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Roman Pizza Party In New York

Roman Pizza Party in New York

When the opportunity arises to enjoy a meal prepared by Rome’s pizza patriarch and one of New York’s most talented chefs, it’s a no-brainer. You make sure you get a spot at the table. So I did – at The Chef’s Table, a New York City restaurant run by Food and Wine Magazine that invites different chefs to take over its kitchen about six times a year.
Last weekend, it was Nick Anderer, chef/partner of New York City’s Maialino and the more recent Marta, restaurants that both feature Roman food, with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking at Marta.
Gabriele Bonci is practically a household name in Italy and hopefully Americans will soon know more about him too. His hole-in-the-wall pizza shop called “Pizzarium” churns out some of the best pizza Rome has to offer, and I frequently catch him on “La Prova Del Cuoco,” an Italian cooking show that’s available to subscribers in the U.S.
The menu and beverage pairing chosen and prepared by Gabriele and Nick was a real treat, starting with these supplí prepared by Gabriele.
First came classic supplí, with melted mozzarella tucked inside the crunchy exterior of the rice croquettes. Another supplí shared the plate, with bits of sausage and a pungent gorgonzola kicking up the taste. A dollop of creamy broccoletti provided a textural and flavor contrast.
Nick’s lemony mustard greens, anchovies and a luscious stracciatella cheese joined forces with bits of sweet potatoes to make for a perfectly balanced salad.
And though a picture is worth 1,000 words, this photo can’t convey the crispness and acidic flavor in this giardiniera made by Nick. I’ve never craved pickled vegetables more.
Accompanying the above was a wonderful Italian craft beer called Enkir, an ale made with ancient grains. You can buy it in the states at a few places listed here.
The pizza course came next, including the one in the first photo – a pizza patate alla carbonara. It’s featured on the menu at Marta, and Nick explains how he came up with the idea for it here.
Meanwhile, Gabriele created a pizza Amatriciana, like the eponymous pasta dish, made with tomato, guanciale and pecorino cheese.
 A last minute sprinkling of cheese.
 The pizzas were served with a sparkling dry rosé wine from the champagne region of France – a combination I would never have thought of of, but which was terrific. Click here to find out where to buy it.
 The main course, made by Gabriele, was a showstopper: a heritage pork shoulder baked in a pizza dough. Legend has it that during world war II, when food was scarce, Romans would steal a pig and bake it inside bread dough to conceal the aroma from neighbors.
At the restaurant on Friday night, once the outer shell of the dough was removed, the aroma wafted throughout the restaurant. After cooking for six hours inside the dough, it was fork tender.
If you felt a little more seasoning was necessary, no problem. Each table had its own tiny bowl of Himalayan sea salt, shaved from the 1,500 pound behemoth hanging from the ceiling.
The remaining courses were prepared by Nick, and included wood-fired Nebrodini mushrooms with wilted spinach:
 And grilled broccoli and broccoli romanesco resting atop spiced chick pea hummus.
 The main course was paired with a red wine from Lazio, Italy called “Ferro e Seta” (Iron and Silk) from Villa Simone vineyards. I didn’t get a photo of the bottle, since it arrived decanted at the table. But we loved it, and I found out it’s available at a couple of stores, including one not far from me, in Trenton, N.J. Click here for info.
There was still a little room for dessert and thankfully after filling up on all the previous courses, dessert wasn’t too heavy. Nick prepared a intensely delicious concord grape sorbet that helped cleanse the palate, accompanied by an almond and chewy chocolate cookie.
It was accompanied by a sweet dessert wine from the Piedmont region of Italy – Fosso della Rossa. It’s available only at a few outlets here in the states. Click here for more information.
Passion For Pizza

