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Forcella loosely translates to "Fried pizza now available in Manhattan". Here, one lover's report...

tupac17616 Oct 27, 2011 09:42 AM

I've been a regular at the Brooklyn location of Forcella for a little while now, so at last night's opening of the Manhattan flagship, I was friggin' thrilled. I think it's going to become something really special. Here's my story about why, and if you'd like to see some photos, I've got those, too: http://pocketfork.com/usa/forcella/

He looks like a jazz trumpeter, or maybe a saxophonist. The hair extending down from his chin is more thick stalactite than goatee. He’s lanky, with thick-rimmed, square-edged glasses, and he sports a type of hat that I can’t identify and certainly couldn’t wear.

Giulio Adriani makes pizza.

But right now he is making a face suggesting confusion, even concern. Why have I ordered so much, he asks? Why do I always order so much?

I make a feeble excuse that just as there are by-the-slice pizzerias, there are by-the-slice pizza eaters — but I am not one. And if my proclivity toward excess once had me in Naples eating whole pies (at least) twice a day, every day, for a week, then it stands to reason that I should order two or three at a time if I’ve had to trek to Brooklyn. Go hard or go home, I figure.

There’s also the more embarrassing excuse of the shopaholic blaming the inventory… You see, fried pizza used to be something one only found in Naples, or in beautiful dreams. I put on a staggering thirty pounds the first time I went to Italy and encountered such healthy snacks. And I’m poised to do the same now that Giulio has brought this one to New York at a place (well, two) by the name of Forcella.

The classic form of pizza fritta looks like a calzone cross-bred with a beignet. Both bubbly and porous, it emerges from the deep-fryer and it glistens. To bite through the crust is to recall Rice Krispies — it’s got snap, crackle, dare I say even pop. Probably the most typical variety — filled with tomato, smoked mozzarella, ricotta and salame — is what I have here. The smoky cheese adds necessary depth to a specimen that never sees the inside of the wood-burning oven. The salame is coarsely chopped and toothsome. Overall, the thing’s got heft but it doesn’t feel heavy.

At Forcella, there’s also the montanara, which occupies a category all its own — savory but almost sweet, fried but also baked, the love child of pizza margherita and funnel cake. Giulio fries a smallish round of dough first, punching down the center so the edges puff up but the center stays so thin as to be nearly translucent. While still warm, he spreads it with tomato sauce and dots it with mozzarella. It’s baked for slightly less time than a typical Neapolitan pizza — which is to say, not very long at all. Then I observe a moment of silence — sweet, gluttonous silence. During fried pizza consumption I am not to be disturbed.

At this point I could be a tease and stop my story right there. For me to assert that the montanara is the single best thing to order at Forcella (probably the single best Neapolitan pizzeria I’ve ever been to outside of Naples) could save you further reading. But to not tell you about the regular pizza would be more than negligent on my part. It would be borderline criminal.

Now, pizza napoletana happens to be my favorite food. And if eating more than my fair share of it all around the world has taught me anything, it’s that technique and ingredients count in equal measure in its preparation. All the “artisanal” ingredients in the world can’t guide inexperienced hands in crafting a proper crust, and no amount of pizzaiolo know-how can cover up rubbery mozzarella or insipid tomatoes. At Forcella, I’ve eaten most of the twenty or so pies you’ll find on the menu. I’ve yet to have found a flub.

The crust, properly salted and perfectly tasty on its own, has all the textural variation I could want. It’s crisp on the edges and pliant throughout, charred but not incinerated, with the occasional air pocket but enough density that it’s not floppy. Adriani’s mozzarella, which he makes fresh every single day, is exceptional — its salinity a conduit, not a cover-up, for the dairy flavor. The tomato sauce pokes at flavors both sweet and tart, and the token leaf or two of basil hints at a balancing bitterness. Together, they make the margherita. Together, they are all I could ever want or need in life.

But I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve tried the other stuff, too. I’ve gotten the requisite marinara, with the welcome addition of fresh cherry tomatoes and the welcome subtraction of overzealously applied oregano. Here there’s just enough. There’s also enough prosciutto crudo on the prosciutto-and-arugula pie that you’ll get some in every bite; enough prosciutto cotto on a pie called the Vomero that its sweetness is kept in check (it’s also got corn, mozzarella, cream, and ricotta, and it’s lovely). The margherita regina does no wrong, but why bother with buffalo mozzarella when Giulio’s cow milk mozzarella is so superb? I’ve had pies with mushrooms, pesto, figs, salame and zucchini flowers, not necessarily all together but all good. The pizza alla carbonara, too, is wonderful — eggy and rich and oh-so-pork-fatty just like the Roman pasta preparation.

