The food: Artisanal pizza
There was an interesting story in the New York Times Dining section this week by Frank Bruni about the artisanal pizza trend in New York city.
Bruni was not too enthusiastic about the pizza at Co.,
the newish Chelsea restaurant opened by Sullivan Street Bakery proprietor Jim Lahey, a baker well-known for devising the revolutionary no-knead bread recipe which caused a huge stir (but no knead, heh) in North American foodie circles when food columnist Mark Bittman published it in the NYT in 2006.
Forget Bruni. I LOVED Company’s stracciatella pizza, and not just because I’m a sucker for any thin crust pizza that features melted fresh mozzarella topped with fresh arugula.
I’ve eaten a variation on that theme at Terroni in Toronto, the Santo Stefano (tomato, mozzarella di bufala, fresh arugula, proscuitto di Parma $16.95) but I found it bland and boring.
I much prefer Terroni’s C’’t Mang White Pizza with Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Fresh Pears, Walnuts, Speck (Smoked Prosciutto), and Honey ($15.95), even though it’s arugula free.
Getting back to Co. though, and here’s an interior shot -
what makes the Stracciatella pizza ($17) so amazing
is the cheese – a shredded texture type of fresh mozzarella that is tangy, creamy, and absolutely delicious when melted over the Co. crust, drizzled with a fruity olive oil, spiced up with some ground black pepper, and yes, topped with fresh arugula.
The Stracciatella pizza was so good it reminded me of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, the Biancoverde (Fresh Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, Arugula, $14.00) from the legendary Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve only been there once, on a weeknight in November, 2008, when E and I figured there wouldn’t be much of a lineup for the restaurant’s 5 p.m. dinner opening time. We were wrong, arrived at 4:40 p.m. and waited 2 hours for a table. The reward: fabulous pizza, and Marisa Tomei at the next table (she was in town promoting the movie The Wrestler.)
Could the pizza at Company be as good as the pizza at Pizzeria Bianco? I’ll have to go back to both restaurants to find out.
In the meantime, I tried making my own artisanal pizza, using a Manoucher focaccia loaf for the crust, some fiore di latte cheese, sweet cherry tomatoes and arugula.
It looked and tasted okay, but it was nowhere near as dreamy and creamy as the pizza at Company or Pizzeria Bianco.
Update: I just tried out the newish and much-vaunted Toronto pizza place Pizzeria Libretto, on Ossington. I ordered the Margherita D.O.P. pizza ($13) with arugula added.
And my sister had the duck confit pizza with pear ($16).
Both pizzas were billed on the menu as featuring Ontario Fiore di Latte mozzarella but there wasn’t enough of it on either pizza, and not enough pear or duck confit, either. The crust had a satisfying, slightly chewy texture, which makes it a bit better than Terroni’s crust, which I have occasionally found to be too crisp, dry and cracker-like in spots.
Final rankings: Co. and Pizzeria Bianco dwell in the food heavens, Pizzeria Libretto and Terroni hang out somewhere near ground level.