When it comes to restaurants, Paul Bass clearly isn’t concerned with visibility. Bass helped create The Cosmopolitan’s unofficially named Secret Pizza, where he manned the ovens through last December. As anyone who’s been to The Cosmo’s third floor knows, the unmarked pizza place is one of the resort’s most popular dining attractions, especially with the post-club crowd.
Bass recently set up his own shop in the ’burbs called Those Guys Pies. It’s located in The Lakes. Unless you live there (or are incredibly lost), your chances of stumbling onto the small storefront are practically nonexistent. Nonetheless, after just a few weeks of operation, it already has pizza fans buzzing, with good reason.
Not much to look at, Those Guys is a tiny, bare storefront with a large kitchen, counter service and a single table that only seats two or three people. Most of their business is either delivery or takeout. If you do want to eat there, however, there are three small outdoor tables a few doors down, overlooking the community’s manmade lake.
While Bass is from South Jersey, outside of Philadelphia, the basic style of pizza here is almost identical to the New York street pizza he made at Secret Pizza. The crust is thin but chewy, with just a slight touch of sourdough flavor. It’s the kind of crust you want to fold in half to enjoy, and if you load it up with toppings, it’s a juicy, sloppy, scrumptious mess.
That’s fine with me, especially considering the awesome toppings being offered. There are 25 in all, including feta and goat cheese, broccoli rabe and wild mushrooms. Five meats are available, including house-made meatballs, sausage and bacon.
As you’d expect, you’re free to create your own pizza. Prices start at $12 for a 14-inch pie and $16 for an 18-incher. Toppings are $1.50 and $2 apiece, respectively. But the house specialty pizzas are worth checking out, since Bass exhibits a level of over-the-top extravagance he says he wasn’t allowed at Secret Pizza. Take, for example, the Cheesesteak Pie ($16.50/$22), made with ribeye, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, mozzarella and American cheese on a red or white pie, or the Buffalo Chicken ($15/$20), featuring Buffalo sauce, chicken, red onions, pepperoncini and ranch dressing.
I recently ordered a pizza that was half The Big Sexy (sausage, pepperoni, garlic, onions and pepperoncini with red sauce $16.50/$22) and half Italian White Pie (ricotta, mozzarella, broccoli rabe, sausage, garlic and caramelized onions, $16.50/22). Each flavor combination was amazing, with just the right amount of toppings. Moreover, the chef composed them perfectly to avoid the sauce or flavors of each side intermingling with each other.
As good as the pizzas are, the cheesesteaks ($11) are even better. As someone who grew up close to Philly and has sampled cheesesteaks across the country, I generally find the ones offered in Las Vegas to be above the national average, but almost never on par with the real thing. The ones at Those Guys, however, are on another level. Bass imports whole ribeyes, which he breaks down off the bone, freezes and thinly slices. Those slices are then diced on the grill so they blend with the sweet fried onions before being placed on a hearty roll and topped with your choice of white American, provolone or Cheez Whiz. The result is a sandwich worthy of The City of Brotherly Love.
In addition to the basic cheesesteak, the restaurant offers five variations on the theme ($9-$12). Five additional sandwiches ($9), wings and fingers ($8-$9), five salads ($7) and a pair of desserts ($5) are also featured on the menu. Of them, the only one I’ve tried is a meatball sandwich ($9). While the sliced meatballs and sauce were both top-notch, I found the thick slices of buffalo mozzarella, which refused to melt, a little unsettling.
After learning the chef’s roots, I was curious why he didn’t offer panzarottis: deep fried pockets of sauce and mozzarella that are a South Jersey junk food staple. When I asked, he laughed out loud and told me he was planning to offer them soon, off the menu. That’s just another reason I’ll be returning to Those Guys Pies very, very often.
Those Guys Pies, 2916 Lake East Drive, 629-2626. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.