Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Nick's New Haven Style Pizzeria

Most of a Nick's "Apizza"
Over the years, I've had lots of bad food in Florida. It's been my experience that, until you get to the sandwich shacks on the beach (such as the incomparable Frenchy's in Clearwater Beach or the Mucky Duck in Captiva), the food is mass-produced for undiscriminating tourists. The worst pizza I've ever had was in Florida. So on a recent trip to Boca Raton, I was skeptical of reports about some high quality pies, even some made in coal-fired ovens.

Nick's New Haven-Style Pizzeria & Bar on Urbanspoon

A quick web search turned up three ( !!! ) coal-oven pizzerias in Boca. Listen, if we are going to melt the polar ice caps, at least we're doing so in a worthy cause when coal is used to make a destination pizza. We considered Tucci's, Anthony's, and Nick's. We settled on Nick's, in part due to its proximity. Nick's bills itself as New Haven style "apizza." From their website:

New Haven-style pizza, locally known as "APIZZA," is a style of Neapolitan pizza common in and around New Haven, Connecticut. What really sets New Haven-style pizza apart from other styles is its thin crust. Brick oven cooking makes the crust very crispy and chewy throughout... Our brick oven is coal fired and cooks at an excess of 750°. This creates a darker crust, which we call "well done."

Nick's is a beautiful restaurant, elegantly casual with lots of dark wood, tile, a front-facing bar and lots of cozy booths. It is set in a forgettable commercial strip with lots of other shops and restaurants. Can something this new be churning out some authentic old-fashioned apizza?
It's really more cozy than this pic reveals
We arrived on a weeknight without reservations. It was busy, but we were seated promptly. The young serving staff was unfailingly polite all evening long. We ordered a large "apizza" with half sausage and half meatball toppings. The round pie was delivered to the table on an oversized rectangular tray, and that reminded me of my visit to Frank Pepe's Tomato Pies in New Haven CT.

We eagerly dug in. First, and most importantly as always, we assessed the crust. This was some interesting hybrid, halfway between a puffy Neapolitan and a thin crispy Trenton-style tomato pie crust. It was not rigid, and there was enough weight from the sauce, cheese, and toppings to make each slice bend without two-handed support.

A meatball slice
The sauce and cheese played supporting roles to this exceptionally tasty crust. Because my favorite pizzas come from conventional gas ovens, I never felt that coal or wood-fired ovens added much value. However, I do think the coal heat lent some special character to this crust. I loved this pizza. It was not as good as Pepe's in New Haven, but it was better than Modern Apizza (also New Haven).

Lovely coal-fired char
The meatballs were not thinly sliced as I expected, but chunked onto the pie much like the excellent sausage was. Even better, these were not ordinary meatballs, but garlicky delights that really added character to the pie. Overall, this was a delightful surprise in Southern Florida.
The coal ovens
Ambiance gets a 10, service gets a 10, the crust gets an 8.5 (10 for taste, 6.5 for texture), the sauce and cheese were 7s, the toppings were 10s. Overall, we're gonna say about a 9. Nice job!
We liked it!

No comments:

Post a Comment