After driving through two jams around two accidents on 278, we arrived unscathed. Arriving smartly after the brunch crowd and before the dinner crowd, we parked in front and found a cozy joint with plenty of empty tables. Our waiter seemed bored (if not downright annoyed) but we were seated and served sort of promptly. We were the only folks in there, it seemed, not with the benefit of a Groupon that buys you $30 of pizza fare for $10. Dang! I was also mildly annoyed by the placement of a bottle of likely-overpriced Italian mineral water on our table without our asking. I saw the same brand today in the "Big Lots" outlet retailer for $1.50 per bottle. After we ignored it and ordered $3.00 Cokes, the bored waiter took it away.
I HAD to have the pizza with the deep fried crust. Slice calls it "montagnara" but I think the menu left out the "g." Anyhow, it is more or less a margherita pie in which the crust is first deep fried and then pan sizzled before baking. We also ordered a carbonara pie from the brunch menu (both are personal sized). It contained egg, cheese, and pancetta.
|The salad was much bigger before I ate most and then took this pic|
While we waited, we shared an "Ischia" salad of arugula, olives, fennel, and orange. It was quite good at $7 and whetted my appetite for the pies to come. The pies came very slowly for a place with two cooks and only a few tables occupied. Perhaps these artisan creations take longer. Not an issue, really.
The pies came out simultaneously. I began with the carbonara. It was very delicious. The egg and cheese reminded me of the good-but-pedestrian breakfast pie at Uncle Oogie's (reviewed HERE) in South Philly. Of course, the Neapolitan crust was better. WAY better. MILES better. More later on the crusts.
I loved the deep fried crust on the monta(g)nara. It had an extra outer crispiness, but if you hadn't told me it was deep fried, I can't say I would have known it. Eating this pie, I made a discovery about my own tastes. An authentic Neapolitan pie will never be my favorite, for two reasons.
First, no matter now good the crust, I prefer a thinner and crisper Trenton / New Haven style tomato pie crust. More importantly, I reject, with extreme prejudice, the notion that it's OK to have a wet center. "Wet" and "pizza" don't belong in the same paragraph. I don't dunk my oreos, I don't put vinegar on hoagies because it ruins the bread, and what is the bloody point of superlative crust if you make it soggy?
|"What is the bloody point??!!"|
Further, I want the cheese on my pie to be golden or browned and bubbly. Bufalo mozz is fine stuff, but it is routinely undercooked on margherita Neapolitan pies and takes a plastic-y texture. I need some pizza tosser to finish his Neapolitan pie under the broiler.
ANYHOW, this was a great pie despite my personal preferences. The sauce was bright and lively. This coulda been an all-time pie with some better top-cooking. (Update thought, January 2013: You really have to cook a Neapolitan one way, at 800-900 degrees. I don't think "broiler" is an option. But perhaps reducing the wet ingredients in the center might be).
For BOTH the monta(g)nara and the carbonara, I will say that these had the best Neapolitan crusts I've ever had. Better than Motorino, Osteria, Zero Otto Nove, Arturos, or Stella.
A few days later, I had a leftover slice of each pie. I cut them in half and followed some more excellent advice from Slice -- I reheated them in a frying pan with a little olive oil. It was the perfect treatment for the carbonara pie -- what a crisp delight without drying it out too much. Of course, I also got the delightful crisp bottom on the monta(g)nara, but I missed the opportunity to cook the top more. I should have given it time under the broiler. I did the Dom DiMarco, adding grated grana padano after the pies were heated. Yum!
Bottom line? The ambiance gets an 8, the service gets a 3, the salad gets a 7, the monta(g)nara gets a 9, and the carbonara gets a 9.5. Absolutely destination pizza. Don't miss it. And if there is another Groupon offer, let me know!