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Review: Two new pizza joints bring a little something different to Henderson

WHILE THE QUALITY of pizza in the valley has improved significantly over the past few years, most of my favorite new spots are located on the west side of town. So when I learned of two novel new pizza places in Henderson, I was excited to check them out. Each offers something a little different than what you’ll find at a typical pizzeria — with varying degrees of success.

Pizza Fusion is an international chain with locations in six states and Saudi Arabia. Normally, I’d have no interest in a large chain, but Pizza Fusion offers something unique among local pizza places. Its motto is “saving the Earth one pizza at a time.” That means organic, locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. It also means a nice selection of gluten-free and vegan offerings. And the company employs a host of other green initiatives, such as hybrid delivery vehicles, tons of recycled products and biodegradable utensils.

The menu is fairly extensive. Pizza combinations include everything from pear and gorgonzola to barbecue chicken. There are half a dozen salads, 10 sandwiches and wraps and six desserts. All of the gluten-free and vegan items are clearly marked on the menu.

On my first visit, I had a sausage and pepper pizza. The sauce was sweet and tasty. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. And the sausage was well-seasoned. But, as a whole, it felt a bit too generic — like it could have come from any of the big chains. I blame that on the oven. I’m generally not a huge snob when it comes to pizza ovens — I don’t care if they’re brick or steel, or heated with wood, coal or gas. This one, however, looked like a cross between an oversized toaster oven and those conveyor belt contraptions all the big chains use. It gets the job done, but it doesn’t provide a pizza with any real personality. The sandwiches and appetizers I’ve tried at Pizza Fusion were much better — particularly an order of zucchini stuffed with a jam of walnuts and vegetarian stuffing. I’ve yet to try a dessert, mainly because the restaurant is located directly next to one of my favorite dessert spots, The Crepe Shack & Waffles.

Not too far from Pizza Fusion, another novel new place recently opened: Pizza Buddha. As the name implies, the quaint neighborhood restaurant has an Asian theme, at least as far as its décor goes. There are also a handful of Asian fusion items among the appetizers, such as fried camari with bok choy slaw ($9.50), roasted mushrooms with mozzarella and Asian barbecue sauce ($7.50) and Japanese pretzel sticks with garlic-infused chili oil ($1.50). The pizza, however, is pretty standard fare, although the selection of toppings is pretty extensive. (Most of the specialty pizzas do have Asian names.)

The first time I visited, it had been open less than a week, so I stuck with appetizers. The pretzel sticks were a nice snack, reminding me of the complimentary bar stacks I used to enjoy at the now-closed David Burke in The Venetian. Fried “egg rolls” stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese were tasty. I was unimpressed, however, by an order of gnocchi-like pasta dumplings served with tomato sauce and wok-seared vegetables ($10).

On our second visit, my wife and I began with an order of edamame with toasted garlic, red chili flakes and sea salt ($6). The flavors were great, but the chef went a little light on the seasoning.

Finally, we ordered a 10-inch specialty pizza called Setu’s Favorite, topped with pancetta, roasted garlic, baby clams and shaved onions ($12) that was absolutely delicious. The pizzas here are Neapolitan, but I was a little perplexed to see them referred to on the menu as “brick oven pizza,” when the kitchen contained large, steel pizza ovens. When I asked my waitress, she told me they put bricks in the ovens and cook on them. To me, that’s not 100 percent kosher, but the pizzas are good, so I’m not going to spend too much time complaining.

Pizza Fusion and Pizza Buddha are both nice additions to the Henderson pizza scene — the former for its progressive corporate philosophy, the latter for its cozy vibe, interesting appetizer selection and solid pizzas.

Pizza Fusion 10345 S. Eastern Avenue, 896-9669. Pizza Buddha 2520 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, 558-5039. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.