Monday, January 28, 2008

A Wood Burning Chain?

Pizza chain seeks local franchisees -

Has anyone ever heard of a 10-restaurant chain called Brixx, in the Carolinas? Anything that helps spread the idea of wood-burning oven pizza is OK by me. A picture from their website is below. Is that a gas/wood oven?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lombardi's - Manhattan

Our 2nd stop on our NYC pizza tour was the famous Lombardi's on Spring Street in Manhattan, the birthplace of pizza in America. They started making pizza in 1905.

A plaque outside the restaurant.

Here is our pizza with ricotta, chopped basil, and pancetta. We like the crust better than Grimaldi's, but just slightly, having a great snap to it. The tomato sauce was about the same (great fresh flavor) as Grimaldi's, but the mozzarella wasn't quite as good (of course it might have been overpowered by the slight sweetness of the ricotta). The pancetta had good flavor, but we prefer a slightly crispy pancetta on pizza.

Here is the bottom of the crust. The atmosphere in Lombardi''s was great, the restaurant seems like a bunch of little rooms (probably the result of expansion over time), so even though it's a fairly large place, it's fairly intimate. On our way to being seated, we were able to walk right through the kitchen, getting a glance at their coal-fired oven. Unlike the Johnny Cash that was playing at Grimaldi's, Lombardi's had the Sirus Frank Sinatra station playing, which created the perfect mood.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grimaldi's - Brooklyn

The first stop on our tour was Grimaldi's, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan (map), a pretty inexpensive cab ride from the Theater District. We arrived at 11:15 AM, waiting for an 11:30 opening, to avoid what can be long waits. Part of the charm, I suppose, is the unfortunately crumbling tile out front (a sign that used to read as the original "Patsy Grimaldi's" before a family split that led to this being "Grimdaldi's" and another pizzeria being "Patsy's").

Here's another shot from out in front as we waited (click on any photo for a larger image).

They didn't open until about 11:40, but I guess anticipation makes the pizza taste better?

Here is a shot inside the restaurant as we waited... it didn't start filling up until noon or so. Even with the Sinatra photos all over the one wall, Johnny Cash was playing... we love Johnny Cash, but it somehow didn't fit the scene.

Here is our pizza -- we ordered a regular sized "pie" with sausage and garlic. The crumbled sausage and roasted garlic, with a bit of diced basil, topped our crushed tomatoes and mozzarella.

Side shot of my first piece... the crushed tomatoes had a very good fresh flavor and the mozzarella was the real standout, great flavor, very fresh. The crust had a good flavor, nice browning and just a bit of puffiness.

The browning on the bottom of the crust. This was thicker in the middle than Naples 45 (and Pizzeria Bianco), so it was just a bit doughier, but very tasty.

A shot of the place as we left at about 12:30. Definitely worth the trip, outstanding pizza... but we left thinking we still preferred the wood-burning oven style at Naples 45 and Biancos. Still, we were thankful for having visited such a historic pizzeria. Decent, efficient service... a carafe of the house red... a good time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Naples 45 - NYC Wood Oven Pizza

Before our three-stop NYC Pizza Tour on Friday, my wife and I went to one NYC pizzeria for lunch today, to whet our appetites. We went to Naples 45, a restaurant a few blocks east of Times Square. It's a huge place, maybe 10x bigger than our benchmark, Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

Naples 45 has three wood-burning pizza ovens, two of which were running at a very busy lunch time rush. My oven at home is 39", these must have been at least 60", they were huge, with roaring fires going on the left-hand side. A few photos of an oven and a pizza maker (taken with permission, but no flash... so sorry for blurriness, are to the left, click for a larger image). Each oven is named, Stromboli, Vesuvius, and one other (I'm blanking out).

They bragged about their Caputo flour on the menu and had huge sacks of it in the pizza making area. Not pictured, but they had a long granite counter for spreading the dough, with dough balls sitting out in proofing boxes.

We ordered two individual 10-inch pizzas that had very good flavored crusts, with nice charring (a few black spots on the edges and underneath), but it was not real puffy (except for one spot on one pizza). I have the same problem with the Caputo flour at home... I think that's just a characteristic of that flour. It has great flavor, a nice crisp crunch, and spreads very thin (the Naples 45 pizza was amazingly thin in the middle).

Both pizzas had San marazano tomatoes (crushed, a nice simple sauce). Very good fresh tomato flavor, no sweetness or extra unnecessary sweetness. The classic margherita (left) was executed quite nicely -- flavorful mozzarella, and chopped basil, a good balance of flavors, overall.

