Sorbillo

January 18th, 2018

Manhattan, NYC

One of the biggest pizzeria openings of this past year was the opening of Gino Sorbillo Pizzeria in NoHo in late November. Gino Sorbillo came to NYC straight from Naples, where his family has owned and operated the original Sorbillo in Napoli via Dei Tribunali since 1935. We knew that New York certainly has its share of good Neapolitan-style pizzerias, and also boasts a fair number of pizzerias that are run by pizzaiolis who worked in Naples, but we were excited because this is the first opening of a restaurant we could go to with a TRUE Napolitan Pizzaioli at the helm.

We finally had a chance to go to Sorbillo this afternoon for lunch. We also had the pleasure of being joined for lunch by Arthur Bovino, one of our “pizza heros” as the creator of the Daily Meal lists. So not only did we get to enjoy great pizza, but we got to pick his brain about pizza around the country and the fine details of how the list was created. We were especially excited to meet him so that we could ask him about his recommendations for pizza (among other food) in Buffalo, since we are currently planning a quick road trip up there in the next few weeks. He is the expert on restaurants in that area, and even has a book coming out in May, which will sadly be after our trip. In any case, it sounds like we will be eating a lot that weekend.

Now, let’s chat about this pizza. We tried three pizzas here. First, the traditional Margherita con bufala, because it is a classic and we always seem to order one margherita. We also tried the Calzone Napoletano, which was recommended to us by our server, and the Vecchia Roma. The calzone seems to have a growing following, so we needed to check it out.

Overall, we thought the pizzas were great.They definitely had a bit of soup in the middle, and were a bit heavier on the cheese than some other Neapolitan pizzas that we’ve had. They are also slightly bigger in diameter, which didn’t stop us from finishing all three pizzas (well, the two pizzas and the calzone, if we are being technical). And honestly, it was mostly me and Eric doing the eating. The only non-traditional thing about them was that they cut the pizzas for you. The calzone was good too, although we were a bit underwhelmed since we had heard the hype about it. We are always fans of ricotta stuffed dough, and we did like the char that was on the crust.

At the end of the day, though, we couldn’t say that we liked it any better than Kesté, or some of the other Neapolitan-style pies we’ve had around the city. It does have a good location, though, being close to Eric’s office, so we’d probably go again. It also wasn’t too busy for lunch and is pretty spacious inside, which was great.

We will have to come back again anyways to try some of the rest of the extensive menu. We probably didn’t give the pizza all of the attention that it deserved, as we were caught up in telling Arthur our (super exciting) stories from our pizza travels (we hope he didn’t get too bored) and getting some feedback on our future pizza adventure plans.  It’s pretty clear that we will have to get over to Italy at some point…and Alaska…

To visit:

Sorbillo Pizzeria
334 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

#33 2Amys

July 23rd, 2016

Washington, D.C.

After our lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso, we headed around town for a bit of sightseeing and LOTS of walking. So much to do in D.C.! We were hungry again by the time dinner rolled around (SO MUCH walking), which was good because our second pizza stop of the day was at 2Amys, which was opened back in 2001 as the first D.O.C. pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

We may have mentioned D.O.C. certification in our previous posts, but in case you missed it, D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status is the highest standard for Neapolitan pizza making. Pizzerias that have obtained D.O.C. designation have met strict requirements established in Italy. These include, but are notlimited to, the following:

  • Pizza must be cooked in a wood-burning dome oven that operates at about 800ºF.
  • Specific ingredients need to be imported – San Marzano tomatoes, all natural Fior de Latte or Bufala mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, high quality olive oil. No shortcuts here.
  • The dough needs to be made by hand or on low speed with a mixer. No mechanical shaping of the dough!
  • The border (crust) can’t be higher than 1.5 cm. The diameter can’t exceed 28 cm and the total weight needs to be under 200 grams.
  • Pizzas shouldn’t bake for more than 90 seconds.

Pizzerias that want D.O.C. status need to be approved by a special association, which was established to protect this style of pizza and its traditions. It is basically a lot of extra work for the “star of approval”. 2Amys has gone through all of this and has had its D.O.C. status upon opening, one of about 100 approved pizzerias in the US currently.

So, the big question is obviously: does this make for better pizza? It certainly means that Neapolitan pizzas are more standardized, so you know that you are getting a consistent taste. In our experience, this doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes you like to know what you are getting into when you visit a pizzeria, but other times you are looking for a sourdough crust, or a Neapolitan style pie that has a bit more stability. Sometimes we just don’t want a soupy center.

