Hooray for Pizza Day!

In NYC there is always a new pizza place to try. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with them all. My friends and I love pizza. I mean, how could you not? We talk about trying all these new places but with a group as large as ours it rarely happens. Last week Ivana and I decided that we were going to try Don Antonio’s this week, no matter what. Friends be damned, we were going to have our pizza and eat it too. We set the date for Wednesday, sent out an email inviting anyone who wanted to tag along, and counted down the hours until we could dig in.

Don Antonio’s is run by Robert Caporuscio, of Kesté fame, and his teacher, Antonio Starita. Both are well known in the pizza world and for good reason – they make a mean pizza. Kesté is probably my favorite pizza in NYC, though Motorino has really grown on me (they deliver to Rick’s apt), so I was incredibly excited to try out Caporuscio’s new place.

Burrata & Fried Dough Balls

Ivana, Dave, Emily, Rick, and myself arrived at 6:45 and were seated immediately (something that would never happen at Kesté, where waits can be very long). The 5 of us did not mess around when it came to ordering. 3 apps, 5 pizzas, 1 dessert. Bring. It. On.

We obviously had to try their homemade burrata, which came with prosciutto and a drizzle of some really excellent balsamic. This is the best burrate I’ve ever had. Granted, I never had it in Italy and I assume it would be better there, this was the best I’ve had in NYC. So creamy and delicious. It’s also a HUGE portion. The 5 of us each had plenty of it. We also opted to get 5 of each of the fried dough balls. One was topped with tomato sauce and the other with caramelized onions. Frying is something they know how to do here. They also have a fried pizza but I’ll get to that later. They tasted like savory zeppole, only airier and lighter, with no grease.

Prosciutto & Arugula, Pizza del Papa, and Montanara

As for the pizza, we ordered the Montanara Starita, which is the fried pizza they do. There’s now a couple places in NYC doing this but this was my first experience. They fry it, top it with sauce and cheese and then put it in the oven. It was delicious. Really smokey, which I didn’t expect, very light, and not greasy at all. It didn’t have an overwhelmingly fried taste but it was crispier than the rest of the pizzas. Really good. We go the Pizza del Pap (the Pope’s pizza), which had zucchini, squash, roasted peppers, and smoked mozz. I really liked this one. It was one of my favorites. Again, smokey, thanks to the mozz. All the vegetables were cooked perfectly and not at all soggy. Next we had the prosciutto and arugula pizza. I am always a fan of this combination. Peppery arugula and creamy salty prosciutto is never a bad combo. Enjoyed this pizza but not quite as much as I thought I would. I don’t know why. It was delicious but it didn’t blow me away.

Regina Margherita & Diavola

After that came the Regina Margherita and the Diavola. You always have to get the margherita when you go to a good pizza place because it’s the best way to judge it against other places. They use buffalo mozzarella and their incredibly fresh, bright tomato sauce. I approved of their sauce (one of the reasons I love Kesté). The diavola had the addition of soppressata, which is a spicy salami. Another quality pizza, though the spice was minimal. Usually when I think of diavola, I think of a spicy tomato sauce but the onyl spice from this was from the meat. Still, I would happily eat it again. My only complaint about the pizzas was that after sitting out for a few minutes they became incredibly soggy. I realize this is the case for any Neapolitan style pizza but this seemed especially egregious. Right out of the oven though, this dough knows no equal. It was awesome.

Hello Nutella, I’ve missed you

Finally, though we were completely stuffed and had passed our leftovers to Kim and Billy after they showed up, Ivana insisted on ordering dessert. What could be a better ending than fried dough covered in the good European Nutella? Nothing. It brought me back to Italy when I had Nutella every morning. And yes, there is a difference between the US version of Nutella and the European one. Ivana has done the taste test to prove it. The European is nuttier and less sweet.

That concludes my analysis of Don Antonio’s. I can’t wait to go back. It’s essentially Kesté without the wait.

