Though less-than-dazzling, Mount Vernon's BOP serves tasty pizza

RESTAURANTS

September 27, 1991|By Lynn Williams | Lynn Williams,Sun Restaurant Critic

Mere months ago, BOP seemed to be on its way to the top of the pizzeria heap. Fells Point's trailblazing brick-oven pizzeria (b.o.p., get it?) had a stylish new sister restaurant on Mount Vernon's "restaurant row," and, word had it, BOP-the-sequel waMere months ago, BOP seemed to be on its way to the top of the pizzeria heap. Fells Point's trailblazing brick-oven pizzeria (b.o.p., get it?) had a stylish new sister restaurant on Mount Vernon's "restaurant row," and, word had it, BOP-the-sequel was working on a tantalizing new menu -- not only plain and fancy pizzas, but salads and upscale pastas and seafood specials. A spring stroll took me past the place, which had a menu pasted on its door; one of the pizzas offered that day was topped with soft-shell crabs.

In hindsight, BOP doesn't seem to have lived up to its promise. On a recent visit, there were, yes, a few salads and simple pastas to choose from, but the seafood had vanished, as had the more extraordinary pizza toppings. But while it did not materialize into the cafe of our dreams, BOP still turns out mighty fine pizzas. Heavens, they're tasty -- even without crabs.

BOP's secret weapon is its crust, which seemed more substantial and better tasting than on previous samplings. It's not high and yeasty, like other brick-oven creations I've admired, but has a pebbly, corn-meal finish and a texture that combines chewiness with crunch. The toppings have panache, too, although there's nothing that compares to the sheer variety offered by the dauntlessly inventive Egyptian Pizza. We sampled two: pesto and prosciutto ($6.95) and Mexican ($8.50).

The pesto -- a heavenly spread of fresh basil and garlic -- lay under the generous topping of cheese, in lieu of tomato sauce, and the thinly sliced ham added welcome hints of saltiness, smokiness and sophistication. The Mexican pizza ($8.50) was not, praise be, mere nachos on a crust. Instead of being piled on top, refried beans and onions were a subtle under-layer to the Cheddar, and the jalapenos were plentiful. However, the sour cream seemed excessive -- especially during Cholesterol Awareness Month!

Other items were pleasant under-reachers. Caesar salad ($2.95) had a nice creamy vinaigrette, rye croutons and plenty of Parmesan, but no hint of the anchovy that makes a Caesar a Caesar. The clams in the linguine with red clam sauce ($6.95) were bouncy and flavorful, but the sauce was barely there.

The chocolate pizza -- chocolate, kiwi, strawberries and bananas on puff pastry -- was an unqualified hit. Even my dessert-shunning companion scarfed it down.

Maybe it was the rainy evening or my mood, but is BOP 2's decor somewhat Kafkaesque? Like the first BOP, its murals depict stylized urban and rural scenes, but the color scheme is darker here, and sinister faces glare out of the pastoral landscape. Beware of weird nightmares, especially if you overdo the jalapenos.

BOP

Where: 802 N. Charles St.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Credit Cards: MC, V

Features: pizza, pasta

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: 234-0500

** 1/2

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