I hit Robertaís this afternoon with an old friend for lunch Ė just so happens to be the guy who turned me into a pizza fanatic.
We got there at noon. There wasnít much of a crowd. We ordered a Margherita and a Bee Sting (tomato, mozz, sopressata, chili, honey). I thought both pies were very nice but not great. What separated them from greatness was a relatively bland crust. The cheese and sauce were both excellent. My buddy was not quite as favorable, but heís definitely a NY style guy.
Other than the generally bland flavor, the crust was impressive. The charring on the cornice and upskirt were close to ideal IMHO. It didnít have that paper thin crispy skin on the outside of the cornice that I like, but it was very soft and tender. The sweet-spicy profile of the bee sting was quite tasty. I think Iíll have to introduce this pie to the Garage.
I doubt Iíd recommend it to someone who had not tried many Neo places in NYC, there are plenty of other place around I like more, but I would not discourage someone from going there either.
So, Iím stuffed full of Robertaís pizza on top of the 18 or so pies I ate last night, and decide to go for a walk and what do I see as Iím walking down the street but Mario Acutno just like mine. Of course I have to go in. I didnít even notice the name of the place until I got inside. Iím not at all hungry, so I order a Margarita. It turned out to be a good move.
The pie was very very similar to mine. The two noticeable differences were my dough has a little more flavor from the sourdough yeast and mine are generally a little less charred on the upskirt. It had the thin crispy outer shell and was super soft and tender inside. Flavor wise, it was very similar to Keste, but a little less salty.
Now Iím totally stuffed, so what do I do? I get a Montanara (fried Margherita). I had to see what itís all about. They take the shell and open it up. Once it is open, they dock the center all over with their fingertips and then lightly fry it like a donut. The docking keeps the center relatively flat will the cornice puffs up nice and big. After itís fried, they top it like a margherita, put it on a metal pan, and finish the bake in the oven. The bake time was about the same as for a plain Margherita, but being baked on the pan, the bottom had no charring. The fried version is $1 less than the plain Margherita. Any idea why?
The pizze fritti tastes like a donut-pizza hybrid. In the center, itís not much different from a regular Margherita Ė maybe a little less rich as there is no caramelization flavor that would normally come from charring on the underside. As you move towards the cornice, you start to notice the fried/donut flavors. By the time I got to the cornice, I was looking for some Nutella or honey to put on it. They must use nice hot (and very fresh) oil. Never once was it greasy, and there wasnít even a hint of oxidation flavors. Itís not really my thing. Donít get me wrong, itís really good. Everyone should try it once at least.
I had a chance to talk with Giulio when I was there. I shared that I had the same oven, and he replies ďyes, I know your oven.Ē Apparently the guy I bought it from tried to sell it to him first, but he had already ordered his. Am I ever glad.
I think I'm having a food coma now...