That being said, 2Amys does serve great pizza. It was probably our favorite pizzeria in the D.C. area. We enjoyed a few beers, and two of their pizzas. The first was a traditional marinara pizza, which had thinly sliced garlic on top of the sauce and is one of the three D.O.C. pizzas on the menu. We had one of the prosciutto pizzas as well, which was also very good with a nice, perfectly charred crust. Finally, we tried one of the “stuffed pizzas”, stuffed with ricotta and fresh mozzarella. That one was filling, but delicious. If you want good (certified) Neapolitan pizza, you’ll love it here.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to try any of the other delicious-looking appetizers, or the homemade ice cream. For another day.

To visit:

2Amys
3715 Macomb Street NW
Washington DC 20016

#50 Pizzeria Paradiso

July 23rd, 2016

Washington, D.C.

Last summer we had friends who were living in D.C. who kindly offered to let us stay in their spare room for a weekend so that we could eat pizza. And also, so that we could hang out with them. But, mainly to eat pizza. We drove down to Washington, D.C. on a Saturday morning. As usual, Eric missed our exit getting into town. Let’s just say that we were both very hungry (hangry?) by the time we got to our first pizza stop, Pizzeria Paradiso.

You may not think of D.C. as a pizza town. We didn’t. Neither, apparently, did the owners of Pizzeria Paradiso, who opened this restaurant in 1991 because there was a lack of Neapolitan pizzerias in the city. The restaurant has expanded over the years and now has three locations around the D.C. area. They’ve also added in birrerias (“beer halls” in English) to keep up with the microbrewing scene that is growing around the D.C.area. These beer halls can be found at the Dupont and Georgetown locations. We’d recommend going for happy hour, because they have a lot of great options. And everyone knows that pizza and beer go great together.

 

It was hard to choose pizzas here to share. We ended up ordering one of the Siciliana pizzas, which was just a veggie pie, and then one of the specials which came with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and thinly sliced red onion. They also had a large selection of salads and paninis here. Pizzas also come in two sizes, so you can pick small or large depending on if you feel like sharing and also how many other pizzas you are going to be trying that day (we obviously went with smalls – this was not our only pizza stop for the day).

The pizzas here are wood-fired. As with many Neapolitan-style pizzas, the crust here is the focus. It was crispy around the edges, but not too well done.This isn’t the place to come if you want a good char on your crust. It was also a little droopy in the center with the weight of the toppings, but that’s just Neapolitan-style for you. We wouldn’t say it was the best Neapolitan in D.C., but it certainly gets props for being the first!

To visit:

Pizzeria Paradiso
2003 P Street NW
Washington DC

 

#28 Lucali

June 23rd, 2016

Brooklyn, NYC

After getting back from our pizza weekend, we had to take a short (one week) hiatus from eating pizza. When we were sufficiently recovered, we visited another of the top-ranking Brooklyn pizzerias on the list, Lucali.

Lucali may be the most romantic pizza place that we went to on the list, and there is a good reason why it is ranked so high. Tucked away in Carroll Gardens, the restaurant only seats a few tables at time, and it has a quiet ambiance, and makes amazing pizza.

The pizza here is kind of like if you were to smush all of the other NY greats together. The fresh basil on top from Di Fara,  minimal available toppings, like the classic slice joints (Joe’s), and a soft, Neapolitan-like crust.

Recommendations if you want to try the pizza here (and you really should!):

  1. Do NOT come here with a group of people – bring your husband, date, or best friend, but keep it small. Or you may never get a table.
  2. The restaurant officially opens at 6, but they start taking names for tables at 5:30. We didn’t realize this and showed up right before 6, and had over an hour wait to get a table. If you are on a time crunch, make sure to get your name in for the first seating. Like many of the other Brooklyn greats (see Emily or Paulie Gee’s), the line can be long. Otherwise, be prepared to wait AT LEAST an hour. We went on a Wednesday night. I’ve read about people who show up at 5:30 on a Friday and don’t get a table until 8 pm (just warning you!).
  3. BYOB! Do I have to say more? You probably have plenty of time after you put your name in to go find a bottle of wine.

When you have to wait for your pizza, your anticipation really grows. The longer the wait, the more you feel like the pizza has to live up to the wait. Well, you really don’t have to worry about that here. This pizza really lived up to the wait. We both rated this on our personal lists much higher in the top 20.

We ended up ordering half plain, half pepperoni. The pizza is expensive, and so we didn’t want to order two. We also were happy to not have too many topping selections – simple is sometimes best. We left happily full, but not stuffed.

After writing this, I think we need to go back here as soon as possible. We’d wait over an hour again for this pizza if we had to.