They probably wouldn’t do that one in Naples. Nor would they, as I have been known to do, take a pizza as a refreshing palate cleanser before dessert. But the Fuorigrotta — a white pie piled with lemon, arugula, and pecorino — functions perfectly as such. There’s likely been more fried stuff before that healthy greenery, of course… a crispy disc of dough topped with lardo and chilies, maybe a potato croquette or a rice ball filled with molten mozzarella. And then it’s time for sweets, which means it’s time for Nutella — slathered around the inside of an otherwise naked crust like hummus in a pita, or drizzled over little nubs of fried pizza crust Giulio calls angioletti (“little angels”).

After this, it’s time for me to pay the same tab that the adjacent family of four has racked up. Hell, it’s time for me to get a life. I sent my friend a text message earlier this evening. It consisted of just three letters — “BAM”. I was not at the Brooklyn Art Museum. Nor was I channeling Emeril Lagasse. I was just a little excited, because tonight, the flagship location of Forcella had its grand opening party. Giulio said, “Let there be fried pizza in Manhattan,” and there was fried pizza. And Giulio saw the fried pizza. And it was good.

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Forcella
334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

 
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  1. pizzajunkie Oct 27, 2011 10:08 AM

    I (almost) never met a pizza I didn't like. Thanks for the report! Looks delish.

    1. k
      kathryn Oct 28, 2011 08:47 AM

      Oh my, now in Manhattan? Excellent!

      Here's my earlier report of the Brooklyn one:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7971...

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn
        tupac17616 Oct 28, 2011 11:56 AM

        Upscale mozzarella sticks, lol. I love the montanara, and get one nearly every visit.

      2. prima Oct 28, 2011 11:58 AM

        Thanks for posting your review & the photo. It's on my wishlist. ;-)

        1. s
          StayHungry Oct 31, 2011 04:04 PM

          YES! http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

          1. r
            RCC Oct 31, 2011 04:26 PM

            Thanks for the report, the nice description and the very nice photos (in your blog). Thanks to your post, we're on our way there this weekend.

            2 Replies
            1. re: RCC
              tupac17616 Nov 1, 2011 11:07 AM

              Sweet! Let us know how it goes.

              1. re: tupac17616
                r
                RCC Nov 4, 2011 12:30 PM

                I called to reserve for dinner tonight and found out that they have no liquor license yet and that they couldn't allow me to even byob.

                I'll just have to wait until they are licensed to serve wines.

            2. j
              jmoranmoya Nov 5, 2011 05:39 AM

              Nice review, did you eat all those Pizzas from the pictures of your website??
              Agree this place has taken Pizza to the next level, it's hard to say but maybe the next step after Motorino...
              Photos from my Last visit to the East Village one:
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmoranmo...

              And do not forget their desserts are from out of this World

              -----
              Motorino
              349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

              4 Replies
              1. re: jmoranmoya
                r
                RCC Nov 5, 2011 06:24 AM

                We went to Motorino, instead, for dinner last night. Imho, it's still the best, or one of the best, Neapolitan style pizza out there today. If this place one-ups Motorino's level, then will definitley try out once beer/wines are available.

                -----
                Motorino
                349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: RCC
                  k
                  kathryn Nov 5, 2011 06:30 AM

                  From my experience at the Brooklyn Forcella, Motorino's crust still was a little better in terms of puffiness and taste.

                  -----
                  Motorino
                  349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                  Forcella
                  334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                  1. re: RCC
                    j
                    jmoranmoya Nov 5, 2011 07:01 AM

                    In my opinion Forcella at least ones up Motorino. I was not impressed by the Forcella in Williamsburg,t the night I went, but this time I really was. The crush was puffy and well burned. If I have one complain is that they put the ingredients at the very end ie the Parma ham, and the flavors are not absorbed by the dought or tomatoe sauce. Motorino blends better the flavors.
                    What Motorino does not have is and extended dessert menu, on e other hand some Forcella desserts are even better than the Pizzas

                    -----
                    Motorino
                    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                    Forcella
                    334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                    1. re: jmoranmoya
                      strangemd Nov 7, 2011 06:52 AM

                      Took the family last night, and the consensus was definitely in the same league as Motorino. My wife thought the crust at Forcella was even better. In any case, it was really fine pizza without the wait one faces at Motorino. Try it, folks.