 

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Pepe’s Pizza New Haven

Sorry for the long hiatus but as Dave mentioned in the previous post I’ve been sick with some sort of stomach bug or possibly salmonella….Of the 6 people I went to Char No. 4 with, 4 of us came down with a horrendous stomach flu-like ailment. One doctor said it could possibly be salmonella poisoning and since all 4 of us got our symptoms on the exact same day that seems a likely possibility. Needless to say, I will NOT be returning to Char No. 4, which maybe isn’t fair if in fact this was the flu but it seems fishy to me.

Frank Pepe's

Anyway, before I came down with the plague, I went on a road trip to New Haven for pizza. It was really more of a drive by on our way to Newport for a wedding but that’s not the point. I’ve been going to Pepe’s Pizza since I was a little kid. On random Sundays my dad would turn to me and say “want to get pizza?” which meant only one thing – Pepe’s. Sure, it may have been a 45 minute drive and a minimum hour wait in line but the pizza was always worth it. I’m sure I’m biased, having grown up eating it, but I truly think Pepe’s is some of the best pizza in the country. Luckily, my friend Kim agrees and we convinced our boyfriends that it was worth a stop at 9 PM on our way to Rhode Island. Even better, it was the first time I’d been there and had basically no wait at all. Win!

White Clam & Bacon

I grew up eating 2 pizzas here: the regular pie with cheese and the white clam with bacon. Even as a small child, when I wasn’t particularly fond of clams, this pizza was always what I looked forward to. It’s briny and salty and surprisingly simple but it has a major wow factor. There is nothing boring about this pizza and your taste buds will rejoice when you bite into the crisp crust with the juicy clams and the kick of the garlic. The pizzas are made in a coal-fired oven, giving the crust a nice charring on the bottom.

Margherita

Their tomato pie is equally as good, if not better. Really, it all comes down to their sauce and what a sauce it is. It tastes incredibly fresh, like real tomatoes. Honestly, that’s it – it tastes like tomatoes. It doesn’t need anything else. The sauce is something to dream about. The mozzarella is good and the basil adds a little something extra but that sauce on that crust is all you need. It’s really fantastic. We actually ended up ordering their Margherita pie, which is newish, but it was just as good as their regular tomato.

There are other pizza places in New Haven that have just as a fanatical following as Pepe’s: Sally’s Apizza (started by one of Frank Pepe’s relatives) and Modern Apizza but in my mind nobody will ever beat Pepe’s.

Tarry Lodge & a Birthday

This past weekend was my mom’s birthday and to celebrate we went to Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY. It’s part of the Batali/Bastianich culinary empire/mecca/world domination. I’ve been here several times and have yet to eat something I didn’t like. In fact, they have one particular pizza that is right up there at the very top of my list of favorites. It is by no means the best pizza, their crust can get a bit soggy, but it’s one of my ultimate favorites. On this trip to Tarry Lodge we didn’t get it because the birthday girl wanted to try something different but I have to mention it anyway: goat cheese with pistachios and truffle honey. Oh my god. Heavenly! The flavors go together so well that I actually have dreams about it. Tangy goat cheese, sweet honey, earthy truffle, and salty pistachios. PERFECT.

Clam Pie

Moving on to the actual meal. We started off with the clam pizza with garlic and oregano. Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven is the best clam pie I’ve ever had and sadly this pizza was no match for it. The clams came still in their shells, which looks cool, but isn’t practical and ends up making the crust really soggy from the clam juice. The flavors were good but it didn’t quite measure up to my expectations.

Bavette with Mussels & Corn

Rick ordered the bavette pasta with mussels and charred corn. I had never heard of bavette as a shape of pasta (there are just so many of them out there!) but it’s a long, slender, flat ribbon pasta, sort of like tagliatelle. Anyway, this one came with spicy mussels and corn. I thought it was interesting. I’d never had a pasta like it. The corn had a nice smokey flavor that blended well with the briny spice of the mussels. Definitely tasty.

Linguine with Clams & Pancetta

I ordered the linguine with clams, chilis, and pancetta. You can never have too many clams in one meal! Anyway, I’m a sucker for linguine con vongole. The spice was good, the pancetta was salty and fatty but I could have used a few more clams. Don’t be so stingy Mario! All in all, it was a well done pasta.