We also had a pizza with ground fennel sausage and onions -- I liked it, my wife said "it tastes like the margharita, but with sausage, didn't think the onions added much. I liked the flavors, although the sausage (and other toppings, in general) weren't real evenly distributed, which made for inconsistent tastings of different pieces, I think.

All in all -- the crust was the highlight, we'd score it an 8 out of 10 for good flavor and crispness, cooked nicely, but losing points for not being real airy or puffy. Toppings and preparation score an 8 out of 10. Overall score is 8 out of 10. If we weren't previously spoiled by Bianco's, this would have been a really outstanding pizza. We'd recommend it.

Service was quick and efficient, considering the 12 noon rush. We waited about 5 minutes for a table of 2, service was relatively quick. The mixed greens salad was enough to share, with a nice basic vinaigrette and some cherry tomatoes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My NYC Pizza Tour is Set

So our plan is set for Friday's self-guided tour. So many pizzerias in New York, he had to just choose some and quit debating which ones.

Stop 1: Grimaldi's in Brooklyn:

Grimaldi's will be our first stop, trying to get there right when they open for lunch to avoid lines. They have a very classic coal oven that I'm very excited to see, very excited to try their pizza after seeing them featured on TV and reading so much about them.

Stop 2: Lombardi's

We'll come back to Manhattan to the oldest pizzeria in the country, Lombardi's. It's another coal oven pizzeria, lots of tradition and great reviews.

Stop 3: Ray's (the one on Prince Street)

NYC is famous for all of the different "Famous Ray's" and "Original Ray's." Every pizza place is called Ray's, it seems, or even "Not Ray's." This one on Prince Street is supposedly the real original and the best, classic NYC pizza.

Stop 4: Waldy's Pizza

At this point, we might just go look at the wood-burning oven they have here at Waldy's. We might not be able to eat any more after the previous three stops, we'll try to pace ourselves!

I'll give notes and photos from each place onc(e we return from New York. I'm also hoping to go to another one for lunch Wednesday (John's) and maybe Saturday night dinner (maybe Una Pizza Natoletana). Pizza, pizza, pizza!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Gorgeous Oven

A Look Inside Anthony Mangieri's Wood-Burning Pizza Oven -- New York Magazine

Wow, this is great, check out the link above or the thumbnail image for a detailed pic with some explanations of the highlighted areas. It's a handcrafted Italian oven at a New York City (East Village) pizza shop, Una Pizza Napoletana. Maybe I can get there on my pizza tour next Friday.

I'm going to try throwing some wood shavings on my fire before putting a pizza in, as Mangieri does, to see if that adds a smokier flavor.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NYC Pizza Tour - Where to Go for Wood Ovens?

Next week, Friday the 18th, we're making up a "NYC Pizza Tour," planning on going to pizzerias all day. The focus will be on those that are historic/legendary or those with wood burning ovens.

Any recommendations? I'll take lots of notes and pictures and will will post my pizza journeys here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pizzeria Bianco on Google Maps

Here's an interactive version of the Google Maps view of Pizzeria Bianco's... can't see directly in front since it's a closed street right in front, but you can see the parking lot and the side of the restaurant. You can click and scroll and view... but, no, you can't see their oven or Chris through the front of the place...

View Larger Map

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Oven on Google Maps

This is pretty crazy... my pizza oven shows up in the google maps "Street View" feature... you can see the side and part of the chimney. Maybe it's clearer when you know what you're looking at like I am... it's in our backyard, but it's positioned so it's sort of visible looking at our house from an angle as your drive by (like the Google van did).

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Rotating Pizza Oven?

Red Sauce Cravings « Counter Intelligence

This food critic writes:
Since I’m a pizza freak, I appreciate that Sorriso’s wood burning pizza oven rotates so the crust is evenly cooked and crispy. (The margherita I had the other night was fantastic, but I have to try another for consistency.
I've never heard of a rotating oven. How would that even work? The wood and fire would have to be off to the side, off of the rotating platform? Everyone else just rotates the pizzas manually, I don't think I'd want to give up control of allowing each side to cook evenly.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

To celebrate the new year, the pizza oven is firing and pre-heating... just making a few pizzas today, some classic margheritas and something new, a white pizza with caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, and truffle oil. Rich... it might be a bit much, but we'll see.

(Update: the pizzas were a bit rich, but were awesome... definitely a keeper, that recipe).

Best wishes to everyone for 2008.

I'm looking forward to a visit to Phoenix in February (including a stop at Pizzeria Bianco). I'm also going to be in NYC for a few days in January and plan to make my own little pizza tour, which I'll report on here.
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