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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Empire Pizza dishes up authentic New York fare

    Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca
    The Bensonhurst, one of Empire Pizza’s ready-made specialty pizzas for sale by the slice, on display in front of the eatery’s kitchen at 137 E. Congress St. on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Empire Pizza makes New York style pizza and opens at 11 a.m. daily. Photo by: Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat

    Part of the revitalization of Tucson’s historic downtown has been a wide array of new and exciting restaurants cropping up along Congress Street and Broadway Boulevard. Empire Pizza & Pub has been front-running this trend with its small storefront located at Congress Street and Sixth Avenue, directly in front of the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar stop and just down the street from the Ronstadt Transit Center. 

    Empire Pizza and the restaurants and shops around it attract businesspeople, concert-goers, tourists and just about anybody who wanders around downtown Tucson. 

    While the amount of restaurant competition downtown has without a doubt been turned up a notch in recent years, Empire has withstood the test of the time and continues to be a favorite for many Tucsonans. Empire Pizza promises New York-style food—everything including its pizza, grinders, salads, sides and even desserts. 

    However, Empire Pizza is absolutely dedicated to serving authentic New York pizza above all else, as indicated by the names of its pies, all of which take after popular NYC destinations: SOHO, Chelsea, Astoria, Mulberry Street and more. Empire makes it clear that the restaurant is doing all it can to bring NYC to Tucson, and succeeds. 

    When a customer first enters Empire Pizza, they should realize that the restaurant even tries to recreate a Brooklyn feel. With large brick walls, bright lights, a glass case featuring all of its pies and desserts and the kitchen located out in the open—directly behind the counter—the restaurant does a fantastic job replicating a true New York pizza joint, all the while making it youthful and modern. 

    There are also tables and chairs located out front so customers can enjoy the weather, as well as a bar located in the back, down a narrow hallway. The true test of how authentic Empire is, however, is its food. 

    While the pies definitely looked appetizing, grinders are the underdog when it comes to authentic New York fare, so that’s what I ordered—a meatball parmesan grinder and a slice of cheesecake to boot, also a popular New York treat. The speed of the service was average, which was forgivable considering the large number of people crowding the small establishment for the lunch rush. 

    The wait and the hard work of kitchen staff paid off—I was given a delicious grinder. The food at Empire leaves very little to complain about. The portions are reasonable and plentiful, the food is hot and fresh and the meal would leave any customer very satisfied. 

    The grinder consisted of four sizeable meatballs drenched in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. It was enjoyable down to the last bite. The cheesecake was no different—it was fresh, tasty, creamy and a perfect way to finish off the huge grinder. 

    It was a very satisfying lunch after a difficult morning of classes, and any student would more than likely find it the same, especially those living downtown.

    Empire Pizza definitely stands out among the other restaurants that have popped up around downtown. With friendly service, a welcoming, authentic environment and tasty, satisfying food, it should fit the bill for any hungry Tucsonan seeking out authentic New York fare.

    Follow Paul Barlyn on Twitter.

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