Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pizza @ Tony's Pizza Napoletana

Tonight, we finally made it to Tony's Pizza Napoletana, to try out the famous pizza.  "Everyone" says it is supposed to be the best pizza in the city.  They make 10 (yes, 10!) totally different styles of pizza, ranging from thin crust to New York to deep dish, using all different flours, sauces (sweet, chunky, etc), cheeses AND different ovens (coal, gas, electric, wood) for each type.  The owner has won all sorts of competitions, both abroad (including a win in Italy for his margherita pizza, of which they make only 73 per day and always sell out early in the day) and domestically (on Food network, he won for a pizza with asiago, mozzarella, imported italian gorgonzola, croatian sweet fig preserve, prosciutto di parma, parmesan, balsamic, no tomato sauce.  Apparently a great mix of sweet and savory and salty).

They don't take reservations, and the waits are known to be epic.  And since we knew they only make 73 of the famous pizzas per day, we tried to go early and hopefully get one of the pizzas and avoid the waits.  We arrived a little before 6pm, but still had an hour long wait (which is apparently fairly short), and they were out of the pizza.  Fail!  But, it was a beautiful day, and we spent our time waiting sitting in the park, enjoying the last of the sunlight.

The restaurant seemed like a pretty classic pizza joint, booths and all.  Smaller than I expected, with only 5 booths, a table, and 16 seats at the bar.  There was also additional outdoor seating on the sidewalk, and I think possibly more space next door?  I couldn't quite tell if it was part of the restaurant.

Service was fine.  The hostess takes you name and phone number, and will call you when your table is finally available.  Plates were changed out between appetizers and pizza.  When we were leaving, the hostess called out a thank you, including my name.  I was shocked that she'd remembered it, and it was a nice touch.

The menu is huge, literally.  They have a slew of pizzas in each style, along with a bunch of appetizers, salads, pastas, sides, burgers, even a kids menu.  But we were mostly there for the pizza!

The pizzas we got weren't that great (full reviews below), but I'd be interested in coming back to try some of the other styles, particularly the Italian and the New York.  Have you been to Tony's, and if so, do you have a recommended style?  We also didn't get to really experience the famous margarita, so I'd like to do that.  And I am really interested in the Cal-Italia pizza (the one with all the cheeses, fig, proscuitto, and balsamic that has also won awards).
Dipping oils: picante pepper, plain, pesto.
Complimentary bread and oil showed up almost immediately.  The oils used a good quality, flavorful olive oil as a base.  The picante pepper was fairly sweet, flavorful, and was pretty good. The pesto was garlicky and really good.  I enjoyed dipping my pizza crust into these as well.
Bread to go with oil.
The oils came with a tomato can full of bread, a cute touch.  The bread was not very good, fairly generic, and somewhat stale tasting.  I'm glad it was so bad, because I would have been way to tempted to stuff myself full of the bread and oil while waiting for the pizza.
MEATBALL GIGANTE: blend of veal, pork and beef.  Topped with burrata.  $13.
Tony's is known for their exclusive items, like the famous pizza.  And the giant meatballs, of which they make only 25 per day.  Luckily for us, they had some still available.

The giant meatballs are available with a variety of toppings: marinera sauce, marinera and burrata, wild mushroom, pancetta, and robiola, or farm egg and calabrese.  I'd read great reviews of the meatball, and in particular of the mushroom and cheese sauce version, but the mushroom and cheese sauce version included truffle, and we had a diner who doesn't like truffle.  We settled on the burrata version.

The meatball was made of a blend of veal, pork, and beef.  The meat was fairly flavorful and well seasoned.  It was surprisingly moist, and cooked very consistently throughout.  I actually would have preferred some variation in the cooking, perhaps seared on the outside to have a nice crust on it, or more rare on the inside, or something, as it got a little boring like this.  We all agreed it was decently done, but that it reminded us of meatloaf, just not as good as meatloaf since it was lacking the fillers that can add flavor and dimension.  By being this size and cooked in this way, it just seemed like you missed out on what can make a tasty burger or meatball, but didn't get any benefit from it.

There was tons of marinera sauce, which we weren't expecting, as it was listed as just "burrata with sea salt" on the menu, and marinera was a separate choice.  One diner doesn't care for marinera sauce, so she was disappointed by this.  The sauce was really tangy and slightly sweet.  Nothing memorable, but good, and it went well with the meat.

