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Thursday, April 7, 2005

POETIC CORNER SPOT FOR PIZZA

Posted on Thu, Apr 7, 2005 at 4:00 AM

When I hear a place mentioned a couple of times in one week, it causes me to stop and listen – especially when the restaurant is neither new nor fancy. Having recently moved back from New York City, I've been lamenting the dearth of decent pizza in Orlando, and people keep confidently mentioning Cornerstone Pizza, a dive-y joint on Michigan Street, at the corner of Ferncreek Avenue. My appetite for a slice was keen.

So there we were in the starkly lit, harshly undecorated pizza spot on a dreary March evening; the pit-pat of rain could be heard beneath the shriek of the pizza oven opening and closing. The Simpsons blared from a TV mounted above our table. We were alone in the greasy air that filled the room until a man stumbled in, coughing loudly. He drunkenly made his way through a conversation with cook/owner Scott Bruens (who once upon a time saved up enough money delivering pizzas to buy Cornerstone).

We started with 10 wings ($5.49), fried ultracrisp and drenched in tangy-hot buffalo sauce. I licked the sauce off my fingers and delved into the chicken Parmesan sub ($5.99), well-seasoned chicken doused in surprisingly fresh tomato sauce atop a lily-white bun.

The stromboli ($6), with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers, came next, and it was totally over-the-top in a made-by-hungry-stoners way. (I almost canceled the pizza so as not to ruin this Cornerstone moment of rapture, but thought better of it.) When our pizza came, we munched on satisfactory slices of pepperoni and mushroom. The crust is not as thin as I like, and the cheese is not charred and bubbly on top – but it's close.

Mr. Can't Stand Up was still trying to put a sentence together, while an acne-faced teen munched on a slice. A woman in business attire leaned against her car under an umbrella and talked on her cell phone while waiting for her pie to come out of the oven. Stopping by Cornerstone on the way home seems to be a neighborhood sport. So, it wasn't quite New York, but it was damn close – present company included.

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