My buddy, Jeff (Burph) Versteegh continues to turn me on to pizza places around the Des Moines area. One that he'd heard of, but hadn't been to yet, was called Bordenaro's Pizza on the far south side of the city. I was staying at a hotel near the airport one evening recently and decided to find Bordenaro's and give them a try.
While I grew up not far from Des Moines in Newton and lived there off and on until 1991, I had never heard of Bordenaro's before. I'm not that surprised because there's a lot of old places in Des Moines that I wasn't familiar with until I began to write this blog six and a half years ago. Bordenaro's has been in business since 1977 when Tom Bordenaro opened the doors to his little establishment. The Bordenaro's family continues to run the restaurant with Tom's son Chris overseeing the day-to-day operations. Chris' brother, Todd Bordenaro, is the general manager and director of operations for the historic Hotel Pattee in Perry, IA.
Bordenaro's Pizza is located at the corner of SW 9th and Leland Ave. on the far south side of Des Moines. (See map) It was late when I got into Bordenaro's for dinner that one particular evening. Even though it was after 9 p.m., there was a pretty good sized crowd in the main dining room. They serve up to 10 p.m. on weeknights, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Bordenaro's is closed on Sunday.
The interior of Bordenaro's isn't anything fancy. Booths line the long walls of the dining room with basic restaurant tables and chairs in the middle. A larger table is back toward what used to be the front of the restaurant. Bordenaro's expanded a few years ago to include a second dining room that can be used as a private room for parties and other functions. And they also have an outdoor seating area for when the weather gets warmer. I took a seat at one of the booths along the wall. (Photo courtesy Des Moines Register.)
A short waitress with curly blonde hair framing her face came over to greet me as I pulled a menu out of the holder on top of the table. She was sort of sassy and brassy from the get-go. I immediately liked her. I ordered up a beer and took a look at what they had to offer at Bordenaro's.
The menu (pictured left - click on it to enlarge) is very basic at Bordenaro's. In addition to their signature pizzas, they have basic pasta dishes, sandwiches, and a slew of appetizers. I understand Bordenaro's onion rings are some of the best in Des Moines. I saw a couple orders sitting on a couple tables that had been pushed together to accommodate a large group of people. They looked good.
But I was there to try the pizza. Of course, I had to get a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom - my reference pizza. Bordenaro's pizzas come in three sizes - 10", 12" and 14". I got the 10" size.
Since it was late and the pizza at Bordenaro's is a very thin crust, it didn't take long for my waitress to bring my pizza to the table. Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and dried oregano are provided on the tables for the pizza. I'm beginning to really like putting dried oregano on my pizza.
I could tell from first looks that the mushrooms were canned and not fresh cut. Not a deal breaker for me when it comes to mushrooms on pizza, but it is for some people. There was an ample amount of large slices of pepperoni on top, along with a good amount of mozzarella cheese. I began to look around for the sausage. I realized that it was ground sausage. Once again, not something that I like on a pizza, but I will still eat it.
My first bite of a Bordenaro's pizza - as with any pizza - was void of any additives of parmesan, pepper flakes or oregano. And the taste was a combination of a somewhat sweet pizza sauce and a spicy and tangy sensation on my tongue. I sort of picked up the cheese topping and looked under there to check out the ground sausage. They spiced the sausage up enough to give it a little kick on the taste buds. The sauce was a little too sweet for me, but it still passed my test of tasting good with a cold beer.
There are other pizza places around Des Moines that use ground sausage instead of the big chunks that I like on my pizza. This is mainly due to many of the pizza places around Des Moines using Graziano Brothers sausage. I guessed that Bordenaro's was no different from many of the others around the area. But it was like they really souped up the spiciness to the taste of the sausage.
A 10" thin-crust pizza is pretty easy to down for me. The crust was crisp, but not cracker thin. The overall taste of the pizza was good - very good, in fact. Like I said, the sauce was a little too sweet for me. But I have to say that for a little pizza place on the south side of Des Moines they do a pretty damn good pizza.
The total bill for the pizza a couple beers and a nice tip for my waitress was $20 bucks. As I was leaving, the waitress thanked me for coming in. I stopped and said, "Do you guys use Graziano Brothers sausage on your pizza?"
She sort of shrugged her shoulders and looked toward a gentleman sitting at the bar by the kitchen. It was Chris Bordenaro, the proprietor. He said, "No, we do our own sausage. We get our sausage from Brewer Meats. They're a wholesaler and a lot of places get their meats from Brewer's. In fact, that's where Graziano's gets their meat."
Chris Bordenaro beamed and said, "Thank you! That's what we're going for!"
While I prefer the pizza from Chuck's or from Noah's Ark more than the pizza at Bordenaro's, I would still have to say it was very good for what it was. Once again, the sauce was a little too sweet for me and the ground sausage - while good and spicy - was, well, ground. I still think chunky fennel sausage is the best to put on a pizza. But that's just my tastes and likes. I'm sure there are many people who think Bordenaro's is the best pizza around. The taste signature is certainly unique and I'm sure that's what the Bordenaro family is going for.