OK, in all these years, why didn't anybody tell me about Gil's Pizza? I know the tiny carryout on Belair Road has won a couple of "best pizza" awards, but it sure hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.
Gil's must be doing a lot of things right to have remained in business since 1958.
It sure isn't much to look at. Housed in a brick storefront along busy Belair Road, Gil's sits amid rowhouses and across the street from a used-car lot. Inside is a small waiting area with no chairs, stools or tables, only a counter and an open kitchen behind it.
You want decorations? Go somewhere else, although there is the requisite pudgy pizza chef statue on the counter.
The whole place looked a little dusty to me, until I realized that everything was covered in flour. The two cooks, who have worked at Gil's for years, pound out each slab of dough as an order comes in, flour poofing off the worktable with each blow. One cook worked in comfy-looking slippers that had been turned completely white with flour.
The two men moved through a practiced culinary choreography, turning out a steady stream of pizza with virtually no discussion, each pie looking uniformly delicious.
Bear in mind there is nothing but pizza on the menu. A plain cheese pie costs $7.50; each topping adds $1.25.
We wolfed down four pizzas with absolutely no complaints. The fresh-made dough was nicely chewy and a bit bubbly. The sauce was surely homemade, and not too sweet or obtrusive. Gil's baked the pizzas just long enough to turn the cheese a rich golden-brown, and all the toppings we tried were solid.
My favorite pizza was the House Special ($12.99), which came loaded with pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, meat sauce and anchovies - everything but the black olives, which have no place on a pizza. It could have been an overindulgent mess, but it wasn't.
One of our official tasters was pleased that a slice of Gil's pizza could be folded in half without having everything slide off onto the table - an important attribute.
Gil's doesn't do desserts, but with our large order the carryout did throw in a free 2-liter bottle of soda.
Here's wishing another 46 years of floury life for Gil's.
Food: *** 1/2
Waiting area: **
Where: 5132 Belair Road, Northeast Baltimore
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: Pizza, $7.50 each; toppings $1.25 apiece; no credit cards