I get a little leery of restaurants who were voted as "the best" in local reader polls. There's a good chance the restaurant that won probably "stuffed" the ballot box. So when I found that Glass Nickel Pizza Co. had won the "best pizza" award in Madison for 2008, I approached my first visit there with a little trepidation. Would I think it was the best in Madison? I had to give it a try.
Glass Nickel Pizza was established in 1997 by two local Madison men - Brian Glassel and Tim Nicholson (hence, the "Glass Nickel" name). Glassel and Nicholson had both worked in pizza parlors since their teens. They met up at a pizza place they worked at and began to talk about the kind of a pizza they would like to make - with fresh ingredients, a vast variety of toppings and styles of pizza, and a commitment to consistent excellence.
Their first location quickly sprouted a second location in Madison. Today, there are seven Glass Nickel locations - four in the greater Madison area, one in Green Bay, one in Oshkosh, and one in western suburban Milwaukee. In addition to pizza, Glass Nickel Pizza Co. also has a variety of sandwiches, calzones, wings, salads and appetizers.
During a recent trip to Madison, I stayed on the west side of town. I was almost equidistant between the Madison - West Glass Nickel and the one in suburban Fitchburg. It was more of a direct route to the one in Fitchburg, so I went to that one (see map). I pulled up in front and suddenly realized that it was more of a take-out and delivery location. Oh, there were some booth-type tables in the small dining area. But it was definitely not conducive for a sit down meal. All right, that's fine. I'll get it to go. The hotel isn't that far away.
I walked in and could see a flurry a of activity in the kitchen. I went up to the counter and opened a small "to-go" menu to see what I wanted. Glass Nickel featured over 20 specialty pizzas as well as the ability to choose your own toppings. The first thing I noticed was the low prices on their pizza. A 10" (small) pizza began at $7.65 for a basic cheese pizza. Each topping was a buck more.
I decided to get a small Italian sausage, pepperoni and mushroom, the reference toppings for me to try a new pizza. They also had a number of different types of sauce to choose from. I almost got their spicy classic, but decided just to have their regular classic Italian red sauce. (Although their chunky marinara was tempting, as well.) Since this location was mainly carryout only, they didn't have any beer on the premises. That's OK, there was a convenience store near the hotel. I could stop there and get some beer to drink.
They told me my pizza would be ready in less than 15 minutes, so I sat in one of the booths looking over the menu. And less than 15 minutes later, one of the guys in the back brought out my pizza for me to take to the hotel. I stopped at the convenience store to get a "40" of Bud Light and got back to the hotel. The temperature of the pizza had cooled down a bit, so I popped a couple pieces in the microwave that I had in my room for a few seconds.
The toppings were definitely fresh and plentiful. The sausage on top were the big chunks, the pepperoni was spicy and the mushrooms were fresh cut. I liked the sauce and the amount of cheese on top. All in all, it was a very good pizza. For a pizza that was just a tad over $11.00, there was a lot of pizza to eat. I could only eat four slices (out of six) before I'd had enough. I had the other two pieces for breakfast the next day. It was still good warmed up. I was pleasantly surprised all the way around.
I was impressed with Glass Nickel's pizza. I don't like to take a pizza back to a hotel rather than enjoy it in house where it's always so much better when it comes piping hot out of the oven. But the boys at Glass Nickel definitely do a good pizza. I don't quite know if it's the best in Madison, but it was still very good. I can see why they've been named the "best pizza" in Madison. I'm sure they cook 'em fast and get them delivered to people's homes in a quick fashion. That's always a plus with many people who order pizza for delivery.