Posts tagged pizza

Neighborhood Newcomers: South Brooklyn Pizza and Annabelle’s

After a quiet winter of culinary openings, spring has sprung several restaurants here in Brooklyn. So before Jim and I received our first CSA shipment on Saturday and became inundated with fresh vegetables, we ventured out into our neighborhood last week to see how these upstarts measured up.

South Brooklyn Pizza

South Brooklyn Pizza: Located in the space adjacent to popular neighborhood pub P.J. Hanley’s, Carroll Gardens’ newest coal oven pizza joint opened about a month ago. Both locales are owned by real estate developer Jim McGown, who is also South Brooklyn’s pizza maker. Ten minutes after Jim and I sat down at our table, our oblong, thin crust pies arrived on individual wood planks ($12). In addition to a sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, a sprinkling of fresh basil, and an ample amount of olive oil, South Brooklyn’s pies are topped with a mix of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and asiago cheeses. The four cheese combination creates an almost salty mix of flavors nicely tempered by the less assertive tomatoes and olive oil. Toppings are not offered, although they are supposedly in development. The crust on our pies was thin, light, and crispy, with little char to be found. Despite the lack of ambiance in its dimly lit dining room, South Brooklyn has some fine pizza to offer, and I’m certain I’ll be back when I’m in need of a quality pizza fix and don’t feel like waiting on line at Lucali’s. Thank goodness it’s right around the corner from my apartment. 451 Court Street between 4th Place and Luquer Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn  T: 718-852-6018

Lobster Roll at Annabelle\'s

Annabelle’s: The Red Hook IKEA opens on Wednesday, surely bringing more foot and car traffic to Red Hook’s often desolate streets. Perhaps banking on this influx of shoppers, chef Neil Ganic has opened Annabelle’s, a new restaurant/bar in the old Lillie’s space (which happens to be right across the street from the blue and yellow behemoth). Befitting a chef known for the seafood spots La Bouillabaisse and Petite Crevette, Annabelle’s casual menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees leans heavily towards offerings from the sea. Jim bypassed the fish this time around and went with a pulled pork po’ boy ($13), while I couldn’t resist the lobster roll ($22). Ganic’s version employs luscious chunks of lobster meat coated with a creamy, tangy dressing served on a crispy baguette with salty fries and a side salad. I’ve heard rumors of an upcoming iteration of La Bouillabaisse next door to Annabelle’s, but I saw no sign of it. In any case, the scene in the backyard garden was pretty quiet for a Friday night at 9 pm, but I’m guessing the tranquility won’t last long. Who needs IKEA’s Swedish meatballs when you have lobster rolls across the street? 44 Beard Street at Dwight Street, in Red Hook, Brooklyn  T:718-643-1500

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Pizza and Freedom, via Di Fara’s

Although Jim and I love strolling around Brooklyn, we recently took another step forward on the path to adulthood and bought a car. I already have several excursions to new restaurants and neighborhoods in mind. In fact, Jim and I didn’t wait long before we made our first one. As soon as we signed the bill of sale on Friday, we fastened our seatbelts, turned the key in the ignition, and drove straight from the car dealership to nearby Di Fara’s in Midwood, Brooklyn.

Di Fara\'s Pizza

Like many New Yorkers, I had read that Di Fara’s serves the best pizza in the city. Its fans are pretty convincing, directing their enthusiastic praise towards the seventyish-year-old Domenico De Marco, who has been making his thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pies in this gritty corner shop for over 40 years. He personally rolls out the dough and assembles the ingredients for each pizza in front of the eternal hungry masses waiting at his counter. 

When Jim and I walked up to the shop on Friday night around 7 pm, I was expecting a line out the door. But the scene was eerily quiet, with only a faithful few stalking the counter while De Marco worked his magic in a white apron and newsboy cap. He started by slowly and deliberately pushing dough for a new pie into a circle. Next he carefully spooned San Marzano tomatoes, three types of grated mozzarella cheese, and parmigiano reggiano onto its surface before drizzling olive oil from a copper kettle on top. When the cooked pie emerged from the massive steel oven, De Marco reached for a plastic container of fresh basil, snipped some fresh leaves with a pair of scissors, and sprinkled them across the pizza’s surface. He also applied a second dose of olive oil across the pie. Once it was boxed up, the cycle began again with a new batch of dough.

