Pizzanostra -- opening report
As it's in the nabe, we decided to check out the new Pizzanostra on their opening night. This is the latest offering from the folks who brought us Chez Papa, Chez Maman, etc. They've gone Italian/French Riviera this time with a pizzeria/osteria in the former Cafe Colour space, having brought on board a pizza guru who supposedly has been a high scorer in the Neapolitan pizza competitions in Italy each year.
While I don't have personal comparisons to A16 or others who claim Italian pizza genes, the Reine pizza we shared (like a Marguerita but with the addition of ham) was certainly the closest thing to the pizzas we also shared in Rome. There are quite a few choices, as well as two rolled versions called tronchetto and several others without cheese that sounded good, like a Marinara version that included tomato sauce, tuna and capers. The pizzas come out very quickly from the very hot 565 degree oven -- we sat at the counter by the oven and watched the procession of pies, which generally took about 4 minutes of firing. Crisp and delicious.
This place isn't just about pizza though -- there is a separate kitchen crew working on a whole range of antipasto, salads, vegetable sides and a few pastas, including a fresh clam linguine and a gnocchi that looked and (according to the guy next to us) tasted perfect. We enjoyed a generous, tasty and perfectly cooked frito misto with fennel, calamari (wonderfully tender) and fish -- delicious Italian tempura. Oh -- and cheese and salumi plates are available too. As well as house made gelato and sorbet, plus a couple other dessert items.
And for those hooked on Chez Maman burgers, this place has one too -- with gorgonzola.
Wines are all Italian and based on the Sardinian vermentino we enjoyed, excellent value ($7 a glass, but only $28 for the bottle -- needless to say, especially as we were on foot, we enjoyed the bottle at that price!)
Thanks for the recommendation! We swung by here tonight and were very impressed. We also sat at the counter.
The gnocchi was very good with a great sauce. The pizza (we had the parma one) was also great. The tronchetto also comes in a dessert variety -- we had one with nutella and bananas.
They have an amazing cheese selection there and really nice service. It's a great addition to the neighborhood.
We had lunch today to establish a baseline for Pizzanostra. We both liked it quite a bit: pizza easily worth going back for, and a smart, accessible menu of appetizers and simple dishes.
Our pizzas were:
the cannibale (or cannibal, I think -- the menu is in whimsical Italglish, without being patronizing): red sauce with copious ground beef (described as Bolognese, which is a term used in the U.K. and shortened there to 'bol'; not much to do with traditional sauce from Bologna), mozzarella, an egg, and lots of oregano.
pizza "pescatora": red sauce, mozzarella, lots of parsley and oregano, some minced herbs, and a lovely spread of squid pieces, manila clams (in shell). another small clam, shrimps, and octopus legs. Lots of parsley and some minced garlic.
Technical comments: the pizzas (we looked around the room) all have a rim, which is standard in the Italian south and in the U.S. northeast (especially Naples, Amalfi, New Haven, New York, Ridgewood, N.J.). Roman pizza occasionally has a rim, but rarely. Again, according to more frugal Italian standards the cheese, sauce, and toppings were laid on thick. But the cheese was pleasantly light.
In Roman or Neapolitan measure, the crust is medium -- not thin, nor crispy. I think Joan's temperature reading should give an indication: most pizza in most places is cooked at about 500 deg F, and sometimes at 550 deg F. A licensed Neapolitan pizza napoletana provider must cook their pizza above 900 deg F (technically, at 485 deg C). Yes, a pizza oven will melt both lead and tin -- and it shouldn't be used for the purpose. I think the best description for Pizzanostra's pies might be "American-style pizza with a central Italian feel".
Nothing on the menu or served at the tables around us looked pretentious or fussy. Rigatoni, octopus salad, chick peas, cold cuts (inevitably labelled salumi), marrow bones with gremolata -- really just straightforward lunch food that will please most people and threaten few. Pizzanostra seems to have locked onto the fashion of the past decade for straightforward Italian food and wine. Good for them.
Joan's comments on the wine are apt: a range of wines that suit the food (no powerhouse Barolos or super-Tuscan wines), just nero d'avola and vermentino and general eating-reds and -whites, with bigger markup by the glass and modest markup by the bottle.
For dessert we had two scoops of pistachio ice cream. Strong pistachio flavor, completely smooth and a fine livery green.
Coffee was good quality but pulled long, exemplifying the maxim that coffee is an activity best left to specialists whose minds are uncluttered by food.