Skate alla Putanesca

My mom ordered the special of the night, which was crispy skate alla putanesca. Putanesca, for those unfamiliar, is a tomato sauce made with anchovies, olives, and capers. I only tried a bite of this but I remember it being good. I don’t think I’d ever had skate before and it tasted pretty much how I imagined it – a flakey white fish.

I’ve tried almost all of their pastas and each one is done well. The service is friendly, though it can be a bit inattentive during busy nights. The space is beautiful and the restaurant is almost always crowded. Batali and Bastianich do it again!

San Matteo Pizza

The Upper East Side is not exactly known for its food. In fact, it’s generally assumed that the UES is simply filled with overpriced, bad Italian and not much else. This isn’t entirely wrong but we do have a few winners! We’re not an entirely food barren area, thank you very much. One such place is the newish San Matteo Panuozzo at 90th and 2nd ave. It opened in October and despite wanting to go immediately, it took me this long to actually make it there. I really should stop procrastinating because this is easily the best pizza in the area and probably one of the better pizzas in NYC. My friends and I have made it a mission to try all the best pizza in the city. Though the list is long and the journey arduous, we felt it our duty to eat the best of the best and report back to the good people of the world.

Prosciutto & Mozz Panuozzo

It is a tiny place, so avoid going with groups larger than 4 people but it’s definitely worth a trip. The 3 men who started the restaurant are all from Salerno and they bring with them the “panuozzi,” which is a sandwich made from the pizza dough and then stuffed with delicious goodness like cured meats and vegetables. We got the panuozzo with prosciutto, buffalo mozz, roasted red peppers, and added some arugula for good measure. Having the pizza dough as the bread is a pretty awesome idea. I thought the sandwich was good but the red peppers were overwhelmingly what you tasted the most. I’d like to try the others.

The Margherita

As for the pizza, it took much discussion and a good amount of time to decide on the following 3: Margherita, quattro formaggi, and porcini e tartufo. The pies are small, one person could finish off the entire pizza and still be ready for dessert and coffee afterwards, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The crust is slightly thicker than what I normally think of for a Neapolitan pie but it was nicely charred on the bottom and not at all soggy. It stood up really well to the toppings. The Margherita was absolutely my favorite, as they invariably tend to be when I get them. The tomato sauce was excellent, fresh and bright, and the mozzarella tasted creamy and slightly salty. My only complaint was that there were only 4 pieces of basil on the entire pie. I would have liked more.

Porcini e Tartufo

The porcini e tartufo was also delicious, though again, I wish there had been more mushrooms on it. I love mushrooms and I love truffles. They did not skimp on the truffle oil and it gave the pizza a wonderful earthy flavor.

Quattro Formaggi

Obviously anything with 4 cheeses can’t be bad and the quattro formaggi did not disappoint. The main flavor that comes through is definitely the gorgonzola. It’s the strongest cheese and it lends the most flavor to the pie. Even with all 4 of those heavy cheeses on top the crust didn’t buckle under the weight. I was impressed. Chewy and perfect.

I can’t wait to go back and try this place again. Anyone who lives on the UES is lucky to have San Matteo’s as the local pizza joint.

“Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People” Dogfish Head

It may have become abundantly clear from my previous posts that I am a fan of Dogfish Head beer. I will admit that they are probably my favorite brewery. I suppose some of this stems from the fact that they are from Rehoboth Beach but also, as everyone knows these days, they make some amazing beers. It may seem strange then, given that I’ve been going down there my whole life, that I’ve never actually been to their brewery in Milton, DE. Rick and I were determined to rectify this unfortunate fact. However, in typical Dana fashion, I put off looking into the brewery tours assuming (stupidly) that we would be able to walk in on any given day and get a spot. How silly of me. By the time we investigated it became clear that, not only did we need to make a reservation, but that every single spot was taken during the week we were there. Thwarted! Rather than feel like complete failures, we decided to go to the brewpub in Rehoboth instead.

75 Minute Cask Ale

While we waited for our table, there was an hour wait and you can probably expect that type of wait all through the summer, we had beers at the bar. Rick and I both got the 75 Minute Cask Ale, also known as the Johnny Cask. It’s made and distributed in very limited quantities so we were both excited to check it out. The 75 Minute is made with a combo of their 60 and 90 Minute IPA’s that then goes into a cask to finish conditioning with even more hops and maple syrup. This is a great video from New Brew Thursday, where they interview Sam Calagione about the 75 Minute. I was not disappointed by this beer. It was absolutely delicious. Super hoppy and flavorful, smooth mouthfeel, and all around great flavor. I even said at one point that I might like it more than the 90 Minute. I like a bold beer and that’s exactly what the 75 Minute is.

