If there's a perfect time to ingest pizza studded with grubs and slugs, I can tell you it's not 8 a.m. on Labor Day morning. Brian D'millo and Briana McGee, owner/operators of Ah Badabing Pizzeria in Lakewood, have opened their doors early to introduce me to their most intimidating toppings. I'm an adventurous eater, but if not for the exceptional quality of Ah Badabing's everyday pizzas, there's no way I'd be up for this challenge. As it is, I swallow a Zantac as my pie is withdrawn from the oven. The pizza arrives studded with ingredients so daunting you should probably wait till you can finish this review on an empty stomach. D'millo sources farm-raised ingredients from Asian vendors in Seattle.
I decide to start with the least appetizing protein first. You'd think that'd be the slug meat, wouldn't you? Nope, not even close. The inch-long segments of bovine penis are gray, squishy, sad, and all too easy to identify on sight. The taste, plainly put, is repugnant. Imagine a cylinder of beef fat with only the faintest of beef broth umami. It's not a palatable topping so much as a frat-boy dare. Eaten with the rest of the pizza, its revolting consistency is at least obscured by salty mozzarella and garlic, but it's still one of the most god-awful things I've ever put in my mouth.
Not so the slices of slug, which are meaty around an axis so firm it's almost gristly. Texture aside, when chewed with the pizza, each slice is no more off-putting than an overcooked mushroom. Unlike escargot, however, the slug doesn't taste like a mushroom, nor does it soak up the taste of what's around it. I find the flavor impossible to classify; perhaps the best comparison is warm turkey broth, but that's a vague approximation. As a topping, they're not bad at all.
As for the grubs, once I quash my past reservations against eating beetle larvae, they're delicious. No lie. I expected them to be nutty, as some insects are, but in fact the species used by Chef D'millo tastes exactly like flash-sautéed sweet green beans. If I consumed one in the dark without knowing what it was, I'd swear that's what I just ate. Even the mouth-feel is identical. You may ask why you'd want green beans on your pizza, but since grub farms are far less toxic to the environment than cattle or pigs, it's tough to justify avoiding edible grubs due to cultural revulsion alone. They're rich in calcium, iron, and B-vitamins, as well as healthy protein, and they taste like veggies fresh from the farmers' market. Other species taste like almonds, shrimp, peanut butter, or chicken. I'd eat them again any day.
Then again, the Badabing supreme is fantastic, and my wife doesn't gape at me in horror when I eat it.
[Ah Badabing Pizzeria, open Mon.-Thurs. 11-10, Fri.-Sat. 11-11, 6101 100th St. SW, Lakewood, 253.582.2170]