Sunday, September 28, 2008

Coal Fired Pizza

I went to New York pretty naive about "New York" pizza. I figured it was just like Neapolitan pizza and the antithesis of thick Chicago-style pizza.

I just assumed that NY pizza would be wood-fired, cracker-thin and soggy in the center like it is in Naples. Don't get me wrong, I love VPN, i.e. Vero Pizza Neapolitana. Move over Luigi - I think I've found a new love.
There are two key differences between thin-crust NY-style pizza and Neapolitan pizza. 1.) The water. Evidently the tap water in NYC is a key factor in making the crust so chewy, yet crisp. 2.) The coal-fired oven. OK - coal is just wood, right? But this seemed super-heated and added such a nice char to the bottom and sides of the crust.

These two differences help NY-style pizza do what it does best. Behold - the Manhattan Fold....

We ordered the basic pizza - tomato sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. Combined with a couple of cold beers - it was the perfect lunch.

We were dining at Lombardi's - a venerable pizza joint in the heart of Little Italy. After passing up up row upon row of sausage and pepper sandwiches out on the street we made out way to Lombardi's because we'd heard it was "the best" and "the oldest." NY shops and restaurants throw this out at any and every opportunity. I thought Lombardi's was being pretty honest actually. This was the best pizza of our trip. I couldn't get this "coal-fired oven" out of my head, though. I asked if it would be possible to see the oven - or if it was back it the kitchen. The server said - no, it is just over there. And pointed me in the right direction.

There it is - 1905 - tiled right onto the outside of the oven. I took a couple of snaps when the guys behind the counter said, "No, you have to get in close and look inside." That is how I got the cool shot above of the burning coals.

My favorite picture though, has to be this one:

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