Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: Ghibellina, Washington DC

Our nation's capitol is blessed with a lot of first-rate pizza choices. Among the most acclaimed is Ghibellina, an Italian restaurant near Logan Circle with a focus on Tuscan fare.  Our group of five visited at lunchtime on a Saturday.

Although it can be tough to get a table here at dinnertime, we had no problem securing a reservation for lunch. Ghibellina is housed in a large and deep rustic space that was inviting and comfortable. We chose to split two salad appetizers and three pizzas for our group.

One salad was full of lively greens, and excellent on all counts. However, the memorable appetizer was the insalata di farro e zucca with delicata squash, farro, roasted root vegetables, pomegranate seeds, and a sherry vinaigrette. It was ideal in flavor and its combination of textures - creamy orange squash topped with a layer of crunchy/chewy farro.


Because the pizza is Neapolitan, we didn't need to wait long for the main course. Each pie was a large personal size. I've eaten a lot of Neapolitan pizza all across America, and this was only the second time that the pizza came to the table in true Neapolitan fashion: uncut. Italians eat Neapolitan pizza with knife and fork and don't apologize for it.

Here, diners are supplied with a large set of shears to cut the pizza. The idea is that once you cut a Neapolitan pie, you create vulnerable edges into which the wet toppings can be absorbed to make the crust soggy. If you cut the pie only when you are ready for a slice, you can defer or avoid ruining the crust.


Nice theory, but with five hungry diners all eager to try each of the three pies, we cut them all right away. Our three pies included:

  • Margherita di Bufala with tomato sauce, basil and buffalo mozzarella 
  • Funghi with herb roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, spring onions, pecorino, and truffle oil
  • Salsicce e cipolla with tomato sauce, sausage, roasted onions, provolone, grana padano, basil, oregano, and peperoncino
The Margherita
We were pretty evenly divided over which pie we liked best. The Margherita is the standard for Neapolitans, and this one sported a superb crust, tender, chewy, puffy, leopard-spotted, and full of its own rich bready flavor. The flavors of the sauce and cheese were also ideally balanced.

However, the entire pie was soupy, well beyond the normal standard for Neapolitans. "Wet in the middle" can be expected for even some of the best Neapolitans, such as the superb pies at Capofitto in Philadelphia, but this one was compromised by a soggy crust for the first half of every slice.
Our sausage pie
The sausage pie built on the base margherita with the added flavors and textures of the meat, onion, and mix of cheese. The flavors were impeccable, but like the Margherita, the pie was soggy, swimming in its excellent tomato sauce. Approaching the cornicione, every bite improved as the ratio of crust to toppings improved and there was less wetness.

My favorite was the funghi, because the entire pie held together much better. Lacking red sauce, the wonderful crust did not get overwhelmed with moisture. As with each pie, the toppings were expertly balanced in flavor. 
The Funghi


What went right, what went wrong? I can be certain that the ingredients in these pies, top to bottom, were all top shelf. Each pie was especially well balanced in flavor. What went wrong is that two of these pies were simply overloaded with wet toppings. Perhaps a rookie pizzaiolo was working the lunch shift?
Beautiful char underneath
Overall, Ghibellina was a terrific destination. An inviting interior, good service, superb appetizers, and wonderfully flavored if not perfectly rendered Neapolitan pizzas. 

DC is a great pizza town. 2Amys remains on top, but Ghibellina can stand with the other top purveyors, including Seventh Hill, Wiseguy NY Pizza, Comet Ping Pong, and (across the Potomac), Pupatella.



Ghibellina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: Mama Cozzi's Three Meat French Bread Pizza

As regular ALDI shoppers know, most of the house brands are good-to-great quality. Here at Pizza Quixote, we've sampled quite a few of the ALDI pizza options of the refrigerated and frozen varieties:



In general, we found the American-made stuff to be as good as the brand name fresh or frozen pizzas you can get in the typical supermarket. However, and this applies to anything you can get at ALDI, the stuff made in Germany is superior. The Caprese pizza note above stands with the Italian imported pies sold at Trader Joe's as the best frozen pizza you can get.


I'd be remiss, though, not to mention the Gino's East frozen deep-dish Chicago style pie frequently found at ALDI.  That calorie bomb is about as good as frozen pizza gets.

With all that as background, I was intrigued to see the new French Bread pizza under the Mama Cozzi label. The standard for this style was established decades ago by Stouffer's. Frozen French bread pizza - with its thicker but airy crust - often works better than your typical low-cost frozen pizza.

First, the price. For two generously-sized slices, the price is $1.99. Somehow I caught the 3-meat variety on clearance and paid just 99 cents for each box. These things aren't quite the calorie load of the Gino's East pizza mentioned above, but you're in for 450 calories in each slice.  Eat the entire box yourself, that's 900 calories.

These cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes. You can do a microwave shortcut, but I cringe whenever the words "pizza" and "microwave" are used in the same sentence. If you think about microwaving your pizza because you are pressed for time, save even more time by throwing your pizza directly into the trash. You get the same result as microwaving it, only faster.

Out of the shrink wrap, I did notice that the bacon and sausage were properly distributed, but that the quartered slices of pepperoni had clustered together; it was easy to redistribute them over the pie.

The crust took on a nice golden brown, and it was indeed light in texture with a good al dente crunch. It did not seem to have much flavor of its own. The cheese was a very bland role player, while the sauce was the overly-sweet kind found in a typical frozen pie. The 3 meats were the star here.


Overall, this is a good bargain at $1.99 and a great one at $0.99. It's as good as Stouffer's or other French bread pizzas, but not as good as the Gino's East or German-sourced frozen ALDI pizzas. Like most frozen pizza, its sweet sauce and other tame flavors seem to be targeted at kids. 

Despite the bargain price, I'd only buy it again to have emergency pizza in the freezer. I enjoyed it, but there are certainly better frozen pizza options. Keep your eye out for any German imports.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

125 Pizzas Worth the Calories

As the pizza renaissance rolls on, great pizza is no longer as scarce as it was just five years ago when this blog started. It is a little disturbing to see chains moving into the Neapolitan pizza space, but so far the ones we've tried have been in the good to very good range despite the mass production aspects.
Mashed potato pie at Basic Urban Kitchen, San Diego
While Neapolitan style is still gathering the most buzz, the top 30 in our list is dominated by old-school pies that have been around for decades.

The notable newcomer in our Top Ten is Basic Urban Kitchen in San Diego, where you can get a New Haven style apizza that is as good or better than the originals in Connecticut. 

Some other top-ranked pies are old-school style, but from newer pizzerias: PiccoVia 313, and North of Brooklyn.
The brilliant hybrid pie at Picco in Boston MA
Detroit style at Via 313, Austin TX
Although these pies are ranked, you can expect a world-class pizza experience in almost any of the pies from number one through the mid-thirties on this list.
A NY Slice at North of Brooklyn in Toronto, Canada
Chicago Deep Dish at Louisa's, Crestwood IL
But as always, any pizza here is easily worth the calories, and the top two-thirds also quality as destination pizza: worth the calories and the trip to get there.
American pie at Pizza Brain in Philadelphia
New Haven style at Frank Pepe's
Pizza Styles

