The Ultimate Pizza

MW-BA127_PizzaT_20130307214251_MG

I have been dreading this post for a while because there are SO many great pizza places out there it’s hard for me to narrow down. I mean the list of honorable mentions is easily in the double digits. The other reason I was dreading it is because everyone thinks they know the best pizza place and are extremely passionate about it. So I can only imagine I will get comments to the contrary below. But, I say bring it on! I’m always happy to try new places and revise a post.

La Pizza Fresca – New York, NY

Believe it or not, this is the ONLY pizza joint in the United States that is recognized by the Official Commission of Pizza in Italy. And believe it or not, I’m not making that up. The reason for their approval is that apparently La Pizza Fresca is the only place in the country that makes pizza according to the authentic Italian tradition. Now, if you’re normal, you probably don’t even care about this. All that matters is how the pies taste. Well, Mama Mia! The primavera is easily the best veggie pie I’ve ever had and the Quattro Frommagi is easily the best cheese pie. The veggies are fire roasted and so fresh they pop off the pie and dance in your mouth. And the Quattro? For the first time ever, I could literally taste each individual cheese shining through like a quartet of cheesy complexity. The only rub is the wait. Not that the place is ever really that packed, strangely enough. But I suppose it’s because the “authentic traditional” method is painfully slow.

Roberta’s Pizza – Brooklyn, NY

Consider me stung, because I loves me the Bee Sting. Granted I’m an easy target for a spicy and sweet combo, but this pie is on point all around. Get it? Pizzas are round. While you’re busy groaning, let me explain what makes it such. First, it’s the spicy soppressata, with its slight crispy char. Then, they drizzle honey over the top and that’s when the magic happens, blending with the sauce and the cheese and the oils of the meat. All sitting on their killer dough. It’s morta bene.

Grimaldi’s – Brooklyn, NY

There’s nothing fancy going on here. This is just straight up New York pie at its absolute best. Don’t get too cute with too many toppings. Just stick to your basics like pepperoni and mushroom and be prepared to bow like Wayne’s World at the knees of a pizza god.

Oenotri – Napa, CA

I’m a borderline mushroom groupie. Seriously. If there were AA for mushroom-eating I might be sitting in a 12 step somewhere right now, “Hi, my name is Ferocious Foodie and I’m a mushroom-a-holic.” So, it was probably a foregone conclusion that a mushroom pizza would be on this list. But not just any mushroom pie, this is gourmet all the way. From the impeccable choice of fresh cremini mushrooms to their almost bone marrow-like saute, making for a wonderfully creamy, tender top, aboard a perfectly contrasted crunchy crust. No wonder Thomas Keller loves this place.

La Pizza Fresca

31 E 20th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 598-0141lapizzafrescaristorante.com

images

New York pizza is an art unto itself, and regardless of the plethora of artists in the city, there are few that can dish out a pie as masterful as La Pizza Fresca. But don’t just take my word for it, after all, I’m just some schmuck with overbearing opinions, but do take it from the authorities on the subject as this is the only pizza place in the entire city that is verified by the Associazione Vera Pizze in Italy. And yes, apparently that’s a real organization.

The sauce, the crust, the toppings- all top notch and bursting with fresh flavors that rise off of the pizza like a Pharrell song up the pop charts. All are excellent, but my two personal favs are the quattro fromaggi and the primavera. The former is so artfully layer you can actually taste each cheese on the pie shining through. And the primavera with fire roasted veggies is so rich and full of flavor you don’t even miss the absence of meat. That said, you can’t go wrong with the meat pies either if that’s your bag.

Now for a few caveats. The pies are only individually sized and they take a LOT of time to make. Roughly 40 minutes each. Plus, the oven is small, so if the place is busy you could easily go 90 minutes before ever seeing a bite. This brings me to my other caveat… It’s not really a “pizza joint” in the typical sense. It’s much more upscale. They have an extensive wine list and menu and both are also good. But pies are not their only thing, so don’t go if you’re hoping for a quick slice. This is a place where you sit and savor what pizza can be when it is self-actualized. Heady I know, but with a 40 minute wait you’ll have plenty of time to pontificate what I mean.

