MAFIAoZA’S Pizzeria & Neighborhood Pub2 Dexter Ave Birmingham, AL
Its hard to know where to start here. MAFIAoZA’S Pizzeria & Neighborhood Pub was one of my favorite restaurants for the first year to so that I lived here. I frequently claimed it as the best pizza in town, and made a point to bring out-of-towners, including my parents, my brother in law, and my old collage friends. The pizza is usually awesome, we tend to favor the irrate Italian. In addition to good pizza, MAFIAoZA’S has a nice atmosphere, a small selection of great beers (though they serve them in mason jars, what is this Po’Folks?) and a veggie friendly menu (though I wasn’t veg my first time there). So it is very hard for me to say anything less than positive about them, therefore I will try and be objective, and let you come to your own assumptions.
The problems started back in the early spring. Melissa and I tried to go there for lunch, but to our surprise the place was closed. When we arrived there was a woman on the patio who tells us she thinks they are closed, and walks in to ask, eventually comes back to send us off saying they “don’t do lunch”. We were disappointed but understanding. Looking their website it looks like they only do lunch on Fridays, so maybe we had only ever been there on a Friday but that doesn’t sound right to me. Since the location is closer to work than home, and given that they “don’t do lunch” it was a while before we returned. Our next visit was was on April 24th. I know the exact date because we were at the schaeffer eye center crawfish boil with a few friends and decided that it would be a great place to go after the show. Thinking that their hours may have changed, I pulled out my iphone to check their website, It read “11:00AM – At Least Midnight”. We show up between 11-11:30, and the place is dark with chairs on the table. Strangely enough the valet is still there, so we ask him if they are still open. He looks over his shoulder puzzled, and in an odd parallel to our previous visit, he runs inside for a moment, then runs back out to send us off.
Unlike the first rejection, we actually banned the place for a few months after that. Our next visit was on June 5th after brewfest. Again we had people in town, and decided to give it a go. They were open, but service was terribly slow on a night that did not seem excessively busy. It was one of those situations where after waiting for out waiter/waitress for a long time, I had to step inside and ask the hostess to send someone over to with menus. When the waitress finally found us, she seemed more concerned with letting us know that this was not her area, than she was with giving us service. Slow service was the theme of the night, but the food was good and we had good conversation with good friends, so our night was not ruined. That said, we put the place back on another ban until October.
Our experience this time, wasn’t much better. Our waiter was very polite and professional(unlike last time), but the food was incredibly slow once again. I get the impression that something went wrong and our order was lost or forgotten, because it was about an hour before we got our pizza. We ordered the irrate Italian, which has Parmesan, black olives, and garlic. It was pretty good, but tasted a little like it was thrown together in a hurry (supporting my suspicion that it was forgotten and had to be made in a rush), it had all the right flavors, and the crust was good, but the garlic, which you can’t really see, seemed to be mostly piled in the middle. Leaving garlic overload on the first bite of some slices, while near the crust the flavor was notably bland. I admit it may be nitpicking, but the one thing in my mind that redeemed this place in the past was that the pizza was always first rate. In the end we did not complain. However, we were given our bill and a moment later, recognizing that there was a problem, the waiter came out with a “revised” bill. The new bill had deducted half the price of our pizza to make up for the wait.
In the end, I am very let down with the string of bad experiences. I really want that great pizza, and I don’t want to suffer sub-par service to get it. My advice to you is try them, but only give them one shot. If the food and service are good, you are in for a treat. As for us, we probably need another 5-6 months before we give them a chance to win us back. In the mean time I guess I can be content with the second or third best pizza in town.
Mafiaoza’s has great pizza. That, I will never dispute. It has great flavor, it’s not salty, and the pizza is reasonably priced – Andy and I can split a pizza for $12, often with leftovers. We always get the Irate Italian which is topped with a combination of cheeses and black olives. (There are other veggie options.) On our most recent trip, I was especially hungry, so I decided to order a house salad to start. Learn from my mistake, and do not do the same. It was absolutely not worth $5.50 – the serving size was too small, and not a thing about it was special (iceberg lettuce with two pieces of romaine lettuce does not constitute ‘mixed greens’). It was a $3 salad, max. Instead, put that money toward an appetizer sampler, which, as I recall was less than $10. We’ve ordered it in the past, and it was a pretty good option for vegetarians since there’s a list options including White Bean Hummus, various cheeses (we got the Gouda), Spinach and Artichoke Dip, etc. (Mafiaoza’s, I dislike very much that your website doesn’t have a menu, so I can’t list anymore options. I boo you!)
Great pizza and yummy appetizer sampler aside, I don’t think we’ll be going back. It doesn’t take much for a restaurant to end up on my banned list; however, I don’t feel that my expectations are unreasonable. The list of transgressions that constitute blackballing: first, slow service; second, rude/indifferent service; third, poorly prepared food. I gave Mafiaoza’s the benefit of the doubt too many times – more than most restaurants get – and got burned every time. Our first issue came when we went there for lunch one Thursday afternoon, and they had inexplicably changed their hours and were no longer operating during lunch. Okay, I let that one slide even though a little warning would have been nice. The second time we took some friends after a concert. We arrived at about 11:30, but they were closed, even though they were supposed to be open to midnight – FAIL! The last two times we went there it was incredibly slow. The first time we encountered this problem, we took my bother and his wife who are from out of town. We thought it would be sure to impress, but our wait put the kibosh on that straightaway. That experience kept our early-to-bed visitors up way to late, and made us feel like sub-par hosts. On our most recent/last visit, the majority of our time – one hour and ten minutes – was spent waiting on our pizza. Let me assure you, that by the time we got it, we were ravenous, and it didn’t take us any time at all to down that thing… maybe 15 minutes. I think waiting 55 minutes for a pizza is unreasonable. To be fair, I should acknowledge that we were comped half the price of the pizza, but that amount of time wasted is worth more to me than $6.
In short, great pizza, terrible service. If you have plenty of free time, and don’t mind a wait, then give it a shot. We won’t be there…