Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pizza, Amore Mio!

After packing up our offices, with all the emotional stress that goes with a move, I decided this was the perfect moment to visit Luzzo's, an Italian restaurant down on First Avenue that specializes in Neapolitan pizza made in a wood- and coal-fired oven. My Neapolitan friend, the wine importer Dominic Nocerino, spoke highly of Luzzo's saying that the pizza was great and the wine list was simple but good. So along with a few fellow editors, each carrying remnants from our old offices, we piled into my car and off we went. I brought along a few bottles from my wine cooler, a 1996 Chardonnay from Gaja and a 1995 bottle of Rancia, a great Chianti, both from Dominic's portfolio as it happens.
When we arrived it was early so the restaurant was quite empty except for two elderly women who sat opposite us. If I hadn't known about Luzzo's from Dominic, I might have walked right by, though, on closer inspection, there was a telltale photo in the window of Martha Stewart with the pizza maker.
So now to the food! I had a hunch we were in for something good so, I thought, why rush things? Instead of ordering the pizza right off we started with a salad, insalata di rucola with apple and pecorino. They added one other ingredient that I have not seen on a salad since I was in Italy—canned corn. What is it with Italians and canned corn? Anyway, the salad was perfectly dressed and delicious. I asked our waiter to recommend a pasta and he didn't hesitate to insist on the scialatelli with artichokes and shrimp. Scialatelli is a regional pasta from Naples and they make it by hand at Luzzo's. It was great and absolutely perfect with the Gaja.
Then when we asked our waiter which pizza we should have he said, again without hesitation, "La Pizza Napolitano" which on the menu is called Bufala di Mozzarella and Basil. We did as we were told. When the pizza arrived I knew it was the real deal. The crust was thin but the edges were irregular and crusty brown from the coal and wood oven. I asked for some crushed red pepper and they brought it along with pepperoncini oil which I drizzled sparingly on my pizza. Perfection. I don't know that I ever had a crust with that texture before, firm and chewy at the same time, very tasty and neither oily nor soggy. The sauce and the bufala mozzarella were all in perfect balance. The Rancia was genius with the pizza but I thought we shouldn't stop with that so I asked our waiter to suggest a wine from their list. He said we had to try the Nero D'Avola, a red wine from Sicily. It was only $38.00 and it was fantastic just as he said, a lot of spicy fruit to complement the food.
The first thing I said after my first bite was that I would drive here any night to get pizza to go. I was immediately reprimanded and told this pizza was too good to travel well and I realize that's true. Food tastes different when you eat it in Italy and the pizza tastes different at Luzzo's, so I am afraid you must travel there to get the real deal.

Luzzo's. 211 First Avenue, between 12th and 13th St.,
NYC. 212.473.7447. Open Tuesday thru Sunday.


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