For several decades, Pizza Junction was a fixture on Erie Avenue in North Tonawanda, and was even featured on the Food Network. It closed a few months ago and has been reborn as the Lumber City Pizza Company.
Don’t let the name fool you. This is much more than another pizza and wings house. Full dinners are available, everything from fish fries to Lumber City’s take on Italian favorites: veal, chicken, pasta, you name it, all mega-sized.
With that kind of rebirth, I thought it was also the ideal time to renew acquaintances with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few months. We both eagerly awaited the opening of Lumber City and were especially anxious to try the reincarnated eatery when we discovered that the same owners who operate Jonny C’s Deli and Windows on the Green were at the helm.
Just a few weeks earlier, my husband and I met our friends Chuck and Marie at Lumber City to watch the Super Bowl and enjoy the free halftime buffet. We all liked the thick slices of pizza, the type you may recall from classic Buffalo pizzerias: copious amounts of melted cheese sitting atop a mild sauce and a tender crunchy crust.
Pulled pork nachos, wings and pasta were there for the taking, too. We all marveled at the variety, quantity and quality of this freebie buffet and made a mental note to return soon.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, my old friend Rachel and her dad, Carl, met me at Lumber City. Turns out they were waiting for me in another dining room. The place is almost as large as the menu and the portion sizes!
We were greeted by our pleasant server, Chris, who promptly delivered a complimentary basket of fresh, warm Lumber City pizza bread, a simple comfort food to be sure.
Since my pals and I had a lot to catch up on, we decided to try a few different dishes and throw caloric caution to the wind.
I got rolling with a cup of the pasta fagioli soup ($3), thick, jam-packed with small pasta and beans and nicely spiced in a bath of tomato broth. I prefer the broth a little thinner, but I lapped up every drop nonetheless.
Rachel and Carl ordered a small antipasto ($8), which was a misnomer. It could have easily fed a half dozen diners. Chris brought it out on a square white china plate, the perfect contrast to the colorful red and green peppers situated on each corner, which surrounded a veritable garden of lettuce, greens, artichokes, olives, ceci beans, hard-boiled eggs, pine nuts, meats and cheeses. As Rachel noted, it even included crumbled blue cheese and was nicely dressed with a light coating of balsamic vinaigrette. Mixed into the mountain of food were fresh mozzarella balls that soaked up that delicious dressing, another indication of the attention to detail.
We also tried the Caprese Salad ($6), presented in a domino style of alternating slices of that yummy mozzarella, tomato, sturdy red onion slices and basil. Next up was our Veggie Calzone ($9), an enormous pocket of golden dough enveloping chopped veggies and seasoned ricotta cheese. Without having to ask, a cup of marinara sauce was provided, just right for dippers like me.
Rachel added to the feast when she ordered Calamari ($10). I’ve eaten a lot of squid in my day, but Lumber City’s may be among the best. When we asked what the difference was, the owner explained that they grind Panko bread crumbs with parsley and “secret spices” before flash frying the calamari. We all agreed that the tender calamari and not the breading was the prominent flavor.
As we wrapped up, I couldn’t resist ordering a pizza that is fast becoming a signature at this Erie Avenue address. Curious about a take on a classic salad made famous in the Steel City, Lumber City’s Pittsburgh Pizza ($14.50 for a small pie) is a one-stop meal. It features chopped steak, coleslaw, provolone and Riviera dressing topped with seasoned french fries all baked on Lumber City’s homemade dough.
Oh, my, that’s a pizza pie!
The three of us were understandably sated so I brought the pizza to work, where it filled even the heartiest of appetites.
Lumber City Pizza Company
4 out of 4 pennies
1269 Erie Ave., North Tonawanda (264-4580)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Parking: In the lot.
Wheelchair access: Yes