Monday, August 30, 2010
We started out in Washington, DC where we went to Spike Mendelsohn's new place We, The Pizza which just opened last month.
After that, it was off to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio where we ate was was widely considered the best pizza place in town: Pizza Oven.
The next day we drove to Chicago and the first pizza place we went to was famed deep dish spot Lou Malnati's.
The following day we hit up the well reviewed Great Lake which I had extremely high expectations for.
And we finished our Chicago pizza eating excursion with a stop at Spacca Napoli, a wonderful Neapolitan restaurant.
Next it was off to Cleveland which left much to be desired. Our lone pizza stop was at Bar Cento for some pies.
The adventure wrapped up in Pittsburgh with a stop at A Piece Of The Strip.
Posts might be a bit lighter than usually as I work on getting all of these reviews up. Stay tuned!
Friday, August 27, 2010
Well today, I was sent a link to a recipe for pizza cups from the blog My Kitchen Snippets. The author uses high quality cheeses and loves the "gooey and oozy brie when they just come out of the oven." Judging by the photos, these actually look appetizing. Not that K! Pizzacone isn't... but I wonder how a pizza cone/cup would taste with high quality ingredients.
For those who haven't shelled out for a pizza stone or think that making pizza at home is too complicated... go ahead and give these a try. They're cooked in a muffin pan in the oven.
You can find the full recipe here.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Another night the Honey Jones ($16) was a wallflower, tasting like nothing at all despite the triple threat of gorgonzola, prosciutto and honey from “Megan the beekeeper.” You want more from a restaurant so proud of its ingredients, and which puts so much care into its food.
I've been to Paulie's many times with different groups of friends and the Honey Jones has been a hit every time. Hopefully it stays on the menu and potential customers don't get too hung up on the fact that this particular New York Times writer didn't like a specific pie there. Paulie has gotten so much other great press, it's unfortunate that The New York Times wasn't consistent with other reviews.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Before I take you through the steps, it's worth noting that we are in the midst of a homemade pizza boom. Earlier this year, The New York Times published a piece about how to make pizza at home (The Slow Route to Homemade Pizza) and Slice recently began running a feature - My Pie Mondays - in which amateur pizza makers are able to show off their work.
I took a class at Pizza A Casa earlier this year (Making Pizza At Home Is Easier Than You Think), but hadn't been able put to use the tips I learned until now.
I was a little nervous to make my first pie. I eat so much good pizza each week and I was worried that my homemade pizza would not compare to even a standard New York slice joint. Boy was I wrong. I know it's odd to write about how great something you made yourself tastes... but I really surprised myself. I knew that the pizza looked delicious when it came out of the oven, but when I took my first bite, it was a transcendent experience. It was a lot of work, but I encourage any pizza lover to go and make your own pizza. It's relatively easy and with high quality ingredients, there's no limit on how good the pizza can taste.
Let me take you through my experience.
I started by mixing 1/4 cup of water with a packet of active dry yeast (available at any grocery store). After a few minutes, it was clear the yeast was, in fact, active!
... then some olive oil (also from Williams-Sonoma)...
My third pie was cheese based and featured shredded parmgiano, Jarlsberg cheese, and fior di latte -- all prior to being cooked. It was then topped with shredded parmgiano and Jarlsberg cheese after it came out of the oven. A little bit of honey was added for additional flavor... and of course basil!
Friday, August 20, 2010
It's impossible to write about A Mano without first focusing on the space. This bi-level restaurant is massive. Many of New York City's most popular pizza places seat about 50 people (Does Size Matter?). A large place might hold 100-150. But A Mano is in a different league. Our waitress estimated that the restaurant could hold up to 300 people. To accommodate diners on busy nights there is not one... but two ovens. They are the centerpiece of the restaurant and can be viewed from the majority of tables. There is also a bar on the lower level which serves drinks and handmade gelato.
One of my concerns about A Mano is that there are 28 pies on the menu. This is by far the most pies I have ever seen on a menu at a Neapolitan pizza place (or any pizza place, for that matter). Although I understand they want to give their large clientele many options, it is impossible to make 28 spectacular pies. A Mano could benefit from shortening it's menu a bit. I'm in favor of interesting and innovative topping combinations, but I don't think A Mano would suffer from eliminating their 10-12 least popular pies.
We ended our day with a Margherita pie (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, parmiggiano reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, basil) and... to spice things up... a Pear & Gorganzola pie (gorganzola dolce, sliced pear, walnuts, parmiggiano reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, basil).
The Margherita ($10.99) was solid, although they went extremely light on the basil as you can see below. At that point, what's the point of even putting basil on the pie? Everything else about the pie was spot on. The crust was the best we'd had all day -- airy and fluffy, yet strong enough to hold the pie together.