The burrata was my favorite part of the dish.  So soft and creamy.  Delicious.  It was almost melting into the meat and sauce.  They have some pizzas with burrata on them, I'd love to try those next time.

The meatball was indeed gigante.  It was kinda too much for only three of us to share.  It was good, but we were all ready to be done with it by the end.  I'm not entirely sure how big it was, but I've heard it was a full pound, which does seem about right.  That would mean that we started our meal with 1/3 pound of meat each, which is bigger than your average burger.  I recommend this, and would get it again, but I'd want to share it with more people.  I also really, really want to try the mushroom and cream sauce version, as that sounds fantastic!  $13, for that much meat, seemed like a good deal.
MARGHERITA: san marzano tomatoes D.O.P., sea salt, mozzarella fior di latte,  fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil. $16.
So, we couldn't get the famous margherita, that is made with a special flour and dough, but, we could get a similar pizza, with regular dough.  900 Degree Wood Fired.

The crust was ok, pretty standard tasting, with a nice chewiness to it.  I would have preferred it to  crisper, and more charred, which I think means I just prefer a slightly different style, as this seemed to be how it was designed to come out.

The sauce was very similar to the sauce with the meatball, tangy, slightly sweet.

The mozzarella was pretty standard fio di latte, a little bit rubbery.

The basil added some good flavor.

Overall, this was just a really standard margherita pizza.  Not a single dimension stood out.  I'm interested to try the really special version, just because its supposed to be so great, but I wouldn't order this one again.
HONEY PIE: North Beach honey, calabrese peppers, scallions, mozzarella,  piave cheese, fried caramelized onions, serrano peppers. $19.
This came from the California style section of the menu, meaning it was cooked in the wood oven, like the margherita.  We were kinda overwhelmed by the menu, and most of the pizzas I'd read about were not vegetarian, and we had a vegetarian with us, so we made a somewhat rush decision on this one.  In retrospect, I wish we'd picked one of the different styles, as this was really similar to the margherita.

This pizza was strange.  None of us liked it, but for totally different reasons.

The crust was exactly the same as the margherita, made using caputo flour, since we weren't able to get one of the special margheritas with the fancy crust.  Just the like margherita, I thought it had a decent chew to it, but I would have preferred a thinner, crispier crust, with some more char on it.

There was no sauce.

The peppers gave it a really nice spicy kick, I really enjoyed them.  There weren't nearly enough on the pizza!

The honey was from bees on their rooftop.  It paired surprisingly well with the peppers.  I liked the sweetness, but found very little of it in my slice.  One of the other diners really didn't like this pizza because he said it was far too sweet, and all he got was honey.  I think it must have been really inconsistently drizzled on, as neither slice I had had much at all.

The base layer of the pizza was melted mozzarella cheese, that I really didn't like.  There was tons of it, and it just totally dominated the other flavors.  I also just really didn't like the flavor of it at all.  This cheese didn't bother anyone else.

The shards of piave cheese were tasty and paired well with the onions, a nice touch, but each slice had only one on it.

The onions were really disappointing.  I read "fried caramelized onions" and just pictured something else.  These were tiny, tiny little chunks of onion, coated in batter, and fried.  I actually think many of the pieces were just fried batter.  It took us a long time to figure out that this was onions, we had to go remember the menu in order to determine this.  It really was just mostly little tiny oily chunks of fry.  Larger chunks of onion, more like onion straws, would have been much better, but really, I think I just wanted caramelized onions.  Either way, I would have wanted to taste the onions, rather than just oil.

So altogether, this pizza just didn't really work.  I didn't love the crust, and in most bites, all I tasted was the mozzarella and oily fried bits.  Would not order again.
Tiramisu.  $8.
I hadn't really read anything about desserts at Tony's, and wasn't intending on ordering any, but one person wanted the tiramisu, so we got it.  It was a pretty poor execution.  Generic ladyfingers, with a small portion of them soaked in espresso, moist enough.  Not much espresso or boozy flavor came through.  The cream was sweet, dominating, and just not good at all. I can't pinpoint what it was, but there was just nothing good about it.  Topped with mediocre shredded milk chocolate.

I'd certainly never get this again.
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