Dining Review: Some dishes tasty, others confusing

I'm all for fusion cuisine — French-Japanese, Thai-Vietnamese, Tex-Mex. But there's fusion and then there's confusion. I'm afraid the Korean-Italian fare at Hello Pizza subscribes to the latter.

When you're in the mood for pizza, you typically want a big, cheesy, crusty Italian pie with that wonderful pizza-oven aroma. Don't come to Hello Pizza for that. Here you get a disc that's filling and healthy (according to them). At its best, it's intriguing. At its worst, it's just weird.

Case in point, the Potato Gold Premium Pizza ($15.50 for eight slices, $21.50 for 12) is a lesson in the neutralizing effect of too many ingredients. Its combination of steakhouse flavors — ground beef, sliced baked potato, cheddar cheese, bacon, corn and sour cream — makes some sense. But crumbled tortilla chips on top? They're unnecessary and frankly confusing.

I prefer their Fresh Garden Pizza ($17.99/$24.99.) Eating a slice of this pie is like experiencing a three-course meal. The first couple of bites are dominated by the Romaine lettuce salad on top. Cool and crispy with a spicy Thousand Island-style dressing, it's a refreshing start.

Then you taste the warm toppings — sauteed onions, green peppers, something they call a red pepper chop, and cheese on a minimalist tomato sauce. It claims to have marinated chicken and broccoli, but I couldn't see or taste it. They may be chopped very small.

Finally, you reach the "dessert." The delicious stone-ground whole-wheat crust is filled with a ring of sweet-potato mousse, the effect being reminiscent of a Thanksgiving pie. In fact, I find myself craving that mousse-filled whole-wheat crust from Hello Pizza.

Don't waste your time on the white-crust pizzas. The white crust tastes like a French roll from Safeway, dense and plain. Likewise, don't be tempted to order the Korean Bulgogi Pizza ($11.50/$16.50.) The meat is ground beef, not steak, and the flavors are timid.

For your meat lovers, choose instead my son's favorite, the Double Chicken Pizza ($12.50/$17.50) with mushrooms and both spicy and barbecued chicken breast. Their hot buffalo wings ($6) are good and meaty, but the baked spaghetti is not worth the money ($10.99.)

The owners are as pleasant as can be and my call-in order was done quicker than the 30 minutes designated. The casual restaurant is appropriate for families and could become a popular teen hangout due to their policy of 10% off with student ID. The eclectic decor retains vestiges of the restaurant's prior incarnations, most recently Big Mama's and Papa's Pizzeria.

If you are a demanding Italian pizza connoisseur, Hello Pizza may not be your top choice. Nor should you come here for cheap, large pizzas for a kid's birthday party. But for a unique, health-conscious dining experience, put it on your "check-it-out" list.

Lisa Dupuy's most commonly prepared at-home fusion dish is called Quesadillas with Touches (Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern or Asian.) She can be reached at ldupuy@aol.com.

Infobox

What: Hello Pizza

Where: 2261 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Original pizzas $7.50 to $17.50; premium pizzas $15.50 to $24.99; appetizers, salads and desserts $3.99 to $9.99

Contact: (818) 957-7979

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