Salem: Balducci’s Wood Fired Pizza and Wings

The skinny: We’ve had a rough time thinking highly of Salem’s dining options. We spent a lot of time in that area last year, and we would just see chain after chain after chain.

Enter Balducci’s Wood Fired Pizza and Wings, which came onto the scene in June. Balducci's Wood Fired Pizza and Wings Salem NH grilled chicken pizza

The first thing that’s obviously noticeable as you’re walking in are the stacks of wood outside and the huge wood-fired pizza ovens inside. Balducci’s doesn’t just use them for pizza: Everything is cooked in there — wings, sandwiches, fries, you name it.

Pizzas here come in 12-inch small ($7) and 16-inch large ($10). Toppings are $1 and $1.25 each, respectively. There is also the option of ordering a half-sheet of Sicilian pizza ($10), and, yes, even a 10-inch gluten-free crust ($8.25).

Topping selection here is pretty good, with a whopping 29 choices. Cheese options include buffalo mozzarella and goat cheese; vegetable choices include zucchini, two types of mushrooms and three types of onions; and meat selections include grilled sausage, pancetta and shrimp.

There are 20 specialty pies to choose from. Small is $12, large is $16, Sicilian is $15 and gluten-free is $13.25. Options include the Breakfast Pizza, topped with scrambled eggs, mozzarella, pancetta, sausage and roasted red peppers; the Spineta, with fresh baby spinach, garlic, carmelized onions, mushrooms, feta, mozzarella and romano; and even the Mac and Cheese.

Review: We opted to choose our own toppings, and went with scallions and chicken.

The chicken chunks were huge. Deidre had to take a few of them off her slices and cut them into two or three pieces. It was refreshing to see pieces of skinless chicken — it wasn’t fried or breaded. Andrew loved the moist chicken chunks, and thought it was among the most flavorful chicken topping he’s had. And the fresh, bright green scallion pieces brightened our pizza, as well as offered the tiniest bit of texture.

The cheese was pure mozzarella, and it was perfectly melted. Deidre noticed there wasn’t a lot of cheese, but it packed a lot of creamy flavor.

Deidre thought similarly of the sauce: It wasn’t thick and there wasn’t a lot of it, but it held a good balance of sweet and rich. Deidre thought it was her favorite part of the pizza.

The pizza definitely looked like a wood-fired pizza, and it was most evident from its outer crust, where it was blackened. Andrew was a bit worried that the blackening might give it a charred flavor, but it didn’t really affect the flavor. Deidre thought the cooking style gave it just a little bit of a crispy edge on otherwise soft crust. The bottom crust was also thin and soft.

Andrew was a bit disappointed with the cold pizza test. While the pizza crust was soft and chewy, everything had lost a bit of flavor. Hard to explain, but it just didn’t have the same zest. That said, it was still very good. And Andrew was also very impressed by the take-out packaging, which included a neat plastic mesh underneath the pizza, that probably serves a few purposes, but I appreciated that it prevented my leftovers from sliding around. A nice touch that shows a focus on customer experience.

Rating: Deidre: 4.5 / Andrew: 4.5 = 9/10 slices

Balducci’s Wood Fired Pizza and Wings
419 S. Broadway, Salem
890-3344, www.balduccispizza.com

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