Posts Tagged ‘pizza review’

 

New Yorkers, those lucky bastards! Lol. They attract the best of the best! Sushi Saito (Tokyo) is the current best sushiya in the world. Guess what… they had one of their Chefs who was ready to go working abroad, but it had to be ..guess where…in NYC, of course (Chef Shion Uino now working  at Sushi Amane at Mifune ). You remember the legendary Jiro, of Jiro Dreams? Well, that is not ‘new’ news anymore, but his apprentice  Nakazawa (one of the main characters of the movie Jiro Dreams) is ..guess where?

Examples of great Chefs attracted by New York are endless (Ferran Adria, Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Massimo Bottura, Enrique Olvera, ), with the latest being Legendary Neapolitan Pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo.  Gino is known as one of the best Pizzaioli  of Napoli (just to give you an idea of how popular the eatery is – locals do wait, on average, one hour in front of his pizzeria to get their fix of the best pizza of  Napoli ) and he is also famous for his  feud with  the local mafia over his refusal to pay  the pizzo. The pizzeria is so popular that it quickly expanded to Milano in Northern  Italy, then now, in New York City.

I have long been fascinated by Pizze, particularly the Neapolitan Pizza. Actually, one big dream that I do have would be  to spend 3 months in Naples and review every single of their Pizza shops (a bit like what this guy did, many years ago, but I will stick to Naples, world’s ‘temple’ of the Neapolitan Pizza).  It took me a while to be prepared for this project: first, I wanted to spend years tasting all sort of Neapolitan pizze, understanding  the techniques, the ingredients, etc.

I did that for the past 20 years and do, consequently, nowadays, feel ready for the last step before visiting all the Pizza shops of Napoli:  doing an apprenticeship at 3 of the best Pizza shops of Napoli. This will not be easy, perhaps even impossible, but where there is a will, there is a way!  If that happens, the 3 shops will not be reviewed  (I am a bit ‘old school’ about this, and do have nothing against those who think otherwise — I mean we are in an era where most critics do not care about such details — but I insist on never reviewing establishments that I am familiar with), but revealed, of course  (I would like the relevant blog to feature videos of what I am learning at those shops, as well as detailed written  accounts of my journey as an apprentice pizzaiolo in Napoli) .

Regarding Sorbillo NYC, as we all came to  expect,  the food journalists  did  review it inaccurately.  In order to protect their friends of the local pizza scene, they applied themselves to diminish the importance of Sorbillo in their reviews:  they had, of course, to review pastas at a …. pizza shop. They had to. They just could not refrain from using  that cheap shot. Mind you, there is not much they could do:  they never went to Napoli and went on reviewing  this shop with their North American taste. And more importantly, everyone knows that some of the major web sites reviewing those restaurants do have the restaurateurs ‘paying to play’ on their platforms. And those web sites cannot hide it anymore (just look at their disclaimers regarding their affiliation to the restaurateurs).  Gino Sorbillo is a restaurateur who has challenged the pizzo  of the mafia back home in Italy. Needless to guess that he was not going to accept the pressure of the ‘paying to play’ online  system that is so common nowadays.

You cannot  fail to identify those who have no clue of what to expect from a Neapolitan pizza: they will complain about the crust being a bit limpy (Americans prefer a crispier crust). Well, it is the way it is done in Napoli, folks! If you want a pizza which pie is crispy, then opt for a Roman style pizza or any of  your usual  Italian-American pizze. Some will complain about the sparse burnt edges of the pizza, Lol. Others will rage against  the fact that they could not ..fold their pizza… total DELIRIUM!! Ignorance is a bliss, indeed.

But the true connoiseurs of Neapolitan pizza were not going to be fooled by all of that –

Margherita con bufala – Mozzarella Bufala, San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil, Terre Francescane Organic EVOO. What I was looking for at Sorbillo is exactly what a true connoisseur of Neapolitan pizza would look for in his Neapolitan pizza: Is the dough made with Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour (this takes educating your senses, palate, etc, for some time, but once that is done, you will know if your pizza was made with a dough of such quality) ? kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer and formed by hand? Is the dough topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy? is it made in a true wood burning brick oven? Were the ingredients fresh and of quality? fior di latte made from cow’s milk or is mozzarella di Bufala? fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil? Are the ingredients all-natural and fresh? The answer to all the above raised questions was positive.

I also ordered:

Polpette Napoletano – Meatballs and tomato ragù. The meatballs simmered in the sauce as it should, the consistency ideally  moist, the hearty flavor of the sauce in evidence. The sauce was hard to improve upon, its texture and taste as perfected as you will get from a Chef that knows his Italian food to the T, and most importantly…that knows how to technically execute it flawlessly. Only someone who has no real clue about what a legit version of the polpette does smell , taste and feel like would argue against that polpette. La Nonna or any Italian who truely knows his Italian food  would certainly be very proud with what this brigade  is doing as the essence of the  traditional recipe is faithfully applied here. 8/10

Crema di Tiramisù – The mascarpone/eggs/ sweet marsala wine competently rendered mix did blend appetizingly well with a perfectly fine espresso coffee  flavor.  Well judged quantity of mascarpone so that the tiramisu retains a proper creamy texture rather than verging too much on a mousse. This was also timely chilled to let the flavors develop. One version  of the tiramisu that would certainly make any Italian who knows his Tiramisu happy, which was actually the case of an Italian family sitting  at the neighboring table and who seemed to have  enjoyed both the very same polpette I did order  and this tiramisu as items that are executed properly . 7/10

Babà Napoletano – The rum-soaked oven-baked dolce was properly executed: leavened  to its traditional soft spongy consistency (whoever baked the mini cake did not take any shortcut as it was evident that they took the time that was necessary to go through the time consuming / slow leavening process that is required to make this cake), it was not too boozy and it did express a well judged intensity of sweetness. The cake was not too light, therefore its inside was not too dry (though a tidbit dryer than I would have liked, in some parts, but I am  nitpicking here). It  had very little alcohol, and soft texture and sweetness.  The nice golden brown exterior was also achieved as it should. It was served at room temperature, which was the right thing to do. A perfectly legit version of the Babà Napoletano. 7/10

Extra points for making all the desserts, the bread (really nice for a place that is not dedicated to bread), as well as their gnocchi   on the premises! It is way more that what we came to expect from a pizza place.

