My Slow, Eventual Breakup with La Grande Orange Pizzeria

Categories: Hahnefeld

LGOMural4.jpg
I sat the square box on my dining room table and took a deep breath. Tentatively, I pulled the cardboard top away from the base.

A classic Margherita. A few, straggly pieces of basil. Another gut-wrenching disappointment.

It never used to be this way. A year ago, I never would have questioned the contents of the box in front of me. But things were different now. The pizzas at La Grande Orange, the ones I had been ordering for the past eight years, had started a descent into a kind of oven-baked schizophrenia, bouncing around from spectacular to sketchy to downright shameful.

The night I received another near basil-less Margherita from LGO was the last straw. As Paulie says to Henry in Goodfellas while frying up the best-looking sausages in cinema history, "Now I gotta turn my back on you."

See also:
- Lamp's Wood-Fired Pizzas Shine in North Scottsdale
- Karaikudi Palace in Scottsdale: A Taste of South India

LGOMushroomParty.jpg
Laura Hahnefeld
Mushroom Party? What Mushroom Party?
I had my first LGO pizza in 2005, the year my husband and I moved to Phoenix and a year after the comfy-cool pizzeria opened next door to La Grande Orange Grocery at the intersection of Campbell and 40th Street in Arcadia.

Like everyone else, I fell in love with the light and puffy, tangy sourdough crust followed by fresh toppings like house-made mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms, and spicy Fresno chiles. I thought about LGO pizza a lot, bragged to my friends about it, looked forward to the evenings the two of us would meet.

It wasn't long before my husband and I had more or less become regulars, eventually trading the sit-down experience for the pick-up option at what was arguably now one of the hottest hangouts in Arcadia. At least two or three times a month, our tiny Toyota would fight what seemed to be every Cadillac Escalade in town for one of a precious few parking spaces in order to score one, or a combination of, the only two items we felt were worth the hassle: the pizza and LGO's killer wings.

Those were the salad days, or in this case, the pizza days. And they were beautiful. But after eight years, things started to change.

The crust, at times unpleasantly chewy, dry, and too thin around the edges, was the first to falter. Next came the toppings -- or lack of them. The Mushroom Party, one of my favorites, had become more of a casual mushroom meet-up, with a few patches of toadstools passing for what was once a beautifully brown-hued carpet of fungi. The roasted corn creation followed the same frugal format. And if I thought the Margherita would be the path of least topping resistance, its barely there basil proved otherwise.

I did what most people do in relationships they don't want to see end: I made excuses. Maybe it was a busy night or an off-one; maybe LGO's efforts were being stretched too thin given their newest ventures happening just across the street; maybe if I just were a little more patient things would go back to the way they used to be.

Sadly, they didn't.

But perhaps severing my relationship with my first pizza love in the Valley when I did helped to keep intact the memories of what made it so special to me in the first place. I'm not sure going back now -- even if things were different, better -- would feel the same.

But, hey, eight years is a hell of a run.

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Location Info

La Grande Orange Grocery

4410 N. 40th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant


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26 comments
foodgeekmel
foodgeekmel

I've sadly come to the same conclusion. I've on many occasions this year called LGO after a takeaway gone bad just to let them know--not to get freebies. We had uber burnt chicken wings (3 times this summer) and inconsistent ingredients/cooking methods on pizzas, sandwiches and sides (eggplant recently was so black at first I thought the skin was still on the flat cut sides). When I can't make a recommendation to someone without providing a whole list of caveats, I know there's an issue.

giodluckfinally
giodluckfinally

I am so disappointed in this thread. It's not good that someone didn't receive what they expected, but it would help to communicate with the managers. That's what they are working there for; to help. Everyone, think of this as your own kitchen. If a guests says they don't have enough mushrooms, put on more. It's still good food. Don't jump the bandwagon so feverishly.

Alicia Geier
Alicia Geier

I saw that comment as well & laughed. Its your job to inform us not them. Youre doing your job. Since their job is to make pizza well, they're not doing their job.

Alicia Geier
Alicia Geier

Slicing the garlic with a razor so it melts in the sauce.

