by Kat Robinson
The piece on Slice a few days ago got me to thinking about other Arkansas pizzas I adore. And that lead me to one of my favorites, Iriana’s.
For those not familiar with the place, it’s in a storefront across from the Chamber of Commerce, next to The Hop. Inside, the space is all blacks, whites and grays accented by red lampshades and the red straw cups that adorn each table. It’s also a damn fine place to grab lunch.
The menu is simple… a short list of pizza toppings (just 13), a short list of sandwiches, a couple of salads, some breadstick options. Simple is good, though, especially when you’re dining solo or going dutch. You can order the small salad or the large one, the half sandwich or the whole. Nice options for this tight pocketbook economy.
Salads ($2.49 small, $4.29 large) come with Italian or Ranch dressing, that’s it -- and they’re served up with a single bulky twisted breadstick. The average pizza place uses the same dough for both pizza and breadsticks; if they’re doing that here I’m not getting it, because the breadsticks are thick, yeasty things, a bit chewy and probably meant more for dipping in sauce or wiping down with butter. That being said, they’re not typical and that’s a fine thing.
But you’re not looking for me to talk about a breadstick. You clicked through because you’re curious what I think about Iriana’s pizza. Okay. Fair enough.
Iriana’s is to me what I think of when I think of a typical Arkansas cracker-crust pizza. The particular type of pizza is thin but can hold its own. I mean to say, you can pick it up and eat it without it becoming droopy or falling apart. It’s a pizza meant to be eaten with the hands, not the fork.
The restaurant’s known for its “sweep the floor” pie, a combination of pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives. You can get a 12” pie or a 16” pie, but if you’re not looking to share or take it back to the office with you at lunch, you can indulge in a slice instead. A plain cheese slice is $1.89; pepperoni or mushroom are $2.19 each and a Sweep the Floor slice will come up $2.59. It’s a decent deal, considering the size of slice we’re talking about -- I’m guessing it’s a sixth or eighth of a large pizza, a big flat slice that’s bigger than the plate, quite probably eight inches long and wide at the top.
I usually go for mushroom, because I like mushrooms and I like the way Iriana’s does mushrooms, fresh and thinly sliced to go along with the pie itself. The slice is somewhere around a third of an inch thick at best, and when you pick it up it stays together. The sauce is smooth and a little salty; the cheese is a little sharp, and the crust is firm and crunchy.
There are no desserts at Iriana’s -- you can go down the street to the River Market to go assuage your sweet tooth -- but there is beer. The restaurant’s open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. They do offer limited delivery. (501) 374-3656.