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Jfood hits Coalhouse Pizza (Stamford) - Very good pie, great potential

Jfood made a slight detour on the way home from LGA last night and miraculously found himself sitting at the bar at Coalhouse with a Boylen's root beer in front of him. What luck.

Then he remembered he called on the drive (hands-free peeps) and ordered a small pie, half pepperoni and half sausage and peppers and was glad. As he watched the pie makers he saw a few things. One they were still in the learning process, second, there were some little arguments going on (one guy was so frustrated he threw his towel on a pie and stormed out the back) and three the pies were coming out of the oven at a frantic pace. All was very entertaining.

But the reson jfood was there was for the pie. It was brought to him and he noticed the char on the bottom was present. So far so good. The cutting of the pie needs work as it was impossible to find the cuts from the top and when he did the pie was cut into four slices. This made very large slices and he found it created a very difficult pick up scenanio (they should conside a six-slice small pie). Jfood pulled off a piece of crust to taste. OMG, this was unbelievably great crust. A slight sweetness and nice chew, almost perfect. He then noticed the toppings. Light on the sauce, light on the cheese and plenty of meat, nice. He also noticed that his half and half was actually all suasage and pepper and 3/4 pepperoni. Shucks, jfood would just have to eat more meat. :-)

He tried to pick up a slice and it was way too soft for this. The dough was charred but still very pliable. Thankfully years of folding slices came into play, so a fold and go is the only way to pick up a slice. As he looked around, he understood why so many were using knives and forks. The first bite was great. The pepperoni ware crispy from the over-hot ovens, the sausage was very good but not great, jfood likes more fennel, the peppers were crispy, the cheese was not too heavy, a little more would have been preferred and the asauce had just the right amount of tang and did not overpower the rest of the pie. Other than the surprise on the pliability, this pie immediately vaulted to second best in Stamford behind Colony.

After jfood finished he was walking out the front door when the owner was standinng there and approached him. He asked jfood about his thoughts (he was the only single there on a friday night). Jfood told him it was very nice but the dough was over the top great flavor. He mentioned that the dough-man comes fro Red Hook and has a long standing dough recipe. When jfood asked him about the crispy versus pliable, he mentioned that the ovens needed to season before that would happen and it could take a year. But the owner was a super nice guy, and you could feel his passion for his product.

So jfood is glad there is another addition to the pizza scene in Stamford and gives Coalhouse a big thumb's up after only a few weeks. Nice job.

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  1. Nice report, jfood. Spot on. Coalhouse is, for me, the first place in Stamford that has a really great crust.

    Despite the shaky first few weeks, you can tell they really care about the product, and it shows.

    1. Hi there, agree wholeheartedly. Have been 4 times since it opened, getting better each time. Try the Kicker next time.

      Also should mention the salads are really good too, still undecided about their wings.

      1. Jfood,

        What time were you there?? CBAM, Chef's Girl, and the 2 chef-let's were there Friday evening as well, around 7-8:30ish, in the 4 top, dead center of the room

        Agree with you on the pizza...great, chewy, flavorful crust (could maybe be a touch crisper,) and a nice hand on the toppings. Not VPN (the official Naples pizza certification), but excellent, and 10 times better than the typical gloppy pie-zilla most pizzerias are pushing.

        Now a regular trip for the CBAM family, when I don't feel inclined to make my own, and the first place locally that I don't feel is a big step down from home-made. My only knock is how busy and packed it is, and how they could use more space, but given the capabilities of the over, not sure they could handle the volume a larger space would require.

        1. Nice report. I look forward to going there. On a side note, Deb and I were in San Francisco last month and had a chance to try Tony's Pizza Napoletana near Washington Square. Tony has a wood-fired oven and produces a killer pie for such a new shop. If Coalhouse Pizza is close to Tony's then Stamford has a real keeper.

          2 Replies
          1. re: steve h.

            Deb and I enjoyed our lunch-time pizzas at Coalhouse today. Parking was easy, the place is attractive although the jazz/blues theme took me awhile to assimilate. Staff was friendly and attentive. I ordered their version of a pizza margherita at $7.75 (they use house-themed names that don't mean a thing to me) and Deb had a pepperoni pizza that ran $8.75.

            My Sam Adams lager arrived in a Ball Mason jar, very cool. Deb's pinot grigio came in a standard wine glass. The beer ran $3.75 and the wine was $7. These are very good prices.

            The personal-sized pizzas came out of the coal-fired oven piping hot. The crusts were properly charred and cracker thin. The cheese was uniformly melted across the top, as opposed to being islands of milky goodness. The pepperoni was of high quality and sliced thin so a bit of crispiness added to the overall flavor. Both pies were sliced into four pieces.

            We enjoyed our time at Coalhouse but the pizzas were not memorable. The pies were very thin, cracker crisp and pretty bland. The sauce was there but had no flavor, the cheese was of decent quality but perhaps suffered from 30 seconds or so too much time in the oven. The crust was crisp and nicely charred but the "just baked" flavor wasn't there.

            I wanted to like this place and, to a degree, I did. This is not pizza in the style of Naples. It is, however, a worthy addition to the area and, in time, may work the Rubik's Cube complexities that come with baking pizza in a coal-fired oven. I'll drop in from time-to-time to see how things are shaping up.

            1. re: steve h.

              April 1, 2010 follow-up.

              Ordered the "blue sky" and a stella.

              The good news. Beer was cold, crisp and served in a mason jar.
              The bad news. The pizza margherita (blue sky) failed at three critical points: crust, sauce, cheese.

              The crust at Coalhouse is both dry and uninteresting. Salt would help but the bottom line is that the whole dough/yeast/oven thing needs to be rethought. Maybe San Francisco's Tony Gemignani can be brought in to consult on this fundamental issue. It would be money well spent.

              Sauce at Coalhouse is neither sweet nor bright. Rather, it is bland. Sauces in Naples and Rome have character. The sauce at Coalhouse channels Charlie Brown.

              Cheese is always an issue when it comes to high-heat ovens. I tend to avoid buffalo mozzarella on my pies but others will cavil. The cheese at Coalhouse does not stand up to the heat of the oven. It bubbles a bit and then lays prone on the pie. Flavor of this high-end ingredient seems to have escaped up the chimney. Pity.

              At the end of the day, Coalhouse pizza serves wine, beer and pizza at a very good price point. I won't be back for the pie.

          2. The Red Hook "dough man," said one of the owners, is in fact a former partner in Anselmo's. He also deploys that dough in a dessert topped with grapes and spiced gorgonzola:

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...

            I could stand another one of those.