The price of some of A Mano's pies neared $20.00 and considering the Margherita pie was more expensive than at Paulie Gee's or Roberta's, I'd say that A Mano is a bit of a burden on the wallet. Nevertheless, the space is magnificent and the pies are delicious. I'm not that familiar with Ridgewood, New Jersey... but if I had to guess... I'd say this is your best bet for scoring some good pizza in the area. Worth the trip out from New York City? Probably not. But it's good to know that Jersey can at least give the Big Apple a run for it's money. Literally.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Firehouse Pizza (230 East 29th Street) - 89th And Broke
Little Luzzo's (119 East 96th Street) - Life Without Food Or Drink
NYC Pizza Truck (Various Locations) - New York Street Food
Olio E Piu (3 Greenwich Avenue) - NYC Food Guy
Pizza Moto (Various Locations) - Blondie & Brownie
Pulino's (282 Bowery) - The Foodista
South Brooklyn Pizza (122 1st Avenue) - Always Hungry NY
Monday, August 16, 2010
When the temperature of the cob oven's back wall reaches 900 degrees or so, the countdown begins. Like other wood-fired oven cooks, Hall follows the order of the heat: Pita breads made from her cornmeal white bread recipe go in first. A three-ounce ball of dough puffs and bakes in 65 to 75 seconds. When her family or a friendly crowd is on hand, Hall will transfer the hot, chewy pillows to a carving board on the table with a dish of butter nearby. The pitas' undersides have bits of char; nobody can eat just one.
Flatbread pizzas and calzones go in next. They take less than two minutes to bake. "I'm not a tomato sauce person," she says, preferring to adorn them with homemade mozzarella, fresh basil and a sparse application of tomato slices, or the olives and mushrooms that Conor prefers.
You can read the entire piece here.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The Neapolitan pizza joint opened in February in Montclair and has been garnering rave reviews ever since. Instinctively, I wanted to compare Ah' Pizza to Neapolitan places in New York City like Paulie Gee's and Roberta's. Their pizza is similar. Their prices are similar. But the atmosphere couldn't be more different. Both of the aforementioned New York City pizza places (in addition to Motorino, Co, and others) put a lot of thought into creating a certain environment for their diners. They are catering to a specific clientele and the owners want the ambiance to be part of the pizza experience.
Ah' Pizz feels like it would be best suited for a child's birthday party. The floor to ceiling glass windows look out onto a parking lot and suburban street. There are flat screen televisions along the walls. And the floor looks like the space was converted from a previous tenant -- say McDonald's? I'm accustomed to the warm, rustic feeling of many of New York City's Neapolitan pizza places. But in Monclair, you must cater to families, not hipsters.
At the end of the day, none of this matters as long as the pizza is good. For most of the people in our group, Ah' Pizz was the highlight of the day. The pies are baked for 90 seconds at 1,000 degrees in a wood oven built in Naples by Stefano Ferrara (the same man behind Paulie Gee's oven -- no wonder the similarity). To me, however, the oven looked out of place in a space like this.
Ah' Pizz: crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella di buffala, grape tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, basil, extra virgin olive oil.
Pizze Di Montclair: truffle oil and porcini mushrooms in a mix of of pecorino saldo and parmigiano reggiano cheeses, topped with cherry tomatoes, wood fired mushrooms, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
The Pizze Di Montclair pie was the real treat. It's a heavy, filling pizza in which the cheeses really stand out. I was particularly impressed by the pecornino saldo which I don't often see on pizzas. It's a firm cheese (made from sheep milk) from the Italian island of Sardinia. While the more common pecorino romano is biting and salty, the sardo has a much richer flavor. I could not differentiate between the two types of mushrooms -- porcini mushrooms and wood fired mushrooms -- but I enjoyed them nonetheless. The pie was $18.
We were the only party in the restaurant around 4PM on a Saturday afternoon, but according to our waiter the place gets really busy at night. There's only room for about 50 people so I can imagine a line out the door. Like many Neapolitan places, there's an open kitchen so you can watch your pies prepared and marvel at the oven. The desserts looked great, but with more pizza ahead of us, we declined. Come to think of it -- Ah' Pizz would be a pretty awesome place for a child's birthday party. Considering that I had my birthday parties at Sbarro, I could have used a place like Ah' Pizz back in Potomac, Maryland in the 1980s.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
For those who have never been to Grimaldi's, it's gotten written off by many people as a tourist destination in recent years. It absolutely lives up to the hype. It's worth the line. Going there is a quintessential New York experience.
And if it does, in fact, close down... it will not only be a huge loss for the New York City pizza scene, but for the city itself.
You can read the full article here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
More details can be found here.
Monday, August 9, 2010
This also applies to pizza. There are certain pies that pizza places do better than others. Which is why I'm such a fan of this recent Chicago Magazine article which lists the 25 best pizzas in Chicago. As no place made the list twice, the article is essentially telling people what the "not to miss" pie is at some of Chicago's best pizzarias.
The best pie in the city goes to.... the cremini mushroom and dante cheese pie at Great Lake!
You can view the whole list here.