Naturally, Al Forno became my choice pizza destination on a visit to nearby Warwick. Unlike nearly every other legendary pizza restaurant, the pie is not the main focus here. Al Forno is an elegant upscale full service Italian restaurant. The pizzas are often shared by groups of diners as an appetizer.
|Entrance from the parking lot in rear|
|Interior photo from SatedEpicure.com|
Some of the pizza offerings were more creative than I was seeking (such as pies topped with corn or pumpkin), and I opted for a pepperoni pizza, priced at $23.95. The dough is a high-gluten mix that is not proofed for very long. It goes onto the grill roughly in rectangular shape, but I noted that mine had taken on the same kind of amoeba shape that my home pizzas often do.
The dough cooks rapidly on the grill and is then flipped (complete with grill marks now on the upper surface) for application of the cheese and toppings. Al Forno uses hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes and a blend of low-moisture cheeses, then a scattering of local herbs including basil and parsley. The finished pie is topped with another Al Forno signature touch, a handful of slivered scallions.
The pizza (which takes about 2-3 minutes from the time it hits the grill) arrives unsliced, and completely covers a 12-inch plate. I was provided a fork and a steak knife, which was the proper tool to cut through the crispy and chewy grilled crust. Do I cut slices and eat like regular pizza, or cut individual bites and eat the pizza like citizens of Naples do? I did some of both, and it was equally satisfying.
The crust was wonderful. Golden crisp underneath (but without visible grill marks), it had a satisfying crunch and an al dente chewiness too. It was thin, dense, and delicious. Part of the preparation of this pie includes a drizzle of Tenuta di Capezzana olive oil, an intense olive fruit and peppery elixir that adds another layer of flavor.
|Bar area dining room|
|Underside of crust|
I did have one very odd sensation - due to the density of the cheese and perhaps eating this pizza with a fork, I noticed a gustatory similarity to a good baked ziti or lasagna.
I've had some very good grilled pizza once before, at Cambridge 1 in Massachusetts. There, the pie was superb with a crust that was light and delicate. Grilled pizza is no longer a novelty, but this pizza was unique among all of my pizza eating due to its flavor and dense texture combinations.
The grilled pizza at Al Forno was flawless and lived up to its lofty reputation. Clearly destination pizza, and it's remarkable that any pizza maker can maintain this level of quality and execution for more than 30 years. Let's hope for 30 more.