To visit:

Lucali
575 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

#100 Il Forno

November 4th, 2017

San Antonio, TX

We managed to get a bit of sleep after our first late-night pizza stop in Texas, but we couldn’t sleep too late because we had to make a detour to San Antonio before heading a bit further upstate to the wedding. It took us a little over an hour to drive to San Antonio from Austin and we showed up at Il Forno just after noon.

This restaurant is a newcomer to the 2017 list, and it has only been open for about a year and a half. We were a little skeptical that it would live up to the others (especially since Via 313 was taken off of the list in 2017), but we were really surprised here.

Il Forno is located in a quiet part of San Antonio, a little bit south of downtown and away from the crowds visiting the Alamo. From the outside, you couldn’t tell it was a pizza place because it is painted lime green and has an overgrown looking garden out front. As soon as we walked in, though, we saw the massive wood burning oven and we knew we were in the right place.

Although it has only been open a little over a year, Il Forno already produces their own sage and basil, and will expand the garden as the years go on. They have kumquat trees planted out front that will take a couple more years to produce fruit! All of their ingredients come from local Texas farms, and even more impressively, they cure all of their own meats in-house.

When we heard that, we had to order the Entero, which came with a “chef’s selection” of three meats. There was a spicy sausage, a spicier pepperoni, and a third pepperoni-ish meat as well. Sorry that I am not very good at meat identification – whatever it was, it was tasty! We also ordered a butternut squash salad that was topped with pistachios and goat cheese. We had to balance out that meat with some vegetable!

The crust on this pizza was awesome. Eric commented that it rivals some of the best Neapolitan crusts that we’ve had in NYC or San Fran. The cheese wasn’t loaded on too heavily, so all the flavors really shone through. We really approve of this addition to the 2017 list!

And since we ordered only one pizza here, we still had plenty of stomach space to enjoy an evening full of delicious wedding food 🙂

To visit:

Il Forno
122 Nogalitos St
San Antonio, TX 78204

#79 Area Four

June 3rd, 2016

Cambridge, MA

We usually try to take a camping trip every summer. Last year, we tied our camping trip into a birthday/pizza weekend for Eric and drove up to Maine. We found a nice campsite right outside of Portland, brought our canoe, and spent the whole weekend eating pizza and making s’mores. It was awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We planned to get up to our campsite by dark to set up our tent, but this left us plenty of time to stop just outside of Boston for some pizza for lunch. We decided to stop at Area Four, in Cambridge. The weather was beautiful, and we grabbed a table right out front of the restaurant.

The pizza at Area Four seems a bit out of place in Boston and feels like it belongs somewhere in Brooklyn or California. The dough is made from a 15-year old starter that rises for 36 hours. They use local ingredients, and the pizzas change seasonally. Nothing on the menu, from the bread and butter pickles appetizer to the Hawaiian pizza with roasted pineapple salsa, is traditional, but everything we’ve tried is delicious. One of the pizzas (the Carnivore) has been featured on the Food Network’s best pizza ever.

We went for the seasonal spring pie, which had arugula, peas, pickled red onion, mozzarella, and asparagus, and it tasted just like spring. We also tasted the more traditional Marinara pizza, which was topped with a decent amount of basil and roasted garlic. Both were fresh and tasty, and the crust here is perfectly bouncy and light from the wood fired oven. We may have liked the marinara pizza the best.

I was recently back in Cambridge for a work trip, and made a stop for dinner at Area Four again. I was reminded how good this pizza was, even though I opted for the simple Margherita pizza. The fall seasonal special was topped with corn and fresh tomatoes, which made me wish Eric was with me so that we could try that one too.

 

To visit:

Area Four
500 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

#46 Razza

September 16th

Jersey City, NJ

So, funny story: One day about three years ago I was preparing to leave New Haven and move down to Princeton, NJ. My friend in New Haven, knowing how much I liked pizza, told me about this restaurant, Razza, and said that he heard that it was very good. I saved the website in my bookmarks, but we never ended up going. Partly because we didn’t feel like driving to Jersey City, and partly because we started exploring the New York pizza scene instead.

Now, three years later, we read this article, which made the very bold claim that the best pizza in New York is actually in New  Jersey. Well, we knew that we had to try it as soon as possible to see what all the hype was.

We drove out to Jersey City on a Friday night last month. The restaurant was packed. It was right after the review came out, so I guess everyone wanted to see what the big deal was. There were certainly some locals who stopped by and were a little annoyed that all of these people from New York City had come and taken over their restaurant.

Eric dropped me off and I put our name in. It was a 2 hour wait.