  • Chicago Deep Dish such as Louisa's Pizza and Pasta (Crestwood, IL) which landed at number 31. 
  • Detroit style pie is represented by Norma's Pizza (#8) and Via 313 (#6).
  • Trenton Tomato Pie remains a personal favorite, and five Trenton pies are on the list including #1, #15, #16, #44, and #82.
  • The NY Slice is represented here, too often to enumerate them all.
  • Sicilian style and related pan-baked pizzas are here too, such as the square slice at NY Pizza Suprema (#51).
  • Neapolitan pies appear throughout; the best one remains Scuola Vecchia at #9.
  • Bar Pies (and related Midwestern cracker crust pies) are here in abundance, from Lee's Tavern in Staten Island (#27) to Vito & Nick's (#37) in Chicago.
  • American Pie - my term for a pie featuring a thin rigid crust with thoughtfully applied toppings - is best represented by places like Pizza Brain (#10) and Denino's (#7).
  • New Haven style - a cousin to the Trenton Tomato Pie - is holding the #4, #5, and #13 spots here, including the aforementioned Basic Urban Kitchen and legendary pie joints Frank Pepe's and Sally's.
  • Hybrid styles are often some wonderful mix of American/NY and Neapolitan. Two of my favorites - LaPorta (#17) and Picco (#3) - are making crazy good hybrid pies.
  • St. Louis style? Still missing. I'm eager to try one, but haven't yet.
Our Top 125 Pizzas
1
DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies, Robbinsville NJ
2
DiFara Pizza, Brooklyn NY
3
Picco, Boston MA
4
Basic Urban Kitchen, San Diego CA
5
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven CT
6
Via 313, Austin TX
7
Denino’s, Staten Island NY
8
Norma's Pizza, Manheim PA
9
Scuola Vecchia, Delray Beach FL
10
Pizza Brain, Philadelphia PA
11
North of Brooklyn, Toronto Canada
12
Al Forno, Providence RI
13
Sally's Apizza, New Haven CT
14
Patsy’s, East Harlem, NY
15
Gennaro's Tomato Pies, Philadelphia PA
16
Papa's Tomato Pies, Robbinsville NJ
17
La Porta Ristorante, Edgemont, PA
18
Pizzeria Vetri, Philadelphia PA
19
Jerk Oceano, Lantana FL
20
Pizzeria Delfina, San Francisco CA
21
Joe and Pat's, Staten Island NY
22
2 Amys, Washington DC
23
Regina Pizza, Boston MA
24
Capofitto, Philadelphia PA
25
Santarpio’s, Boston MA
26
Tacconelli’s, Philadelphia PA
27
Lee’s Tavern, Staten Island NY
28
Apizza Scholls, Portland OR
29
Motorino, Manhattan NY
30
Forcella, Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY
31
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix AZ
32
Louisa’s Pizza and Pasta, Crestwood IL
33
Grimaldi’s, Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY
34
Totonno's, Coney Island, Brooklyn NY
35
Conte’s Bar, Princeton NJ
36
Rubino's Pizza, Columbus OH
37
Vito and Nick's Pizza, Chicago IL
38
Pane Bianco, Phoenix AZ
39
Zuppardi's Apizza, West Haven CT
40
Nick's New Haven Style Pizzeria, Boca Raton FL
41
Nomad Pizza, Hopewell NJ and Philadelphia PA
42
Modern Apizza, New Haven CT
43
Lombardi's, Manhattan NY
44
La Villa, Morrisville PA
45
Holy Tomato Pie, Blackwood NJ
46
Copper Oven, Ovid NY
47
Arturo’s, Greenwich Village, NY
48
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, PA and FL
49
Rize, Broomall PA
50
Seventh Hill Pizza, Washington DC
51
NY Pizza Suprema, Manhattan, NY
52
John’s, Greenwich Village, NY
53
Osteria, Philadelphia PA
54
Cambridge 1, Cambridge MA
55
Zavino, Philadelphia
56
It’s Nutts, Titusville NJ
57
Roberta's, Brooklyn NY
58
Collegeville Pizzeria, Collegeville PA
59
Domenica, New Orleans LA
60
Don Antonio by Starita, Manhattan, NY
61
Vecchia Pizzeria Napoletana, Phoenixville PA
62
Pieous, Austin TX
63
Lorenzo’s, Philadelphia, PA
64
Lucca Grill, Bloomington IL
65
Artichoke Basille’s, Greenwich Village, NY
66
Stella Public House, San Antonio, TX
67
Home Slice, Austin TX
68
Zero Otto Nove, Bronx NY
69
Patsy’s, New Rochelle, NY
70
Stella, Philadelphia PA
71
Kate & Al’s, Columbus NJ
72
Pete’s Pizza, Columbus NJ
73
Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, San Antonio, TX
74
Pupatella, Arlington VA
75
Bufad, Philadelphia
76
Comet Ping Pong, Washington DC
77
Tucci’s Fire N Coal Pizza, Boca Raton, FL
78
La Sicilia, Belleville, NJ
79
Primanti Brothers, Fort Lauderdale, FL
80
L&B Spumoni Gardens, Brooklyn NY
81
New Park Pizza, Queens NY
82
SLiCE, Philadelphia
83
Tosca Café, (Throgs Neck), Bronx NY
84
Grimaldi’s (national chain)
85
Sizzle Pie, Portland OR
86
Bar 35, Honolulu HI
87
Spatola's Pizza, Paoli PA
88
Pizzeria Pesto, Philadelphia
89
DOCG, Las Vegas NV
90
Tommy's Pizza, (Throgs Neck), Bronx NY
91
Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, Houston TX
92
Tony Baloney's, Hoboken NJ
93
Wolfgang Puck Express (national chain)
94
Massimo’s, Hamilton NJ
95
Wiseguy NY Pizza, Washington DC
96
La Brea Bakery, Anaheim CA
97
Barbuzzo, Philadelphia PA
98
Brick Oven Pizza 33, Manhattan NY
99
MOD Pizza (national chain)
100
Grande Pizza, Boca Raton FL
101
Rosati's, Bloomington IL
102
Jules Thin Crust, CA and PA
103
Luigi’s Coal Oven Pizza, Fort Lauderdale FL
104
Rustica, Philadelphia PA
105
DeLorenzo’s Pizza, Hamilton NJ
106
Bertucci’s (regional chain)
107
Franzone's, Bridgeport PA
108
Corropolese Bakery Tomato Pie, Norristown PA
109
Pica's, Upper Darby, PA
110
Snap Custom Pizza, Exton PA
111
ZaZa, Little Rock AR
112
Napolese, Indianapolis IN
113
Tony Roni's, Willow Grove PA
114
Clank's Bar, Marcus Hook, PA
115
Milito’s, Downingtown PA
116
Sauce, Phoenix AZ
117
Marra’s, Philadelphia PA
118
Pizza by Elizabeth, Greenville, DE
119
Grotto Pizza, Dewey Beach, DE
120
Uncle Oogie’s, Philadelphia
121
Lenny’s, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn NY
122
Monical's Pizza, Bloomington IL
123
Bazbeaux, Indianapolis, IN
124
Felicia's Pizza Kitchen, Ardmore PA
125
California Pizza Kitchen (national chain)