Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Maybe you've heard me complain endlessly about the meager pizza choices in our Jersey town. I'm frustrated, I'm bitter, I'm angry, I'm depressed, I'm incredulous that no one has bothered to make a decent pie within twelve miles of our home. But then I go and eat the local schlock anyway... because it's pizza, dammit, and who wants to go weeks without pizza?
Well, sign me up.
I'm done with the places around here, and I'm not joking this time. I am now willing to go weeks without pizza if it means sparing myself junky pies. I'm not happy about this -- pizza is convenient, it's cheap, and it's always readily available... plus, you know, I'm a tiny bit obsessed with it -- but my hand has been forced by too many crushing disappointments.
Tonight, however, at least restored my faith that someone in this country besides Margy and my mom is committed to pizza excellence. Of course this was across the river in NYC, at No. 28 on Carmine Street, but at this point that's what I'm dealing with: either traveling a little or begging Margy for the homemade goods.
I had heard about No. 28 from Enzo, who is well aware of my obsession and who knew I'd dig the place. I just assumed Margy and I would have to wait for a table, but the joint was hardly full when we arrived. (Seems most New Yorkers are just like most New Jerseyans and choose their pizzerias based on proximity rather than deliciousness.) Walking in, we saw a brick oven, we smelled burning embers, we got excited. We ordered a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella and a white pie with garlic and sopressata.
As we were waiting for our pizzas, a trio of young Neapolitans walked in and made themselves at home at one of the outdoor tables. We were treated to the wonderful sound of their local dialect, which was so thick and obscure to my ears that, though I speak decent conversational Italian, I could only understand the odd word here and there. We were not in the New Jersey suburbs.
Again, that fact was borne out when the pizzas arrived. The first, most obvious good sign was burn marks on the crust. Aah, burn marks. All the ingredients were top notch, and there were very few of them -- another good sign. Pizza, to me, is not a depository for all my favorite meats and vegetables and cheeses; toppings are only there to support the most important component: the dough. And support it they did. The tomato sauce was fresh and bright, and the buffalo mozzarella was creamy and imparted just the right amount of dairy flavor. The garlic on the white pie made itself well known without being overpowering, and a bit of ricotta mellowed out the sopressata beautifully. The crust walked that delicate balance between crisp and chewy, offering a little bit of both.
It's no wonder that No. 28 has gained a "D.O.C." designation from the organization that recognizes proper Neapolitan, that is to say properly elemental, pizza. In that great miracle of culinary miracles, I got hungrier the more I ate, until my brain had to finally interfere and heed the stop signals that my stomach was refusing to send in such a blissed-out state.