A cautious note to anyone thinking of driving to check Razza out: parking is near impossible to find on a weekend or evening here. We spent over an hour driving around trying to find a spot. Luckily, we had plenty of time to kill before we were going to get to try the pizza.

We were finally seated at the bar and ordered our pizza and also the bread and butter appetizer, because we were quite hungry at this point. The bread is homemade, and the butter is cultured from “grass-fed Pennsylvania cows”.  For pizza, we tried the Bosco, with mushrooms, and the Garden State Margherita. The food took a while to come out, probably because they were so busy and weren’t used to the large number of customers.

The pizzas were OK, really. After all the hype, we were slightly disappointed. You can hopefully see in the photo (sorry about the horrible lighting!) that the crust was a little bit burnt and there wasn’t much sauce OR cheese on the margherita. I’m not sure if the pies are usually this toasty, and we generally do like a little char, but this was a bit too much.

Also, while it was great that the restaurant stresses local, in-season ingredients, they really sell this hard on the menu. We LOVE to see local ingredients being used, but also appreciate when restaurants do it in an unpretentious way. That being said, though, the ingredients did taste fresh and the bread and butter was actually very good.

Overall, we don’t think that this pizza is better than many pizzas in NYC. If you are looking for a Neapolitan pizza, we could list several that we liked better than this one. I mean, the pizza was good, for sure, but didn’t live up to the review. It is also completely possible that the night we tried Razza, the chefs were overwhelmed by the high volume of people. So, maybe the pizza wasn’t the best they’ve ever made. We’d be willing to try it again to see (after we get through the rest of the new list, of course!).

To visit:

Razza Pizza Artigianale
275 Grove Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

 

 

#79 Punch Neapolitan Pizza

May 23, 2016

St. Paul, MN

After our second night in St. Louis, and our spur-of-the-moment trip to Memphis, we left bright and early for the drive to St. Paul/Minneapolis. This was one of our longer drives – about 8 hours north. We got in to St. Paul for dinner before checking in to our AirBnB.

Punch Neapolitan Pizza was the first stop on our list. They make true, Neapolitan-style pies that are quickly baked in a 900-degree oven. We went with the “Margherita Extra” pizza. This is a step up from the traditional margherita pizza because it is topped with mozzarella di bufala (fancy words for “buffalo mozzarella”, or mozzarella from an Italian breed of water buffalo). We should have had a taste test to compare with the regular margherita pizza (which I’m assuming was regular cow’s milk mozzarella, although I’m not really sure about this). We really liked the taste of this cheese, but we’d need to compare it side-by-side with regular mozz to tell if it’s worth the extra $5.

To round out our pizza, we also got an arugula salad that was served in a warm pita. We felt like we needed some vegetables to go along with our pizza, and this salad was awesome. We highly recommend trying it.

The pizza itself was good, but it wasn’t our favorite Neapolitan. It wasn’t as good as Hog & Hominy (but, yes, that wasn’t a VERIFIED Neapolitan pizza). On average, we find traditional Neapolitan pizzas too thin and flimsy. They can get a little watery with too many toppings or thin sauce. We definitely appreciated the freshness of the mozzarella and tomato sauce, and we like the taste of a doughy crust, but we also need our crust to have some weight. So, Punch gets points for staying true to its style, but loses some for letting the fancy mozzarella slide off the crust when we picked it up.

Another plus: the location that we went to had a really nice patio outside, which was so enjoyable after sitting in a car for 8 hours.

Fun fact learned while writing this post: Did you know that to make 2.2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, you need 18 pounds of cow’s milk, but only 11 pounds of buffalo milk? If you want to know more about buffalo mozzarella, this article was really fascinating.

To visit:

Punch Neapolitan Pizza
704 Cleveland Ave S
St Paul, MN 55116

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#59 Hog & Hominy

May 22, 2016

Memphis, TN

Picking up the story from my last post, we were staying in St. Louis and cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals, who were losing, on the first weekend of our epic pizza road trip. We were getting a little bored of the game and Eric had an amazing idea: we should drive down to Memphis!

Memphis has one pizza place on the 101 list, Hog & Hominy, and we weren’t planning on hitting it during this road trip. However, Eric pointed out that it was only a 4 hour drive from St. Louis, and it would save us a weekend of flying. If we left right then (it was around 3 pm), we’d be down there just in time for dinner. That sounded like a lot of driving to me, but Eric volunteered to do all of the driving so I couldn’t say no.

