Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ah, Pizza

Having just been in Italy, our standards for good pizza are set to eleven. It’s a bit of a challenge to find high quality pizza in the south—the kind made in coal or wood fire ovens, which hit all the notes of a good thin crust, seasoned sauce, nice charring, and well-placed toppings. Last night we decided to try the new pizza place in Durham, Rockwood Filling station, and I had fairly high hopes. Even though the reviews warned us that it’s still suffering growing pains (open only a month), we figured it had to outstrip bloomin' onions at Outback. DH and I ordered the antipasti and calamari as starters and then chose to split the anchovy pizza for our entrée. DS ordered a plain cheese pie. Unfortunately, there were no options for DD (she dislikes pizza)—no pasta or fries or chicken nuggets, so she ordered their homemade ice cream. (I know . . . I’m a terrible mum. I should have packed the requisite sandwich, but I thought there would be more choices.)

Strangely, they brought out the pizzas first. And then two minutes later the appetizers arrived. So all our food was on the table at once. Arghh. Haven't they heard of pacing? Now we were compelled to eat quickly before either the pizza or calamari got cold. I eat fast anyway, so I don't need any extra incentives. Pissed me off!! What exactly is the definition of antipasti? Not only that, the antipasti isn't cooked, so what prevented them from bringing it before the rest of the food? At the other end of the spectrum, the calamari was over-cooked to a dark brown and proved tasteless (and such a small portion:)). The antipasti was ok—it was nice to have a deviled egg (though mine are superior—see Mad Men dinner). But there were way too many red peppers, and only two small pieces of prosciutto. It looked to me like a barely disguised cost-cutting dish. All in all, the pizzas were ok. The outer edge of the crust was satisfyingly chewy, but the middle was soggy. They went overboard a bit with the caramelized onions. In the end, I’d give their pizza a "6." Better than your average bear, but not worth a special trip. (DS rated his pizza a 1 or 2, but then he likes Papa John’s).

We lived in New Haven for a few years (where all the pizza places are called “Apizza” joints), so we really do know good pizza. Anyone familiar with New Haven is well aware that they lay claim to three of the best pizzerias in the country: Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern. And those in the know also argue over whose pizza is best. I’m a Sally’s gal, despite they’re being a pain (always a line, preferential treatment for some, no atmosphere, rude service, etc.). I always ordered a red pie with mozz, anchovies and mushrooms, and it was consistently divine. Sally’s taught me that putting anchovies on a pizza is an art—not too many, not too few, rinsed of excess brine, broken in pieces, and spaced with care. The clam pizza was tasty as well. Don’t get me wrong . . . Pepe’s was also terrific. "Modern" was our take-away place since it was close by. It was less consistent than the other two, but when Modern suceeded, it was sublime. I will never, ever forget a magical Modern white pizza (with ricotta and fresh tomatoes) we had one night. It was ambrosia-licious. (Hmm. Think that descriptor will catch on like “yum-o”?)

As everybody knows, there’s no sublime pizza in North Carolina. There’s ok pizza, such as Panzanella and Pops in Durham. And there’s our home-made pizza. In years past, I have had a few disasters with the pizza peel, so I’ve been cheating with pizza pans. But you know what? I can beat these local competitors. I’m ready to perfect my crust, and I’m ready to get out my peel and put that pie directly on the stone. It’s decided. We’re having pizza again tonight. Apizza, ncfoodie-style.

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