B1, No. 6, Li Shui Street
Fri-Sat: 5pm to 2am
moved to www.alleycatspizza.com
kid friendliness: more older kids friendly than baby friendly at night, check for smoke free nights
visit reviewed: 5/3/2006
Ever since I found out about Alleycats after hearing many people rave about it being the best pizza in Taipei on a forum talking about food in Taipei, we decided that we had to try it out. So one weekend evening, we called them to see if we had to make reservations or not and they said they probably wouldn't have any tables open until 2 hours later, especially since they didn't want to rush their customers. That was too late for us, but we successfully tried again on the following Wednesday night. I mention the details of this because (1) once we got there, it was pretty packed, even for a mid-week evening and (2) the whole restaurant is basically one room with about 8-10 tables so I'm pretty sure it fills up fast, so (3) make reservations in advance if you want to eat there on the weekend as the website suggests!
It really is in an alley, as a lot of these restaurants in Taipei are, so the name is fitting. We called ahead for directions, but be warned even if you do so, they were a little bit backwards for us, but we eventually found it. Once you get to that area, you'll easily spot it from the bright red neon light outside.
You'll head down the steps into the basement, spotting the daily specials on the chalkboard. A small bar lines the wall and the hostess is also the cashier. Don't forget to come with cash, as I found out after we got the bill that it's CASH ONLY here. It's dark and a bit smoky (though their website says Mondays are no smoking days), probably 60 percent foreigners, 40 percent locals and mostly adults.
Pizza is the specialty here, but they also have calzones, a smaller selection of appetizers, salads, croccante (garlic bread/pizza crusts) and dessert. At their Neihu location, they have pasta as well. While they have a selection of pizzas with chosen toppings, they have a pretty wide list of toppings that you can build your own pizzas, including artichoke hearts, basil, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, pineapple, chicken, asaparagus, calamari, chorizo, feta, italian sausage, proscuitto, pepperoni, shrimp and sundried tomatoes. This is more variety than the toppings you'd find at Macaroni Grill, and thankfully no toppings like corn (which is popular in Taiwan).
We ordered both the Tomato and Basil bruschetta (NT$100) and the Caprese (NT$340). Alleycat's caprese comes with two slices of baguette topped with tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella, so I actually would probably just order the caprese next time and not the bruschetta unless I had a larger group that needed finger foods. The thick baguette slices were oven-toasted and buttery, which gave a satisfying crunch to accompany the sweetness of the tomatoes and cheese.
We decided to get the 12 inch/Large pizza of day which was chicken, spinach and brie (NT$400). I asked them to add mushrooms as well. We also got a Capriccioca calzone (NT$420) that had sausages and vegetables in it.
Alleycat's pizza is probably the first one Taipei that I've eaten where the pizza was so hot, that the mozzarella cheese did that stringy bubblegum-like stretching, as we pulled the slices from the plate. The toppings circled the center and spiraled outward and stopped about three quarters of the way out where there was just sauce and crust. The marinara sauce was a light foundation, and the thin crust was crispy, just like the kind of pizza you might get in a neighborhood pizza hangout back in the states. The part of the pizza where it's just sauce and crust tended to bit a bit drier and not as flavorful. Their coke (NT$50) also comes in the classic coca-cola glass bottle, which is a nice touch.
A couple bites in, I realized my mushrooms were missing. I also didn't really taste any Brie. While I did get the mushrooms taken off the bill (after asking twice), I don't know why I didn't also ask about the Brie. I guess I figured the Brie melted into the cheese, though Brie usually has a pretty distinctive taste. I bet it would be great to get a big group together and order a bunch of different pizzas with different toppings to share.
The calzone was huge- definitely big enough to share. The crust is softer and chewier than that of the pizzas, but still has the crispy oven baked quality. The dense fillings inside spilled out as we cut it. The cheese was not as hot or melted as the cheese on the pizza. The calzone also comes with a little side of caesar and marinara sauce.
Once your food comes, they pretty much leave you alone, although the place is small enough to wave down someone if you need more water or something. The service is friendly, but not overly attentive. On their website, they say they have live music on occasion too. It's open quite late on the weekends, so it's probably a fun place to go for a late snack. Their Li Shui location is only open for dinner but their Neihu location is open for lunch and dinner.
The important test was that the leftover pizza still tasted great the next day- even cold out of the fridge. The prices are very reasonable for the quality and portions you are getting, especially being a "specialty" food in Taipei. I've also heard that the owner of Alleycats opening another Italian restaurant right next door, called The Italian Job. So I'm looking forward to trying that out, as well as going back to Alleycats.
Other locations (added a/o march 2008)
SONGREN - NEW!
#285 SONGREN RD
Mon- Thu 5 pm- 11 PM
Fri/Sat 12 pm- Late
Sun 12 pm - 11 PM
#31, Lane 35, Zhongshan N. Rd Sec. 6
near ZhiShan MRT Station
Mo ~ Fr 5pm- 11pm
Sa/Su 12noon ~ late
2, Lane 248, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4
Every Day 12noon ~ 10pm
67-1 Cheng Gong Road, Section, 5
Mon-Fri: 12pm - 2pm, 5pm - 11pm
Weekends: 12pm - 11p