Passion for Pizza

Not long ago, I received a book to review – “Passion for Pizza.” Bloggers frequently receive these types of offers, and I turn down most of them. But when the subject is pizza, it’s hard to resist. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza? The book more than lived up to my expectations. It’s divided into two sections – Italy and the USA, with various chapters on pizzerias in those two countries, and recipes at the end (including one at the bottom of this post.) It covers different types of pizzas, from crispy -crusted Roman style, to deep-dish Chicago style and many others, including my favorite, Neapolitan style.
I’ve visited a few of the places mentioned in the book, both here and in Italy, but it’s clear that I’ve got a long road ahead of me if I’m going to make a real dent in the list. With this book as my guide, hopefully I’ll get to some of the others in the future.
There are so many great pizza places around the world that it’s hard, if not impossible, to include all of them. For instance, a real standout that’s not included is La Renella in Rome. They make outstanding bread as well as many varieties of pizza, and like most Roman pizzerias, you order by indicating to the person behind the counter how much of a slice you want them to cut.
Among the places listed in the book is another spot where I’ve eaten great Roman-style pizza, –  Gabriele Bonci’s tribute to pizza, Pizzarium (which recently expanded from its little hole in the wall).
Thankfully, there’s a chapter on Naples, the city where pizza Margherita was created more than 100 years ago for Queen Margherita of Savoy and where I’ve been lucky enough to indulge in pizza on a couple of trips to that great city, including one a few weeks ago.
The ownership of Brandi has changed over the years, but it’s still turning out fabulous pizzas from these wood-fired ovens.
Including the famous pizza Margherita, made with simple but high quality ingredients – tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. It’s hard not to dig right in, but if you wait a minute or two, the center won’t be as runny as it cools down a bit.
Despite the criticism New York City Mayor DeBlasio received from Americans when he ate pizza in Naples with a knife and fork, go ahead and follow his example. It’s the way Italians do it and Neapolitan pizza can be very floppy and difficult to handle when it’s hot from the oven.
Pizza Margherita is only one of the many types of pizza on Brandi’s menu. Another winner I had to try was this one with prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. I’m still dreaming about them both.
 Fortunately, I have some great Neapolitan pizza places not far from where I live in New Jersey, including Nomad Pizza in Hopewell (soon to open another place in Princeton by the end of the year!); Porta in Asbury Park, N.J., and Brigantessa in Philadelphia.
If you want to try your hand at making pizza at home though, “Passion for Pizza” has a plethora of recipes from many of the pizzerias listed in the book.
 It’s nearly impossible to get the same kind of dark mottled crust from a typical home kitchen, since the temperatures can’t reach the heights of a professional pizza oven.
But it’s still fun to try, and the results, if not the same as your favorite pizzeria, can be delicious anyway.
I recently tried three different pizza recipes from the book, using two different doughs — the “Neapolitan dough” recipe and the “our favorite dough” recipe. We scarfed down the pizza Margherita:
And we loved the pistacchio e salsiccia pizza recipe from Kesté’s in New York (although it could have used a bit of olive oil on top):
 And although mine didn’t look as wonderful as this photo from the book, we all loved the pizza with brussels sprouts, mozzarella and ricotta cheese, inspired by Motorino Pizza in New York City. The recipe is below.

 Pizza with Brussels Sprouts
From “Passion for Pizza”
printable recipe here

1 t. sea salt
2 ounces Brussels sprouts
pizza dough (use your favorite or get the recipe from the book for “our favorite dough”)
2 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 ounce fresh ricotta
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, crumbled
1 ounce smoked pancetta, thinly sliced (alternatives:bacon or unsmoked pancetta)
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

 

  1. Place a baking stone in the oven, and preheat to 500 degrees F. or higher for one hour.
  2. Bring 1 quart water with sea salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.
  3. While the water is heating, rinse the Brussels sprouts in cold water, and remove any wilted leaves. Place the Brussels sprouts in the boiling water, and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the Brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon, and place them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes to cool.  Pour off the water.
  5. Stretch the pizza dough to a diameter of 12 inches.
  6. Distribute the mozzarella, ricotta and Pecorino Romano over the pizza.  Distribute the pancetta and garlic over the pizza.
  7. Peel the leaves from the Brussels sprouts, and place them on the pizza.
  8. Bake the pizza on the baking stone until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.
  9. Remove the pizza from the oven, and place it on a plate. Top with coarsely ground black pepper and a bit of olive oil, and serve