Short Orders: Grimaldi's

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3636 McKinney Ave.

A good portion of Uptown's consciously hip population (which is, itself, just a segment of Uptown residents) like to think chains exist only in the culturally desolate 'burbs. But a few of the neighborhood's favorite haunts, such as Mi Cocina and Grimaldi's, are themselves corporate entities...although when it comes to the latter, this is hardly a detriment.

I'll just say this: should the guys who roll dough and drape on the toppings figure out just one move, Grimaldi's would have one hell of a pizza on their hands.

Not that they haven't already put a lot of thought into the menu. When a restaurant offers a list of choose-your-own toppings, for instance, there's a pretty good chance some guest will slap together a barely edible combination--anchovies and pineapple, perhaps.

From what I can tell (and I haven't sussed out the entire lot), Grimaldi's toppings seem well selected to complement each other, their sweet slurry tomato sauce and a crust scarred by coal smoke. Aficionados of a cracker crust (I'm one) will appreciate the restaurant. The crispy flat bread holds up through to the middle of the pie, at least on most occasions, and carries a bitter-tangy veneer from the oven.

But here's the thing: dry herbs don't really cut it. Guests can, of course, order extra basil (one of 18 topping choices), but why force that decision when fresh leaves make all the difference in flavor?

If and when they decide to reach for that container of fresh basil--and follow through by placing more than one or two bits in the center--every time they make a pie, Grimaldi's will turn a very good pizza into something so much more intriguing.

And if they've just been shorting me, I'll be pissed.

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