Senape's Tavern Pizza - Hazleton

As I said in my previous review of Two Italian Guys Pizza, I don't get to Hazleton very often, but it is a big part of the NEPA pizza scene, so during my review of Two Guys, I tweeted out that I was in town looking for a double review, and immediately got a tweet recommendation to head over to Senape's tavern for a pizza.  So while I was feasting on my pizza there, I called Senape's to grab a takeout small pie.  There was so much excitement because I have heard of from numerous readers' emails that these places were among the best and I finally was getting a chance to try them out!  So I when I called Senape's, I ordered a small pizza, which I found out on twitter before picking the pizza up that I was supposed to pick up a "pitza" which apparently is a whole different pizza with scamutz cheese from what I gather from my twitter friends.  I wish I slowed down among the excitement and ordered the square pitza with scamutz, but the round pizza with romano is what I ordered and that is what I will review!

Driving up to the place, I got a little lost as my GPS took me to Senape's bakery which is just around the block, but I found it with little trouble as the Senape's Tavern sign greeted me.  I jumped out of the pizza mobile, snapped my traditional picture of the building's exterior, and headed in to check the place out.  I found it to be a very small and modest tavern with about 8-10 bar stools and just a couple of tables.  It was definitely a comfortable place for locals to relax and have a meal and a drink.  I wouldn't take a date there, but if I lived in Hazleton, this is a place I'd chill out with a couple of friends.  One thing was certain, everyone was really friendly including the guests, and my pizza was ready well before the 30 minutes that I was told on the phone.

I exited the building and placed the pizza in my car and immediately filled the vehicle with the pungent aroma of romano cheese.  The smell was almost overpowering when I opened the box, and I could see the smaller strands of romano toward the edge of the pizza where it wasn't totally covered up by the top coat of cheese.  From the top, the pizza looked like it was cooked perfectly, but when I picked it up the bottom was quite undercooked, soggy, and chewy on more than half of it.  Because I was in a hurry, I wasn't able to determine what the cause was, but if they use a brick oven, I would speculate it was cooked in a cold spot where another pizza was just removed.  If they use some other type of oven, it just didn't cook evenly from top to bottom and I offer no explanation.  So I wasn't a fan of the crust, but on to the sauce.  The sauce was of the sweeter pasty variety that you find in Luzerne County.  It reminded me of the Grotto, Januzzi's, and Rodano's-type sauces.  I'm not a sweet sauce person, but I can recognize a good sauce when I see it, and it was quite flavorful and of a good quality and texture. 

The cheese is the real story of this pizza since it is the primary thing that you taste, and if your taste buds are shot, the strong smell of the cheese will certainly let you know which ingredient is boss on this pizza.  The romano cheese actually provided a wonderful contrast with the sweet sauce that I really enjoyed.  It was very rich, so I found myself wishing I picked up a bottle of water in my travels, but that didn't take away from the flavors.  The other cheese on top was quite good as well, although my taste buds were not sophisticated enough to cut through the romano and determine what it was.  Overall, this pizza was quite unique in its own right and I can see what is trying to be achieved with it.  I wish it was not undercooked, and I wish I ordered the square with scamutz, but I get the idea!  I would not have any hesitation recommending Senape's Tavern to my readers because of the quality of the ingredients, the high volume of positive recommendations I have received myself, and the fact that one soggy crust does not mean that all of them will be soggy.  Additionally, I was not armed with the local knowledge I should have been beforehand and sort of rushed my order.  A crispier crust would have netted a better review, but I can see why so many people like it there.

Restaurant:  Senape's Tavern Pizza

Location: Hazleton, PA
Date: December 2013

Pizza Ordered: Round Pizza with Romano 
Price: $7.45
Eat In/Take Out: Eat In

Crust: 1.5/5
Sauce: 3/5
Cheese: 4/5
Overall Taste: 3/5
Crispy/Cooked Properly: 1/5
Overall Value: 4/5


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