Veronica Chatel
Veronica Chatel

This is so true!!! We are breaking up with LGO as well... for the same reasons.

millerjeepgirl
millerjeepgirl

Did you mention this to management or did you just decide to complain to everyone else - like most people like to do on Facebook when talking about a breakup?  Feedback is important to businesses.  It helps them grow, develop and provides teachable moments... if no one gave you feedback on YOUR job... how would you do?  Would you think you were doing "just fine" and continue down the wrong path?  Or would you want to hear your areas of improvement?  

katecrowley
katecrowley

I really back this sentiment. The pizza has gone downhill, and sometimes the staff is snobbier than the patrons. As a reviewer or blogger, you are in no way required to  contact or oblige a restaurant before posting a review or update. I freelance for the NT blogs and it would not be practical or logical to do so. I've had great customer service there, and other times....I've been ignored. That being said, the wings, salad and desserts have remained great at LGO in my opinion, however the pizza has gone downhill. I still visit occasionally, but sometimes it takes a public forum post to draw attention from those at the top. Everyone deserves a second chance, if they ask for it.  

Kay Morris
Kay Morris

Sadly have to agree, plus attitude.

Chow Bella
Chow Bella

Thanks for the support, Becky :-)

Becky Wheeler-Wyatt
Becky Wheeler-Wyatt

I laugh when I see a comment that wants you (a foodie blogger) to privately discuss unsatisfactory food reviews with chef staff only... please don't. As someone who would be driving 40 min and hiring a sitter to try LGO (it's on my list) I'm thankful to have your POV that I may have waited too long to get the pizza everyone has been talking about for years.

Chow Bella
Chow Bella

Also of note, dinner in jail. "Vinny, don't put too many onions in the sauce."

Eric Manch
Eric Manch

I just wanna say, I think of this scene with Paulie from Goodfellas literally every time I cook a sausage over a stove. Also, LGO is overrated.

Erica O'Neil
Erica O'Neil

I've seen the same decline to the point where it's just not worth it.

libjohnson
libjohnson

After talking to many people who have frequented LGO for the pizza, apparently a lot of changes started when the relationship with tammie coe was severed.  You may find the pizza on Central more to your liking.

hippiaz68
hippiaz68

Did you discuss your concerns with the staff or management before dumping them? A relationship is a two way street... A business doesn't like to lose customers. I'm sure the staff would welcome your comments, but perhaps privately to them first beofre airing your dirty laundry for the neighbors... As it is, you didnt really break up with them... You just walked out in them and made a scene. So now I'm no longer going to read your posts... And everyone knows why, and you have no chance to discuss how you could have retained a customer... unless you're ok with losing customers? And if you ARE ok with that, then why are YOU in the blog business?! Just to voice how you are privately judging the neighboring businesses around you with an overgrown sense of entitlement? See how it feels when someone just lashes out at you? I'm sure the staff and managers at LGO were a little alarmed by your public dismissal. I for one think you do this a little too often in your reviews.... Which is why I will no longer support the New Times or their advertisiers where your posts are concerned. I do hope however that other LGO customers who have read your opinion and agree with you, would also just bring your concern to the staff. Its their BUSINESS... They want to do well. Without your feedback, you have just as much of the blame for your own unhappiness.

lnaalba1
lnaalba1

Pizza is like sex, it's different every time. Usually  good but different always and some were better than others.

sharon.forsmo1
sharon.forsmo1

@hippiaz68 Silly hippie....it's a business they're running and after 8 years they ought to KNOW when their pizza starts to SUCK. Thankful for the review so I don't waste a trip to Snobcadia. And as the saying goes, "if you can't take the heat......"

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

"Snobcadia" - you are just so clever.  What an amazing insult.  You really showed them. 

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

I've got no issue with your opinion that the pizza sucked.  It is that stupid effort at a put-down, "Snobcadia," that I found incredibly juvenile - like you're still in the fifth grade or something.

And my avatar - well I realize that it is certainly not as clever as your avatar.  Oh wait, what avatar. Oh, never mind.

sharon.forsmo1
sharon.forsmo1

@JohnQ.Public It is what it is what it is. In this case, sucky pizza. Nothing very clever about that. Neither is a bar code on your forehead.....

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