Restaurant review: Viiza
An old Columbus pal who's lived in Philadelphia for many years now once told me that your first genuine Philly cheesesteak is probably the best one you'll ever have. My friend could've been describing a Viiza pizza cone.
Viiza, a little chain that recently opened a shop Downtown, says on its website it offers “Pizza reinvented in (a) cone!” that is a “revolutionary approach to mess-free munching while on-the-go.”
This begs the question: Is eating a slice of pizza difficult? Because, speaking as an inveterate on-the-go pizza muncher with access to napkins, I've never had a problem shoving a slice down my gullet while strolling on a crowded sidewalk.
Then again, if Viiza aims to make eating pizza even easier, who am I to complain? But what's next — pizza “reinvented” in a ball that can be fired from a small cannon into my mouth?
To investigate this and other burning culinary questions, I entered Viiza's compact, whimsically decorated space. Here, two-toned walls painted neon green and neon orange are replete with graphic allusions to world travel, plus manga-style characters. Hot-air balloons and lightbulbs are prominently featured, too.
I'm not sure what all this is supposed to mean, but the setting is not without its upbeat charm. The staff behind the counter is charmingly upbeat, too, and very friendly.
And they're quick to answer questions such as: “Why are your drinks served in plastic glasses that look like light bulbs?”
“Because they're eye-catching!”
And: “Why are you called Viiza?”
“It's a combination of “v” and “pizza,” because we make v-shaped pizza cones!”
Reluctant to commence a full-fledged interrogation, I didn't ask how a cone evoked a “v” any more than a standard, pie-cut slice.
The cones at Viiza are made from thick, bready and generally crisp, but not very flavorful, pizza dough shaped like sugar cones. Into these go a choice of four sauces (I'm partial to the tomato-based “spicy garlic”) plus fistfuls of cheese mixed together, to order, with a modest amount of customer-requested fillings.
Patrons can design their cones ($4.25 with three “toppings”) or choose from “classic” or “Asian style” menu selections. I started with the Spicy Cone ($4.25) from the classic section.
Like all cones here (it takes two to satisfy big appetites), this was cooked in the convection oven behind the counter and about 15 minutes lapsed after ordering before my number was called. The piping hot result — a cheese-bomb accented with jalapenos, banana peppers, onions, corn, a few pepperonis and flavorful garlic sauce — tasted pretty good.
So did the Seafood Deluxe Cone ($4.75), made with firm, if cheese-overwhelmed, bits of squid, crab stick, slivered shrimp and veggies. The tangy Peking Duck Cone ($4.50) is a solid pick, too, and its sweet-and-salty meat is of fine quality. Conversely, I wasn't fond of the chewy protein in the Sauteed Beef Fillet Cone ($4.25). (Heads up: Viiza's “sausage” is basically seared hot dog chunks.)
Biting into these is goofy fun and a novel experience. Because it's rather like chomping into a scalding-hot ice cream cone, though, I didn't find Viiza's “pizzas” easier to consume than a plain-old slice. And the novelty can wear off as cheese fatigue sets in.
Viiza's extensive, highly customizable soft-drink selection is well worth investigating. I quite enjoyed both beverages I tried: passion fruit iced green bubble tea ($4) and mango sparkling water with mango jelly ($4.50).
The fresh avocado salad ($4.50), the huge and delightfully tricked-out, healthful poke salad with shrimp ($9.50; tuna wasn't available) and the tangy-creamy house mango dressing, were all dark horse surprises. And they're not even shaped like cones.
4 E. Broad St., Downtown