Thanks to everyone for all the tips, advice, and recommendations of their favorite pizzerias in NYC. It was a great week for my husband receiving his award, and a great learning experience for me in the world of pizza. I didn't get a chance to go to all the pizzerias I had planned on due to time constants - my husband and kids aren't as crazy as I am. Needless to say, I was very happy with all the pizza I ate, the pizza chefs I met, and most of all, what I learned.
Here's a brief highlight of the week, pizza related:
Monday night: Ate at Forcella in Park Ave. A few blocks away from the apt...ordered a couple of entrees and 3 pizzas. After traveling all day, and ordering ravioli and chicken...I wasn't impressed with the pizzas - it wasn't served to us immediately,...so the temperature of the pizzas made a difference in the taste to me. Not overwhelmed. Maybe I was just tired!
Tues or Wed night: Ate at Vezzo's known for thin crusts. Ate here since it was across the street from the apt on Lexington. And cheap. I learned that the pizzas are rolled thin, frozen..brought to the restaurant and cooked in the deck oven. It was still better than the pizza at Christian's Pizza. a local pizzeria in Charlottesvile.
Friday: Pizza Tour with Scott! It was 28 degrees that day. Great experience for the kids (their first food tour! what better way to get them hooked-with pizza)...lots of pizza and NYC history combined. First stop was Keste (Neo), then John's (NY) and Joe's (Sicilian). We entered Keste 30 mins before the shop opened to the public...got to check out the beautiful wood fire oven, chatted about history, etc..we were informed that the pizzaolo was stuck in traffic, so Roberto was on his way - I cheered openly- No one was excited as I was!!! While Scott chatted with the group, I excused myself to take videos and chatted with Roberto who was very friendly and didn't seem to mind me interrogating. It was cool that he ended up making our pizzas and learned a lot from watching him stretch the dough with bear-like claw hands. He does teach a 10-day course on NP and mozzarella; the first ten days of each month, from 7-12 noon, sounds very enticing. He made margaritas and one with lardo? I was sooo excited watching Roberto make pizza and chatting him that I had no appetite to eat. Nerd. I did get a bite of the lardo which was amazingly rich. By the time I was ready to try more margherita, my daughter had eaten it all. But the 2 bites I had was wonderful - it was light and tender...much better than the Forcella experience on Monday. I left Keste thinking that it was the best pizza I ever had. The NY pizza was just okay. It was cool to see the coal fired oven. I thought the pizza was a little overcooked. The California tomatoes used was sweeter than Keste's San Marzano's. Last stop was Joe's pizza (Sicilian). Scott served us the Palermo which was made with bread crumbs! My husband enjoyed it. Kids were full by then. I was still reeling from Keste. My 12 yo preferred Keste's pizza and my 9 yo preferred the NY style since it was similar to his loved pizza made by his school cafeteria. I became an official great fan of NP!
Saturday: My lesson with Giulio was moved from Thursday to Saturday since he was stuck in Napoli till Thursday evening. I met him at the Forcella in Brooklyn. Our planned 3 hour lesson turned into 5 hours of intense learning! We started downstairs to make the dough. Using the Forcella recipe (which is similar to Roberto's recipe), we measured out the ingredients, mixed the dough by hand to simulate the Italian mixer. Talked about fermentation, kitesurfing, Maui, and fermentation. After mixing two batches of dough, we headed upstairs and discussed oven management and as simple as how to fire the oven. Giulio showed me everything, from how to properly remove the dough from the container to shaping the dough, stretching the dough - using the Neopolitan slap, to properly placing the dough on the peel...to adding the sauce - properly, ...and cooking the pizza. He covered techniques on cooking the pizza - using the peel properly and efficiently. We did this about 30 times. Practice makes perfect. I am sure it was very painful for him to watch me! But by 20th pizza..I was becoming more efficient, ...more confident with the Neo slap (that was the most challenging for me) - I found it more difficult when I thought about what I was doing...I would hear his instructions, but my hands would be doing something else...at one point, my dough almost landed on the floor - I had to laugh out loud!! I was having a great time!!! At certain points, I thought to myself that giving anesthesia is so much easier than making pizza!!!
The last 3-4 pizzas, he had me do 2 pizzas at a time -working on oven management...and made a couple of Montanaras!! We returned downstairs to do another batch of dough, by hand. (I think a home mixer is going to be a great investment and heirloom)...by 3 pm...we returned to the oven area - I made my own lunch - a pizza margarita. It was the best tasting pizza ever! I left Brooklyn, exhausted and high on fun!! I was too tired to check out Roberta's and Paulie Gee's after the class...next time. Giulio is fixing the upstairs so that he can teach classes to the home baker. I think I was his first victim.
Sunday: Ate at Forcella's in East Village...Met up with Giulio....and he let me make dinner for the family!! Made the Montanara, Fiurogrotta (lemon slices, arugula, percorino), and a couple of Margheritas...what a way to end the lesson!! I was high as a kite. Super excited to be working in the pizza area, and oven...and making dinner for the family. I thought his offer to let me cook was very thoughtful. I had the BEST time. Okay, so pizza making is as fun as giving anesthesia!!
Apparently, one day a week in all the Forcella locations, you can come in, " make your own pizza "- can't remember if you can shape the dough, but you choose your topping..and Giulio cooks it for you!
I have come away appreciating the different pies: NP, NY and Sicilian. I favor the taste of the NP - liking both Keste and Forcella, equally. Looking forward to my next trip in NYC - and trying out Paulie Gees, Roberta's , Julianna and Motorino...expanding my taste...
Next stop,....San Francisco in Feb....any favorites???