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Shark Bite: Reviews of St. Leo, Old Venice Pizza

By Wes Brown and Charles Matranga
Hottytoddy.com contributors

Saint Leo
Overall: 8.4
Price: $17.50 medium pizza

Being poor law school students, the ambiance of Saint Leo made us nervous. There’s an inverse correlation between the amount of fluorescent lighting in a restaurant and the amount of money it takes to dine there: the more fluorescent lights, the cheaper the meal will be. As for Saint Leo, the restaurant was lit only by candlelight.

St. Leo pizza. Photo by Charles Matranga.

The ambiance of this place was truly unique. The walls were decorated with brick oven pizza paddles. A guy who clearly time traveled from 1917 was reading a book at the bar. We originally believed the glass bottle in the center of our table was a flower vase, but it turned out to be our source of drinking water throughout the meal. Our table’s primary source of light came from a single candle flickering next to our tasty vase water.

We’ve mentioned multiple times that we prefer pizza with a thinner crust. The pizza gods definitely heard us, and went overboard this time around. The dough absorbed the delicious wood-fired flavor from the brick oven, but was so paper thin that it had a crunch you could hear from outer space. We didn’t know if we should get a to-go box or toss our leftovers in the recycling bin. The pepperoni were large, thin, and covered most of the slice. In terms of flavor, they were jam packed with high quality spices. The cheese had good flavor, but the layer of cheese was somehow more slim than the crust. Fortunately, the lack of cheese revealed the best part of our dining experience: the sauce.

Saint Leo’s sauce was so delicious that we decided to ask our server how it’s made. She left to consult the master chef, then returned to our table with a response that will echo in our minds forever: “It’s just tomatoes.” We were flabbergasted. I mean, what kind of nonsense response is that? No salt and pepper? No oil, powder or seasoning? No stove-top heating or mixing of other ingredients? Unless Saint Leo’s tomatoes were harvested straight from the Garden of Eden, we refuse to believe this response. The only logical explanation is that the upscale Oxford pizza scene is more cutthroat than we could’ve ever imagined, and they were just trying to preserve an ancient family recipe.

Overall, Saint Leo combined high quality ingredients (excluding the “just tomatoes” sauce) with a pleasant date-night atmosphere that really stands out. And don’t let the Sharper Image price level discourage you. Their location on the Square is conveniently close to numerous banks that can approve you for a loan with a reasonable Annual Percentage Rate, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try!

Old Venice
Overall: 8.9
Price: $17.50 large pizza

We walked in to Old Venice at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and the waiter looked at us like, “Are you really here to eat right now?” Buddy, we are currently on week five of our semester long pizza expedition, and between leftover breakfast pizza, late lunches and early dinners, our review schedule has become a bit of a blur.

Half cheese, half pepperoni pizza at Old Venice. Photo by Charles Matranga.

The cheese pizza was unlike anything we had ever eaten. The aroma coming off the cheese was so strong that we began tasting it before we bit down. This cheese pizza rivals how amazing Chuck-E-Cheese pizza tasted when we were 7-years-old. It was super rich, creamy, and had a hint of sweetness to it. The sauce was a close runner-up to the “just tomatoes” we had at Saint Leo the night before. We were still pretty heated about the blatant lie told to us at St. Leo, so we asked our server how they make their sauce. He came back with a list of ingredients, such as oregano and marinara. You know, a response you would expect from a rational human being.

After devouring the cheese pizza, we didn’t think our experience could get any better- we were wrong. We pulled pepperonis off to try them individually and our senses were awakened. The perfect pepperoni for us has to be thick, but thin enough to maintain a good crisp. These slices of meat must have been hand-selected for perfection.

Our biggest critique of Ole Venice is that they cut the slices unevenly. If you want to see grown men argue like children over who gets the bigger slice, just serve good pizza with one baby slice. Old Venice, if you’re trying to tear SharkBite apart it just might work. Charles didn’t even comment, “Yasss, work” on my last Instagram picture.

Overall, Old Venice and Saint Leo are the frontrunners in our search for the best pizza in Oxford. Although Old Venice’s pizza is the same price as Saint Leo, it’s much bigger giving you more bang for your buck. Getting more for your money is important when the paycheck from your on campus job was spent to hire a new chancellor. If you’re looking for an unforgettable pizza, Old Venice might be your spot.

Hey lowercase “j” jason, we saw your comment saying that some restaurants have specialty pizzas worth reviewing. We always appreciate your feedback and recommendations! We know that some “pizza joints” don’t specialize in cheese and pepperoni, but here’s our logic: the basis of nearly all pizza is cheese, dough, and sauce. If you do cheese, dough, and sauce exceptionally well, chances are that you serve some pretty solid pizza. It’s also nearly impossible to compare the buffalo ranch pizza at one place to the margherita pizza at another. Our basic half pepperoni/half cheese formula gives us a constant to compare between restaurants. We greatly appreciate the overwhelming community support we have received on our social media platforms. If you haven’t already, check us out on Instagram and Twitter @SharkBiteOxford.

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