the vegetables weren’t cooked into submission but retained their own tastes and textures, rather than being smothered with cheese and sauce.
To be clear, M. de Joie has eaten better pizza in other places, so she can’t say this is game-changing transcendentally fabulous world-without-end pizza. It sounds snobbish to add the qualifier, “It’s really good for Redding,” but she is not comparing to anywhere else, so it would be true. If she gets a Jones for pizza and doesn’t feel up to making it at home, Redding’s Ultimate Pizza is on Femme de Joie’s list of contenders in this town (and it’s a pretty short list). Stop by and grab a slice to give it a try.
Redding’s Ultimate Pizza, 1730 Pleasant Street at Placer Street, Redding, CA 96001. 530-241-8646. Open daily, 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Cards and cash; no checks. Beer and wine. Vegan and vegetarian options. Gluten-free crust available. Parking lot. Website at Redding’s Ultimate Pizza or follow them on Facebook.