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Twelve-inch pies allow you to sample some variety.

Image: Alice Levitt

Nothing can make you miss New York like a disappointing chicken Parm. In this case, it was the platter at Mandola's Deli, where the promising-looking extra-large breast was too thick, not crispy and covered in more powdery Parmesan than stretchy mozzarella. When a favorite comfort food doesn't hit the right notes, it leaves a hole in your gustatory soul like few other things. 

Luckily, lunch the next day was scheduled for the location of Grimaldi's Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria in CityCentre. I have a strong mistrust of any restaurant with more than three locations. But the promise of coal-fired pies soothed me.

My party of three split a large Caesar salad, which we were told was sized for four, but we ate less than half. This is no way reflected our ardor for the comparatively light, citrusy dressing, nor the unusually airy croutons, also baked in the coal oven.

And the pies? Slightly less elastic than back home, but otherwise legit. The current seasonal special, a Buffalo chicken pizza with not only "fire-braised" poultry tossed in Frank's Red Hot sauce and funky blue cheese, but also crowned with crunchy chunks of celery. Weird? A little. Delicious? That, too.

But my go-to will certainly be the not-so plain-Jane Margherita. We all know that a Neapolitan Margherita is crust with a base of crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. At Grimaldi's it's more or less the same idea, but with the brand's famous sauce in place of the plain tomatoes, and in greater volume than the brand's Traditional Pizza. It's not the same as my standard greasy, sauce-and-cheese plain pies from childhood. But it's a relative, with an edge of sophistication I didn't get at Pizza Post.

So when will Grimaldi's fulfill my fix in the Inner Loop? I'll be waiting.

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