I was recently invited to dine with some friends in “The Alley” at Sa Za – a pizza place that bills itself as serving “Serious Italian”
The Atmosphere & Location: This is perhaps what Sa Za has going for it. They Alley is definitely the coolest location downtown, perhaps in all of Montgomery. Like most of the recently redone area in the Alley, it has a ‘big city’ feel. The restaurant itself definitely has the cool factor associated with any older building that’s been revamped – brick walls, unfinished floors and high ceilings give it a certain aura that most guppies (that’s yuppies from Montgomery) would appreciate. You do have to park a few blocks away, but this only adds to the chic of the locale in my opinion. The only major downside is that the room has nothing to absorb sound, so it is very, very loud.
The Food: I’m not at all a culinary expert, so I’m not claiming anything other my opinion here. I wasn’t blown away by the food. The garlic bread was made with real garlic cloves – it was really good at first, but it got old pretty quick. I don’t know if it was covered in butter or olive oil, but it was a little thicker than necessary. I didn’t try the pizza, but some other folks at my table did. They don’t have options for smaller pizza sizes which is a little frustrating. I had spaghetti and meatballs; It was good, but a little heavy on the basil, I thought. All in all it was ok, not fantastic. Their website has a very long (too long) description of their chef, Joe DiMaggio Jr – no mention of whether he’s related to the baseball player. It’s clear that Mr. DiMaggio has a high opinion of himself and his restaurant, though on his site very little mention of his culinary skill is made – it seems he’s more of a food businessman than a chef.
The Service: Wasn’t great (but that’s no excuse for not tipping decently, especially after hearing a sermon on mercy/generosity this past sunday) The timing was good; the food came out quickly, but the server wasn’t great about keeping our drinks filled and oddly acted like I was asking for something really strange when I requested a decaf coffee after my meal. She did the same when someone else asked for a to-go box. She was very friendly though and I felt like she was trying.
The Cost: The cost was the biggest downside. Basically you’re going to end up paying around $20 for a meal that is, in my opinion, only ‘ok.’ The coffee I got cost about $2 – it wasn’t bad, but it was just decaf coffee . Being primarily a pizza place, I didn’t try their signature item, so perhaps my review is incomplete. I will say that some other folks at my table did and it looked about the same quality as I’d expect at mellow mushroom for a few bucks less. But, what you’re really paying for is the location and that aura I talked about earlier.
In summary: It wasn’t a bad experience; the food was ok and the atmosphere was great while not having the ‘hipster’ stigma I felt wafting out of the Alley bar as I walked by. At the same time, it wasn’t terrific; the service was only so-so and the cost was more than I expected.
Rating: I give it a solid “Meh”
I’d go back if someone invited me, but I won’t be craving Sa Za anytime soon.