Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Look at that beautiful pizza, fresh from the oven. A brick oven, that is. This was lunch the other day at Zero Otto Nove, a well-known spot on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for delicious Italian food--and it was delicioso. The crust was ultra thin and light and had that requisite salty tang from the yeast. The toppings were fresh and delicious. We tried the classic margherita with a twist--mozzarella, basil, tomato and mushrooms-- and friends ordered the salernitana with escarole. We all agreed. It was perfetto.
But enter another contender--Lombardi's Pizza on 32 Spring Street, near the corner of Mott. We had to try their coal-fired pizza to see if it is in fact better than the wood-fired variety. So we ate dinner there one night with friends and cousins and shared three pies. At one point someone wondered if 3 pies were too much for the 7 of us, but soon, we had demolished everything except a few crumbs and part of one crust.
The difference between the two cooking methods is subtle. The coal-fired oven reaches higher temperatures, up to 800 degrees, so the crust is more charred and extraordinarily crisp. It's also denser, but still has the subtle tang from the yeast. The toppings were fresh and interesting, but Zero Otto Nove had a wider selection and unusual ingredients like the escarole, potatoes, or butternut squash. Here, we ordered one with sweet Italian sausage and red peppers, another with half mushroom and half onion, and a third with classic white toppings.
In balance, I prefer Lombardi's for the slightly denser crust and tangy char, but Rich chose Zero Otto Nove. He insists that the thinner crust is best but I think that a crust drooping under the weight of its toppings is problematic. Who wants to eat their pizza with a knife and fork? He disagrees. How to settle the score? Try another pizzaria, of course. I'm ready whenever he is.