                      -----
                      Motorino
                      349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                      Forcella
                      334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                2. Cheeryvisage Nov 16, 2011 12:07 PM

                  I visited this past weekend with a friend. We love loved the meal. The restaurant was quite pretty and charming. The manager and our server were really nice and friendly. And the food, oh man, the Montanara, was heavenly. The crust was out of this world airy and fluffy and puffy, the way fried dough should be. Dear god, I can eat the Montanara everyday.

                  Seriously, get yourselves here before the pizza mob hits, which it inevitably will.

                  -----
                  Forcella
                  334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cheeryvisage
                    Cheeryvisage Dec 21, 2011 06:56 AM

                    I returned to Forcella early this month. This time, I was disappointed by the Montanara. The fried pizza was too watery and the dough was awfully soggy. I did not encounter this issue last time. It leads me to think that the kitchen may be inconsistent. I will note though, that the owner (Giulio Adriani) was there when I visited in November, but I did not see him on this most recent visit.

                    The second pizza we ordered, the Mergellina, saved the meal. It consisted of porcini mushrooms, pesto, and buffalo mozzarella. Man, oh man, was it good. The earthy mushrooms, herby-garlicky pesto, creamy mozzarella, and fluffy-puffy dough were a delight of flavors and textures. I will definitely be ordering this again the next time I eat at Forcella.

                    Photo of the Mergellina: http://flic.kr/p/aQZpWv

                    -----
                    Forcella
                    334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                  2. r
                    RCC Nov 28, 2011 07:18 AM

                    Pizza-lover nephew and I had lunch at Forcella on Black Friday. Nice, clean and conducive ambiance. We were ushered into one of the tall table by the front glass facade with high stools and gladly accepted. Upon sitting, we quickly decided to move and requested a normal table, as the tall tables were too tall for us and the stools were not exactly high enough to prop up our upper torso to be comfortably aligned with the dining table.

                    Our very nice server gave us a good description of the fried pizza dishes. I opted for the Montanara, which is really a regular oven-baked margherita but on pre-fried dough. I rarely eat the outside crusts of any pizza, but in this case, the outside crust happened to be the best part. Some crispiness with almost a pork-rind taste and texture, plus the good olive oil, in this case, was evident. I wasn't that crazy about the middle portion with the tomato sauce and the mozarella. It was good, but not Motorino nor Keste good, imho.

                    Nephew had one of the pizza fritte dish. I had a taste of the dish and, again, the fried dough was at the forefront of tastiness. The filling of ricotta, sopressata and smoked mozarella was very good. What could have been one fine dish, was marred by the excessive amount of oil that it was swimming on in the plate. We're talking a good 1/4th of a cup of oil. Nephew only ate half the dish as the other half simply soaked up a lot of the clear oil that it was on. If only they would figure out something to drain out the dish of all that oil prior to serving.

                    I think that Forcella will be a good addition to the local "top tier" Neapolitan pizza scene.

                    -----
                    Motorino
                    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                    Forcella
                    334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: RCC
                      erica Dec 21, 2011 12:56 PM

                      NYTimes (mediocre) review:

                      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/din...

                    2. s
                      sugartoof Dec 21, 2011 05:51 PM

                      Forcella is really enjoyable. It's just easy to enjoy.

                      There are some comically bad things being passed off as pizza these days, from places heralded as good...ABC Kitchen, and Zero Otto Nove come to mind as tragically bad, barely even pizza. I love Keste, but even they couldn't restore my faith in a perfect pizza on a recent visit. Forcella thankfully reminded me what good simple pizza taste like. They just do it right, in a way that's satisfying. Both the fried pizza, and the regular, are pretty similar, but the extra boost from the crunch on the Montanara is an interesting contrast.

                      -----
                      Forcella
                      334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                      1. uhockey Dec 22, 2011 04:55 PM

                        Great review, as always. After the 5-stop Pizza crawl in Brooklyn during my last visit I've been thinking about revisiting the idea in Manhattan this time and Forcella is now definitely on on the list with Co and Keste provided I can gather a crew.

                        Thanks.

                        http://endoedibles.com

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: uhockey
                          j
                          jmoranmoya Dec 22, 2011 06:52 PM

                          Just one word uhockey: MOtorino

                          1. re: jmoranmoya
                            uhockey Dec 22, 2011 06:53 PM

                            Went to the now-defunct Brooklyn location last time. Wasn't as good as Lucali or Paulie Gee's, IMO.

                            http://endoedibles.com

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