Bottom line: Those truly in the know would have found the  Sorbillo’s Neapolitan pizza I was having as authentic as a Neapolitan pizza will feel, smell and taste like outside of Italy:  A properly rendered thin and soft crust, the crust bubbling up as it should be, the charred spots present, again, as it’s supposed to be. The fresh tomato sauce packed with the minerality and bright acidity that is expected in a Neapolitan pizza (I saw way too many reviewers inaccurately complaining about the bright acidity of the tomato sauce in such pizza…not trying to be rude folks, but c’mon…take some lesson, learn how such pizza is authentically made before assessing it as you really sound ridiculous with such suggestions as ”I did not like it because the tomato sauce has ….bright acidity’ ), both the technique and the ingredients are on point. Sorbillo NYC 334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012, USA  Phone: (646) 678-3392 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SorbilloNYC/ Overall food rating: 8/10 (Category – Best Neapolitan Pizza shop outside of Italy – you need to be seriously clueless about Italian cooking to give this place the low ratings that the food journalists have rated it. Any serious Italian who knows his food will agree that this is a very good Italian Pizza shop), Service : 9/10 (Attentive, friendly and yet professional)

Roberta’s pizza (above picture shows the take-out section of the establishment) has been hyped up as one of the biggest current hits of the dining scene of NYC.

It is relatively not that old (opened in 2008) and yet it is already a cult in NYC dining history. Its nontraditional

pizze featuring oftently in the top 5 of the best pizze in the nation, not a light exploit in the US.

It is an American-Italian pizza eatery, therefore I went with the flow and ordered exactly what the local crowd have been raving about, their Italian-American pizze (which ratings are not to be compared to my ratings of Neapolitan pizze, btw – two completely different styles).

-Torchietti pasta /topneck clams/ garlic/herbs – it is a pizza place. Not a pasta restaurant. Therefore no expectation, here. I just picked the pasta because I wanted some pasta as well. This was too salty (yep, the cook who cooked this dish seemed to have misjudged that the clams have already plenty of salt ) though pleasant enough 6/10

-« Babe: Pig in the city » is the name they gave to their pizza made of cheddar/mozzarella/ prosciutto cotto / onion / salsa verde – all their pizze are wood fired. Plated on metal pizza tray. No ample quantity of sauce, but just the right ratio. The dough made with specialty flour (they use a blend of specialty flours) and it did, obviously, rise for a long time, judging by the superb flavour of that crust. To get to such nicely rendered crust (excellent thin chewy crust with a superb light feel and ideal crisp to its texture) , they must have been using some of the best thin-crust pizza techniques of the industry. Delicious complementary flavours (the flavour of the crust responding well to the one of its toppings). 9/10

-Lieutenant Dan pizza (marinated summer peppers, pork sausages, cheddar, basil, onion, chili pepper, sesame) – They are so creative and fearless about their choices of toppings that, at times, a distracted palate can easily interpret the presence of some toppings as being « out of place ». That is not the case at all, in reality: take the sesame. It added to the overall festive mouthfeel of this pizza. Another thin crust pie that was well rendered (clearly, there is no quickie kneading operation in their pizza making process) as evidenced by its superb crunch, the right chew factor, and its exciting flavours. 9/10

-Freshly grilled pork collar /cucumbers/ spring onions /cabbage / salsa verde – had fine taste, the flavour that comes from the open fire always imparting an enticing smoky flavour as it did, here, with both the grilled protein as well as veggies. They seem to bother about quality organic veggies as that it how the veggies felt. The salsa verde had superb taste and texture. The grilled veggies tasted fine, too. Nice seasoning as well. Again, you are here for the pizza, but the non pizza items are still enjoyable enough as it was the case with this dish. 7/10

According to the media, the owners were not in the pizza industry before. Then one day they decided to open a pizza shop, went to Italy and learned from those in the know. And then came back and gave birth to Roberta’s. Well, if that is true, then they are the proof that sometimes, you need to come from « outside the box ´´ to offer a better show. As with any operation that is creative, they have to take risks (with their choice of varied toppings), therefore I suspect that it cannot be always as stellar as it was during my visit, but what matters is that Roberta’s has proven, once again, that it is capable of some of the best pizze in the nation.

Overall rating: 9/10 for the pizze – Category ´American-Italian pizza ‘ (They are technically as excellent as It is possible to be, they do come with a divine taste and a flawless crust). If you hear someone telling you that this is as good as any other Italian-American pizza in nyc, then that is coming from the same dude who thinks that mp3 and aiff do have the same quality of sound. 9/10 for the excellent service – no drama, no attitude here, but humble professionals who are passionate about their jobs and doing it really well. Ambience was a 9/10 (the place does not look like much from both the inside and outside, ´rough looking’ from the outside, situated in a ´tough looking’ area, but it is full of life, in a civilized way, which is of course a good thing). Roberta’s Addr: 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11206 Phone: 718-417- 1118; URL: http://robertaspizza.com/