Cheap Eats: Alfeo's La Pizzeria

Mondawmin Mall, 2301 Liberty Heights Ave., (410) 462-6584

Alfeo's La Pizzeria—located right next to the Popeye's and the kung-fu DVDs kiosk on level one of Mondawmin Mall near Target—has the most decadent, affordable slices of pizza in Baltimore: greasy, sturdy respites from all that bougie pizza occupying the city's white L and a counter to the tomato sauce and cheese on wet cardboard that so many carry-out places peddle. Slices begin at $2.75 and are 75 cents for each additional topping (options: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, pineapple, ham, salami, grilled chicken, olives, ground beef, broccoli, green peppers, tomatoes) though they have also have a number of baroque, prepared selections which are what City Paper photo editor J.M. Giordano and I opted for instead of creating our own when we went there last week. Along with the basic cheese ($2.75), which is remarkably solid and served really hot so everything on the pizza sloppily fuses together, we went with a taco slice, a cheese steak slice, and a chicken, broccoli, and shrimp slice. These four were well worth the logy half-coma they put us in within an hour or so of inhaling them.

The taco slice, piled high with tomatoes, sour cream, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, shredded lettuce, and ground beef harnesses the performative freshness of fast-food—it's basically Taco Bell on a pizza. But not even like, Taco Bell's attempt at pizza but something that somehow captures the taste as well as the feeling of Taco Bell. Imagine if you dumped all the ingredients from a day-old Taco Bell soft taco onto a piece of pizza and then shoved it in the oven to resurrect all the dried-out, coagulated goodness. The cheese steak slice has an uncanny valley of the mouth thing going on. That same weird familiarity you get from potato chips that are allegedly steak dinner-flavored or whatever. This slice, a swamp of really small pieces of fried onion and green peppers along with crackling, slightly burnt pieces of cheese steak meat (plus Alfeo's rather rough crust to give it a sub roll feel) inexplicably, eerily tastes just like a cheese steak. The chicken, broccoli, and shrimp slice is white pizza gone maximal with these big (presumably defrosted) shrimp stuck on it, so that a chintzy-delicious shrimp taste leaches across the whole slice.

For a mall pizza spot, Alfeo's is rather spacious inside, with stools if you're trying to eat real quick and plenty of tables and booths in the back if you're taking your time, which is nice because it's a fairly busy place. When Giordano and I were in there on a Friday afternoon, the Frederick Douglass High baseball team came through with their coach and all grabbed some pizza, a guy wandered in and tried to sell us a "Jungle Book" bootleg DVD, and a couple nearby joked and laughed over a pie with at least four too many toppings on it. Good on them—there is a certain type of nigh-impossible comfy romance attained when you get to stuff your face with someone you're totally into. Giordano and I, meanwhile, leaned back in our chairs, breathed a little too heavily, sweated a bit, and shook the grease off our finger tips, stupidly satisfied. Next Target run—or kung-fu DVD run—we'll make sure to hit up Alfeo's again.

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