Instead of ordering a pie, Jim and I decided to order our own slices with different toppings. We sat in the green-hued, rather grungy room and silently sipped our Cokes with the rest of the eager patrons. My first slice of plain arrived in a few minutes. As soon as I bit into it, I noticed the sharpness of the parmigiano cheese ($4). The crust was thin and light, the sauce sweet and fresh. But if I have to be honest, I enjoyed my slice with artichoke hearts more than the plain, and not just because I love artichokes ($6). It came to me piping hot, with the hearts tender, fresh, and silky.

Artichoke Heart Pizza at Di Fara\'s

I’m already planning my next visit, when I will order a full pie. I’m trying to figure out whether to go with the classic round or the Sicilian-style square. If being an adult with a car means I can get to Di Fara’s anytime I want, then I’ll happily accept it.

Di Fara Pizza, 1424 Avenue J between 14th and 15th Streets, in Midwood, Brooklyn. T: 718-258-1367. You don’t need a car to get there; take the Q train to the Avenue J stop, and the shop is about a block away.

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Nutella and Banana Whole-Wheat Pizza

Nutella and Banana Whole-Wheat Pizza for World Nutella Day

Now here’s a holiday I can really get into: World Nutella Day. Organized by bloggers Ms. Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso, this annual event celebrates its 2nd Anniversary on February 5th. All you need in order to participate is a love for Nutella, the creamy Italian hazelnut spread. That’s a requirement I can handle.

When I found out about this event a few days ago, I knew I wanted to celebrate the chocolaty spread with a recipe. We’ve known each other for a long time. While I was growing up, Nutella often visited my Italian-born mother’s pantry. It accompanied me home from my Italian study abroad trip in college and, more recently, from various business trips to Italy. But what kind of recipe could I create that would be worthy of this beloved snack food? After discussing the possibilities during a homemade pizza dinner with Jim, I realized I had the answer right in my hands: Nutella pizza!

As a child I devoured Nutella on white bread, enjoying it as a decadent alternative to peanut butter and jelly. But since I’m much older and wiser now, I wanted to incorporate a healthy aspect into my soon-to-be-devised dessert. I decided that a whole-wheat pizza crust would pair well with the nutty chocolate spread.

For my first attempt, I started with Cooking Light’s recipe for whole-wheat pizza dough. After I assembled the dough, I rolled it out, placed it on my pizza stone, and baked it for 12 minutes at 500 degrees. I let the crust cool and then joyously coated it with Nutella, adding a few bananas as well. That was the end of my Nutella-inspired fun, as unfortunately the crust was brittle and inedible. Something in my approach needed to change.

My biggest obstacle was the crust. Baking it without toppings had led to an inflexible and harsh crust, something more akin to a crisp cracker. During my second try a few days later, I melted some butter and brushed it onto the rolled-out dough before baking. Then I baked the crust at a lower temperature of 400 degrees for 12 minutes. I could see the difference as soon as I opened the oven door: The crust was brown and tender, the melted butter inviting and glistening. Instead of letting the crust cool, I slathered the Nutella on immediately, hoping that some of the moisture would be absorbed by the hot crust. More bananas, some powdered sugar, and my pizza was ready.

I took a bite and noticed that while the crust was still crispy, it was definitely softer than my first attempt. The nutty flavor of the whole-wheat crust was a complimentary base to the creamy Nutella spread and bananas. So while it took a few tries to get it right, my Nutella pizza arrived right in time for Nutella Day. I’m relieved. Grab a spoon and dig into your Nutella jar; it’s time to celebrate!

