Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Favorite Pizza

Whenever I feel tempted to make fun of the pizza explosion of recent years, I remember this: it's okay that pizza is just bread, tomato sauce, cheese, and perhaps a few toppings. There can be honor and wisdom in pursuing very simple things, focusing on the fine points of technique and detail. I get it. There certainly are other things I love that are very simple, and yet highly agonized over. Ramen, for example, is just noodles and broth with a few toppings. Ice cream is just cream, milk, eggs, and whatever you want to flavor it with. I could keep going here.

The thing is, my favorite way to eat pizza just doesn't overlap with the places that seem to be popular now. This is my opinion only - I'm simply sharing what I like and don't like, so don't start hating on me in the comments because I'm not into Motorino, Franny's, or Lucali. I've eaten pizza at each of those places, and at some of the other modern temples of NYC pizza, and the food can be very good. Lucali's pizza with fresh artichoke - seriously delicious! Motorino's pizza with Prosciutto di Parma - awesome!

My issue here isn't with the actual pizza. I'm not the guy to make profound statements about pizza anyway. Dr. Parzen is better suited to moderate such a discussion. That guy has eaten pizza on 5 continents and can tell you where to go in Benin, Bucharest, Bologna, or Brooklyn for the best slice.

This is not about the finest pizza, but instead it's about the way that I love to eat pizza. Bottom line - I want the food to be delicious. But I want a homey atmosphere without even the slightest whiff of hipster. I want to sit in a booth with a few people, hopefully my kids included. I want that moment of terror as the server says "Coors, Coors lite, Bud, Bud lite, Becks," and then that feeling of relief when they say "Peroni, or Moretti." I want to choose from appetizers like broccoli rabe, stuffed mushrooms or clams, or cold antipasto. I want a great pizza that feeds 4 adults to cost something like $16. I want the servers to be related to the lady who greets me at the door, who in turn is married to the guy making the pizza. Okay, I'm willing to be flexible on that last one.

I guess what I'm saying is that Lucali and the others for me will always be about going to Lucali, not about going for pizza. For me, the best way to go for pizza is at a place like Anthony's Restaurant in Torrington, Connecticut. I would link to it, but the place has no website.

New Haven isn't the only part of Connecticut with great pizza. Italians settled all over Connecticut, and the factory towns of the northwest each have a few cozy little Italian restaurants. I wouldn't order the shrimp scampi at Anthony's, or at any of these places. But the grinders are great (peppers and eggs...yum), and so is the pizza. And to me, it's the best way to eat pizza. Totally low key Italian joint with a boatload of regulars, and no pretense whatsoever.

That pizza in the above photo, that was from Friday night, when BrooklynLady and I took the kids to visit family in the Torrington area. We always go to Anthony's when we visit, and our order was pretty typical. A round of Peroni on draft, starters of broccoli and escarole (both drenched in garlic and butter), and two pies. One plain, and one with green and red peppers. They roast them perfectly, and the smokey sweet pepper and its slightly bitter skin work so well with the tomato and savory cheeses.

If you think this is some sort of romanticizing of small town pizza joint, you're right. But don't be fooled - I'd put the actual pizza at Anthony's up against whatever you get at Lucali, Roberta's, Keste, or whatever else you want to talk about (Di Fara's, maybe not). Seriously - the pizza is awesome. It's a different setting though, and one that I prefer.


Do Bianchi said...

BrooklynGuy, thanks for the shout out. And hey, what's the matter with Coors and Coors light, anyway? ;-)

Anthony's sounds so great and what a great image: the many Italian families that settled through the northeast and built small businesses by using the culinary tradition they brought with them and incorporating the ingredients and traditions they discovered.

The white clam pizza is one such byproduct of this wonderful marriage.

And pizza was the first step in the Renaissance of Italian cuisine in this country. Isn't it incredible to think you can find the word Napoli (or some form of evocation) on nearly every city block of nearly every major urban center along the east coast and beyond?

In our country, pizza has transcended our collective iconography (forget the boring pizza wars!). Think of how pizza and pizza pie play such a central role in American cinema and music and wider popular culture.

When the moon hits your eye...

What adult over 30 can't finish that line??!!

Great post... Thanks for the kind shout out...

michelecolline said...

Beer, with pizza?

Brooklynguy said...

beer and pizza = YES. i like wine too, but i prefer beer.

Custom Labels said...

There are few beverages that taste better with pizza than a cold beer. I also completely the small mom-and-pop restaurants with almost a family atmosphere that have stayed in business for the last 30-40 years because they serve GOOD FOOD at great prices.