Pizzanostra is not for scrimping -- count on $30 a head with wine and tip, although you could keep this down by sticking to starters, sharing a pizza, buying your wine in a bottle, and skipping coffee.
We liked it so much, we went back last night. This time we shared the burrata with fresh fava beans and garlic toasts which was good (although I guess I really don't get the fuss about burrata) and apt for spring. We tried the 4 cheese pizza which also included fresh pear and some golden raisins -- a good mix of delicate flavors. Service was excellent and friendly -- they seem to have gotten their act together quickly after a little bit of chaos on opening.
re: Joan Kureczka
Have you tried the A16 burrata? If so how does this compare?
I thought the cheese, a little smaller than a baseball and slightly creamy inside, was was pleasant but not amazing like the burrata at Ubuntu. This was more like a good fresh mozzarella. Haven't tried A16 yet, so hope someone who tried the burrata there can comment. If that is similar to A16, well ... nice but I'll cross that off my list of things to try at A16. Couldn't get the name of who made it, only that it was an artisan burrata.
Lovely fresh favas drizzled with olive oil and slices of the garlic country bread. A grilled darker, hearty bread different from the white French baguette pieces served with meals. Not an assertive garlic flavor but more background. Don't expect the Italian American in-your-face garlic bread.
We also had
- CALBRESE pizza - tomato, mozzarella, salame pepperoncino, cipola
- Eli's Meatballs Al Forno with Marinara and Parmigiano Reggiano
- Grilled Peppers with Garlic And Chili Flakes ,
- TRONCHETTO NUTELLA AND BANANA
The Caprese looked lovely with a layer of fresh green arugula blanketing the top. However, the pizza part I needed to do take-out and the greens would have wilted. I had everything else at the restuarant.
I tried a tiny bit of the pizza hot, but it held up well and re-heated nicely. It was sort of a revelation to my chain-luvin SO and he gobbled it up. There's a really nice balance between the thin crust, light tomato sauce, cheese topping, thin slices of tasty salame pepperoncino and delicate rings of the onion strewn over the top. It didn't get greasy or soggy on the ride home.
Eli's Meatballs Al Forno with Marinara and Parmigiano Reggiano
These are three small meatballs in a fresh tasting marinara sauce. There is some seasoning in there that I couldn't identify but it caught my attention.
Grilled Peppers with Garlic And Chili Flakes
These were room temperature marinated yellow and red peppers with little heat accents from the flakes. There were also a lot of subtle flavors going on in this and better than most marinated peppers I've had. It also was nicly balanced with the olive oil and not over-drenched like most.
TRONCHETTO NUTELLA AND BANANA
What is not to like about a dessert similar to a calzone that is oozing warm chocolate nutella and has slices of fresh banana in there as well.. It was a beautiful presentation, the three slices dusted with powdered sugar and a nice fresh strawberry in the middle. IMO, this should be shared as it is a bit much for one. My SO loved this one too.
The coffee was fine. I prefer stronger coffee, but for a medium roast it was good. I don't like that they have these big soup bowl type of cups with handles. The large surface area on top cools it too quickly. They were very good about offering refills.
Most of the appetizers are the size that can be shared by two at most ... maybe three if everyone just wants a bite. A single person could make a nice meal out of them as I did.
Pizza is medium-sized but thin, so would be good for two supplemented by appetizers. If a single person orders this, only choose one appetizer at most.
It can get 'lively' inside. If noise is a problem, the outside tables might be the better choice.
When I was eating at the restaurant, I wasn't amazed but I found myself really digging the meal. I don't think it is meant to impress, but just be simple goodness. It did remind me of some of the nice little neighborhood restaurants in Italy. It also reminded me of what was so satisfying about the Italian American restuarants I grew up with ... nothing fussy food that is well prepared.
There are some restaurants that are like hot dates. The food makes your eyes roll back in your head and you start moaning in pleasure ... well, at least in your mind ... no actual "Harry Meets Sally" scene.
Pizza Nostra isn't like that.
It is like the mate you choose for a long term relationship. It is not without its passion, of course. But is more about the place you want to go back to every day because it is satisfying and just good.
Yes, I definitely agree with your conclusion. And it's in my nabe, so definitely will become a fallback place for us. A good place to go when I'm feeling housebound and really just need to get out. As Piccino Cafe is for us as well as Chez Maman.
Haven't been to A16, so can't comment on their burrata. But I agree with you that this was like a very pleasant fresh mozzarella. Nice enough, but not a show stopper.