Recipe for Nutella and Banana Whole-Wheat Pizza
Prepare Cooking Light’s recipe for Whole-Wheat Dough (I substitute olive oil for cooking spray, but I doubt it makes a big difference. I also make the whole recipe and freeze half of it for another time. For this recipe, I use 1/4 of the dough in order to create a smaller pie, but feel free to create a bigger pie.)World Nutella Day

  • Cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
  • Nutella
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1/2 banana, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place pizza stone inside. While the stone is heating, roll out the dough into a thin circle on a floured surface. When stone is ready (it should pre-heat for at least 15 minutes), remove from oven and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place dough on the stone and brush with melted butter. Bake crust for 12 minutes at 400 degrees. Crust will be brown and slightly bubbly when ready.

Remove pizza stone from the oven and shift crust to a plate. Brush generously with Nutella. Add sliced bananas (or experiment with whatever fruit you prefer). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Serves 4 as dessert. Enjoy! 

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Lunch at Pizzeria Mozza

Squash blossom, burrata, and tomato pizza at Pizzaria Mozza in Los Angeles, California


Even as the end of 2007 approached with the typical abundance of holiday food and wine, I still wondered what treats I’d encounter in 2008. Luckily I received a tasty hint during New Year’s Eve lunch at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles with our friends Joanne, Jon, and Justin.

Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery partnered with New York restaurant kings Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich to open Pizzeria Mozza in November 2006, and her airy, crispy pizza crust, cooked in a wood-burning oven, has been lauded from coast to coast. And while it certainly lives up to the hype, the toppings–particularly the amazing array of fresh cheeses–also blew me away. From a look around the restaurant, I wasn’t alone.

But then again, it’s impossible to be alone at Mozza. As soon as we walked into the rather small, maroon-hued space, we noticed that the room was packed. Everyone in LA had the same idea about how they wanted to start the new year, and for once it included carbs.

After we sat down at a large, circular table, we perused the lengthy Italian wine list and experimented with a few quartinos (.25 liters of wine served in small carafes, equaling about a glass and a half) while we waited for our antipasti. We devoured the arancine alla bolognese, small, fried balls of gooey rice and cheese topped with a light meat sauce, as soon as they arrived, while Justin declared his serving of bufala mozzarella the best he had ever tried. As he passed the plate around the table and allowed the rest of us to taste slivers of the gleaming, milky orb, we all agreed, and subsequently stole a second bite.

And then the personal-size pizzas started to arrive. The boys went with a variety of meat-lover’s pies, with ingredients including (but not limited to) bacon, salami, and house-cured fennel sausage, as well as chiles, pineapple, and jalapenos. Leaving the men to their meat-induced ecstasy, Joanne and I did a slice-swap, allowing me to taste her pie of speck, bufala mozzarella, olive tapenade, and oregano ($18).

I had ordered the squash blossom, burrata, and tomato pizza ($18). As I took my first bite it was clear the cross-country praise was justified. The crust was indeed incredible–flaky, crispy, airy, chewy, you name it–but I was also enthralled with the burrata cheese, a creamy, milky mass of freshness adding to the rustic effect of the charred greens and hand-pulled pizza crust.

Steven Jenkins’s Cheese Primer describes burrata as a Southern Italian cheese made from remnants of mozzarella and cream enclosed in a “bag” of pulled curds, creating a smooth, cool cloud of creamy delight. Get ready New Yorkers: Burrata dominated California’s menus from Sonoma to Los Angeles. I have only seen burrata advertised at my Italian gourmet market, but I’m hoping to welcome it to my favorite local restaurants as soon as possible.

We ended our pizza feast with a variety of house-made gelato and then poured into our cars for the next destination. (I felt so very LA.) I hoped that our Pizzeria Mozza experience indicated positive things for the rest of 2008. With amazing pizza, a new favorite cheese, and great friends, how could the year go wrong?

Pizzeria Mozza, 641 North Highland, Los Angeles, California  T: 323-297-0101. Osteria Mozza is located next door with a more formal menu and a mozzarella bar. Reservations are recommended.

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