The brewpub itself serves typical pub style food – burgers, fries, salads, sandwiches but also has wood grilled pizzas. If you’re expecting some type of gourmet meal, go elsewhere. It’s not a fancy place and neither is the food. The service can be so-so but everyone I’ve dealt with at the restaurant has been friendly and accommodating. They’re usually completely packed so don’t be surprised when the hostess isn’t super excited about your party of 8 on a Friday night.

Alpine Idyll Wood-Grilled Pizza

We started off with the calamari, parmesan french fries, and the Alpine Idyll wood-grilled pizza. The calamari was cooked perfectly, always an indication of a competent kitchen staff, and it came with banana peppers on top. Interesting twist but delicious. It’s kind of hard to go wrong with good calamari. The fries were fine. Not as crispy as I like mine but that certainly didn’t stop me from eating them. The pizza, which came with white truffle oil, sautéed mushrooms, prosciutto, Firefly Farms fresh goat cheese, arugula, balsamic reduction drizzle, was probably my favorite part of the meal. I know it seems like there’s a lot going on there but it all worked together perfectly. Salty, earthy, with a good tang from the goat cheese, plus some smokeyness from the grill. Yum.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

I got the Portobello mushroom sandwich as my main. It came with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, arugula, and I think some goat cheese. It was, as far as grilled Portobello mushroom sandwiches go, pretty damn satisfying. Nothing to write home about but a good combination of flavors that left me happy with my choice.

Indulgence Burger

Rick got the Indulgence Burger, which, as its name implies, was really indulgent. Here’s the description from the menu “Piled high with a beer battered onion ring, melted cheddar, and house made bacon. Consider yourself challenged.” Rick used the term “religious experience,” though I’m not sure if he’s referring to the burger or the fact that we were busy sampling so many great beers.

In the end, the reason you come here is to try the amazing brews that Sam Calagione and his team have come up with. On any given day they could be testing out a new beer or one that they only serve at the brewpub. This is reason enough to take advantage of the beer flight that you can create on your own. You get to choose 5 beers, any 5 beers that they have that day. Awesome. I went with the Johnny Rawton, Hellhound, Shelter Pale Ale, Black & Red, and 75 Minute. Here are my brief thoughts on the 3 I haven’t already reviewed.

Johnny Rawton, Hellhound, Shelter, Black & Red, 75 Minute

The Johnny Rawton is a Pils but a hoppier version. It’s earthy, light-bodied, and has a definite taste of citrus (lemon?). It’s different from a lot of DFH’s other beers because it’s less in your face. I would define this as a summer beer. Very refreshing but not that complex. It’s only available on draft so good luck finding it.

I loved the Hellhound on my Ale. At 10% it is a strong beer but doesn’t drink like one. There is a lot of citrus flavor, as the beer is brewed with lemons, that makes it feel lighter than it actually is. The beer was brewed to commemorate Robert Johnson, who was a blues guitar player back in the day. That’s about all I know about him….Anyway, like I said, the beer is awesome.

Finally, there was the Black and Red. I have to admit that this was the first DFH beer that I really did not like…at all. It’s super dark, heavy, and fruity. It’s brewed with mint and raspberry. Oh man, it was not for me. The mint is strong upfront but then the raspberry quickly takes over. It felt medicinal – like drinking cough syrup. I’m sure there are plenty of people who enjoy heavy beers like this but I couldn’t even finish the sample size. Never again.

Liquor for sale

Dogfish Head also has its own distillery at the brewpub where they pump out really interesting liquor. They have liquor flights, as well as the beer flights, and I’ve done it twice and enjoyed it both times. They have several different flavored vodkas, along with rum and gin. Definitely worth checking out if you’re there.

The brewpub has a great atmosphere – it’s busy, loud and happy. Afterall, how could you not be happy in such a beer Mecca?