And I’m glad it only has 3 stars on Yelp, so other people don’t flock to it. Because if they did, the wait for a pie would be worse than Godot. So let’s all just keep this gem to ourselves, okay?

5 teeth

 

Capo

1810 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA90401(310) 394-5550caporestaurant.com

Capo-restaurant

My wife and I just love this place. One of the best Italian restaurants in the country.

Our favs: Start off with the burrata caprese. Then, for your entree, just about any pasta will do, but my personal preference is doing a split plate of lobster risotto and their quattro fromaggi ravioli. The ravioli is like love wrapped in pasta. My mouth is literally salivating as I think about it. In fact, to truly understand the depths of this love let me tell you a true story. During one of my trips out to LA when my wife couldn’t make it, I had the chef vacuum seal a serving of it so that I could fly it home and make it for her in New York. Now that’s love… of pasta.

Another wonderful ravioli dish worth keeping an eye out for is their special, sweet corn and white truffles. It’s even better than the lobster risotto, but just not as easy to come by. So if you see it, pounce!

And as for dessert, the Grand Marnier Soufflé. No questions asked. It will complete you. And it will complete a flawless meal. Coupled with no-pretense service and an intimate but charming decor, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a restaurant. Oh, and the best part, it’s not impossible to get in.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Pasta Dish

June+Dinner+at+Rossellini's+in+Ravello

Piccolo – Venice, CA

Unlike the other pastas on this list, Piccolo’s Venison, Clove and Cinnamon Pasta is a bit on the wintery side. And after the insanely brutal winter we just endured I’m sure about half of you just skipped to the next one. Well, your loss. This pasta is truly something special. And unique. I haven’t had anything like it anywhere. Nor have I ever even seen it on a menu since. But I can tell you this, shitty winter or not, next time I’m at Piccolo, I’m getting it again.

Capo – Santa Monica, CA

The Quattro Fromaggi is like a pillowcase stuffed with dreams. Only the case is made of pasta and the dreams are made from four of the creamiest cheeses to ever explode in your mouth. It’s literally as if fireworks made of cheese are putting on a show for your taste buds. And it’s about a dozen other metaphors I could think of as well, but some of them are sexual and gross, so perhaps the single most compelling thing I can say is this: One time my wife couldn’t make the trip to LA with me, so I begged the chef to vacuum seal an order of the pasta, so I could fly back with it and she could have it at home. Yes, it’s THAT good. And yes, I remind her of that every time I do something stupid… So about once a day.

NoMad – New York, NY

The crab pasta is so deceptively simple that you’ll likely overlook it on the menu. Well, that is, unless you heed my advice. So what makes this pasta all that? Balance. Proportions. It is a clinic on the alchemy of cooking, made effortless by the way its impeccable ingredients come together. The spicy hit from the black pepper. The acidity from the lemon. The tender, meaty, saltiness of the crabmeat. And the starchy, crunchy bed of al dente pasta. It’s simply divine.

Osteria – Philadelphia, PA

You won’t find it on the menu, which only makes it that much more fun to order, because you’ll impress anyone else at the table who’s not in the know. And impress them you will, because it’s easily the best thing they make. Now, for some of you, here’s the rub. It’s chicken liver pasta. But wait, wait, wait! It’s friggin’ awesome chicken liver pasta. So rich and savory. I mean if there was ever a time to give chicken livers their day in court, this is it.

Manzo – New York, NY

It’s not often that you come across a pasta that can hold its own in the company of steak and pork belly. But the anglionotti at Manzo does so quite handily. As if the juices from a perfectly cooked rib eye were somehow magically injected into the dumplings, so when you bite into them, it’s that exact same sensation you get when you bite into a wonderful, medium rare cut. Bellissimo!