Everyone has their opinions on how comfort foods should taste. I have very strong opinions about how certain meals should be but I’m pretty flexible about some things. The one thing I definitely will not budge on is pizza (as you are probably aware from earlier entries).
Last night I visited a new pizzeria on the Upper West Side that touted itself as being straight from Naples (Fratelli La Bufala). I have had many phenomenal pizzas in my life but there is something very special about the pizzas I had in Naples.
The place was bustling last night as I think many people had the same idea that I did. Get in there and try the pizza before it becomes too insane. The initial look around was positive. The pizza maker and the oven greeted me as I walked in. The smell coming off the oven made me salivate (my Pavlovian response is triggered by many baked items!). There were a number of children sitting at tables with their faces smeared in tomato sauce.
I was seated very quickly and given the menu. I deliberated for a long time on which pizza to get but I ultimately stuck with the basic Margherita pizza. You can tell a lot about the other pizzas in an establishment by just trying their Margherita. I spent some time looking at what the people at the tables around me had ordered and my stomach began growling. There were a number of salads that were composed of fresh mozzarella that looked exquisite.
Finally the moment I had been waiting for arrived. The pizza was the perfect personal size on a lovely plain white plate. It was cut into 4 small pieces with a few sprigs of basil to complete the tri-color I’ve expected in my pizzas. The sauce and the cheese covered enough of the surface area and the crust was thin but substantial enough to not take over the whole pizza. It covered 10% of the pizza which was a good statistic to me.
And when I bit into the pizza I was transported to all the buzzing piazzas in Italy – the colorful fruit and vegetable markets, the shoppers scampering back home and the tourists sitting and drinking wine. I was back enjoying my summers with my cousins – the practical jokes, the silliness and the warmth. The mozzarella was light and slightly sweet. It matched the thin crust and tart sauce perfectly. By the time I was done, I was content and not overwhelmed. A good pizza shouldn’t ever make you feel like you ate a ton. It’s a light meal for a warm evening that will be followed by a stroll. Although like any comfort food, it is a meal that warms your heart and tummy at the same time. Despite the cold weather and insane winds, I felt cozy and cuddly after eating my pizza.
The pie really reminded me of that scene in “Ratatouille” where the critic is returned via memory to his favorite meal. I was momentarily returned to that great country and those fond memories and I would highly recommend this pizzeria.
Although the pizza was out of Italy, there are still some kinks they need to iron out with service. Even if it reminded me even more of Italy (the leisurely pace, the waiters who talk to you and the scrambling confusion), it will not and didn’t not serve a Manhattan clientele well. Hopefully that will be straightened out very soon so that others can enjoy the memories that I did.