GUILDERLAND — The Blaze Pizza website asserts its product is artisanal, connoting hand-crafted products made in small batches.
And while artisanal is becoming a meaningless word, you can watch your pizza being hand-made — but I quibble about the small batches because the Blaze Pizza chain has many locations. Locally, the Stuyvesant Plaza location is the second; there’s also one on Balltown Road in Niskayuna. Judging by a recent visit, it’s a great success.
Restaurants here tend to be high-end and table-service. Blaze is inexpensive, fast-casual and stylish, and popular. It was thick with customers in corporate polo shirts or office attire.
WHERE: 1475 Western Ave. (Stuyvesant Plaza near T.G.I. Friday’s), 650-7595, www.blazepizza.com
WHEN: Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $26.51
MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible. Credit cards: Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking lot.
The space yawns and the dining room seems to go on forever. Don’t let go of your balloon here. Its polished industrial decor has chairs from chemistry lab. It’s loud, and they play music.
Take the door opposite the dining room and you’ll find yourself in a chute that ends near the back. Grab a menu. You may have to wait: Shortly after we arrived, the line backed up all the way to the door.
You won’t need much time to absorb the menu. There’s pizza. There’s salads. That’s all you need, really. Order a pizza from their signature menu ($7.95) or build your own; choose from a gazillion toppings.
By the time you reach the counter you’re ready. An employee writes your name and order on a piece of oven-proof paper. It’s put on a pan under a molded crust and the assembly line cranks out the toppings. It’s fun to watch.
Pick up salads at the checkout and step aside to watch pizzas bake. They’ll call you when it’s ready. Virginia and I put our stuff down and came back for our pies. You can’t carry it all.
Grab forks and whatever by the soda fountain. If you can reach them, grab napkins from the anal-retentive dispenser pushed all the way to the back of the counter.
Our pizzas cooked in three minutes and we headed happily to our table. They looked great, and you know they’re hot because you just saw them come out of the oven. They tasted great, too.
I loved the Caprese-style salad ($3.85), with quartered grape tomatoes and snowy mozzarella on a pile of arugula. We agreed that the sticky balsamic dressing was too sweet and also missing the vinegar note. It’s unobjectionable but lacks character. However, a forkful of tomato, cheese and basil was a delight.
The beet and goat cheese salad ($3.85) was also high-quality fast food. Slices of cooked beet and lots of sliced almonds come with a pleasant yet inaccessible house vinaigrette. You can shake the container but you can’t beat the settling of the good stuff. And no way are you going to use it all.
Which brings me to posted calories, which apply only if you finish. So you’ll probably have only 475 of the Meat Eater pizza’s 950 calories.
Virginia’s Veg Out pizza ($7.95) had chopped zucchini, mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella, gorgonzola and red sauce. It was lovely, each bite unique. The thin crust is crispy and all shades of brown underneath. The veggies made the crust a bit soggy but Virginia’s only complaint was that a mystery ingredient — stray red pepper flakes? — was fiery.
I ordered the Simple Pie ($5) with mozzarella, Parmesan and red sauce. The red sauce reminded us of Utica’s tomato pie, almost as thick as tomato paste, and fresh-tasting. I would have liked more mozzarella.
At the end of the assembly line you can add salt or grated cheese. After tasting my pizza, I looked for more. The front condiment shelf held only oregano, garlic powder, red pepper. Luckily I carry salt in my handbag. I learned later that salt and grated cheese packets are available upon request.
The stingy napkin dispenser here was high up on a shelf. I took extra on purpose.
We both ate half our pies and packed up our boxes. The tab for lunch came to $26.51 with two drinks.
Blaze Pizza is sort of fast, definitely casual and though dubiously artisanal, we liked it and will go back.