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

  • jfood Nov 21, 2009 04:56 AM
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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.

            1. We just returned from Coalhouse Pizza. The white clam pie with scallion pesto and bacon was a thing of beauty -- really sensational. My hustand was most happy with his bacon pizza. The crust hit that perfect sweet spot between pliable and crispy. The restaurant was full but not overwhelming and the folks working there couldn't have been nicer -- very accommodating to our toddler son. We will be back! I'm curious about the kimchi pizza. I wasn't feeling quite that adventurous but now that I've seen what they can do with a pizza, I place myself completely at their mercy and am curious to see what kind of animal that kimchi pizza is. I give Coalhouse a standing ovation.

              2 Replies
              1. re: amyleechen

                I went to Coalhouse and tried a 16' with sausage, well done.

                Here are the facts.....the crust is really thin, really pliable (it flops over) and is really, really good. The crust, always the most important part of any pizza, is Coalhouse's strongest point.

                The taste is good also. Not fantastic, not transcendent, not amazing, just good.

                This place relegates John the Baker to the secondary status it has deserved ever since Eugene took off and started Remo. And now I understand why it isn't so hard getting Colony on the phone anymore:) I like colony, but I'm not comfortable calling it pizza. I think of it as cheesy, round crispy bar snacks:)

                1. re: amyleechen

                  I like Coalhouse. And the fact that I could walk there on a warm night is a big plus. However, I've only tried two pizzas there (I can't remember the odd names for the pizzas). The white clam pie was the one though that I really didn't like at all. I liked the clam flavor, but couldn't stand greens being on the same pie. Totally disruptive in my mind.

                  The basic tomato-cheese pie was pretty good. The crust is what is really intriguing to me though.

                  All that said, what my daughter still talks about is that she got to drink out of a jar. Go figure.

                2. Coalhouse Pizza is so thin that it cools down too quickly. The 2nd and 3rd pieces get progressively less satisfying.

                  1. Tried Coalhouse tonight for the first time. It was packed the entire time we were there, and the small tables are uncomfortably close together (no booths ), so that's a real negative to me. Lighting is bright verging on harsh. We shared an okay spinach salad that had too much dressing and a large pie that was split between the version with several species of mushrooms and the version with ricotta and prosciutto (sorry, can't remember the cutesy names). We had been done with our salad for quite a while and were starting to wonder about where the pizza was when the waitress told us that the kitchen had inexplicably lost our order and she would put a new one on rush. The pizza, when it finally arrived, was good, not great. Very nice crust, but hardly any of the advertised mushrooms on the mushroom half. Big slices of prosciutto on the other half made it hard to eat--one bite and the whole slice slid off. But my big problem with both halves was the heavy amount of undercooked garlic (which I think was lurking in the pesto). I'm a garlic lover, but while the quick trip in and out of the coal oven is enough to cook the crust and melt the cheese, it leaves the garlic partly raw. The harsh taste and tongue burn were unpleasant. They should parcook the garlic before using it as a topping ingredient.

                    I was a little surprised that the place didn't comp our drinks or something to make up for the order problem, but with the big crowd I guess they don't feel the need. All in all, no way this place will supersede Remo's in my heart. While their location and parking situation aren't so good, Remo's has a nicer ambiance , great salads and better pizza (their garlic shrimp pie, my favorite, doesn't have a trace of undercooked garlic).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MommaJ

                      I'm looking forward to trying coalhouse...but slightly worried when you say Remo's is better pizza??