   

Of course, on our way into Memphis we had to stop at Graceland. We couldn’t really be tourists because Graceland had already closed for the day, but we got to stand outside and peer over the stone wall. We took a couple of pictures and then drove down to the restaurant.

Hog & Hominy is known for their wood-fired pizzas, but their other Southern-inspired vegetable and pork-based menu items also get rave reviews. We started out with the poutine (we were hungry!) and then moved on to two pizzas – the Prewitt, with fontina, mozzarella, sausage, and scrambled egg, and a Margherita. We really loved both of these. The “Prewitt” was the most interesting combination on a pizza that we’d had so far, and we do love egg on a pizza. The crust was also one of the best Neapolitan-style crusts that we’d had, being the perfect amount of fluffy and also having a nice char around the edge. Not too much cheese and not too much sauce to weigh the crust down – just how we like it!

Eric liked these pizzas so much that Hog & Hominy made it into his top 20. I ended up ranking it at a decent #36.

Their other pizzas all have really interesting combinations of toppings, too! If we were ranking some of the most unusual and delicious combinations of toppings on pizza, Hog & Hominy would be pretty high up on both of our lists. For example, the “Red Eye” is topped with pork belly, egg, fontina, celery leaf, and sugo and the “When I was in Tuscany” has tomato sauce, gorgonzola, spicy pork sausage, and fried capers. We could have tried all of them if we weren’t looking forward to 10 more days of eating pizza on this road trip.

Can we also just say how cute this restaurant was? It was very homey and rustic. They also have an outdoor patio and I’ve seen around the internet that they have bocce too, but I can’t personally confirm that because it was after 8 pm by the time we got there and we weren’t going to be playing bocce in the dark!

We were glad to have made it to Memphis for this pizza, although it would have been nice to explore the city a bit more. We drove through downtown on our way out and it was pretty raving and the neon lights were intense. Luckily, it was *only* a short 4 hour drive back to our hotel. 🙂 Maybe we will make it back there in the future.

To visit:

Hog & Hominy
707 W. Brookhaven Circle
Memphis, TN 38117

#71 Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino

May 7, 2017

Delray Beach, FL

This past weekend, Eric found himself down in Florida for a bachelor party, not too far away from Delray Beach. Of course, he had to stop at this new addition to the 2016 list, Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino, and he brought his brother and friend. He sent me the pictures, which made me immediately jealous that I was not there. I quizzed him about his trip and the pizza.

First of all, what pizzas did you order?

At first neither Jordon or Scott wanted pizza so I was upset I couldn’t try a bunch, but then I convinced them. I got a Regina Margherita (basic Neapolitan), Jordon got the Pizza con Pistacchio e Salsiccia, and Scott got the Keste’. Overall, I think a pretty good mix, but if you were there we could’ve gotten some veggies.

 

Did one stand out as the best? 

We all agreed the Pistacchio e Salsiccia was the best.  I think it was actually better than the one at Keste in Manhattan. The sausage was the crumbly kind and the pesto was delicious.

 

(Barbara says: This is saying something, because we are big fans of Keste in Manhattan).

Which pizza would I have ordered?

I think you would have gotten either a Margherita, or the Roberto (burrata).

(Barbara says: This is probably correct. Eric knows that I like my burrata.)

How do these pizzas compare to the other Neapolitan pies that we’ve eaten?

These were definitely cheesier. Since the center crust was thin (as it should be for Neapolitans), it made it tough to lift up without it drooping or having toppings fall.  But the crust was perfect (not as doughy as the one in San Fran or Sotto). The sauce was very good.  The place itself was also very Italian with a nice colorful wood oven in the back.

   

How was the bachelor party?

Tiring. It was hard to get everyone to agree on what to do, and everyone was being cheap so we didn’t go to Sunfest (which was the whole reason we went to West Palm last weekend). But it was nice seeing everyone.

Did you miss me eating pizza with you?

Yes. I couldn’t compare it to anything. And you are more well-versed in everything pizza so it could’ve been a better conversation over dinner.  I felt very snooty when talking to Jordon and Scott, I hope we don’t come across that way to everyone!

(Barbara says: We probably do. Sorry everyone.)

 

If we go back to Florida, would we make a stop here?

Probably not. I’d rather go to Atlanta for those pizzas and then just get other food in Florida.

Eric also found it funny that his brother pointed out that there was a book called “Where to Eat Pizza” and jokingly asked if we had it. And he could actually say “yes” because we do have it! Jordon, you obviously didn’t read my blog post last week.

Thanks, Eric, for checking this one out. Next time, I’m going to make you write the blog post.

To visit:

Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino
522 E Atlantic Ave
Delray Beach, FL 33483