Brooklyn is the correct homeland of pizza. It provides the broadest selection of models, fuels, and toppings, and in Brooklyn, one can continue to be astonished by a pizza, as I not too long ago was at the fairly grand-hunting, but minimal recognized, La Villa Pizzeria in Park Slope, wherever I encountered a stuffed-crust pie from Abruzzo. Started in 2003 on Fifth Avenue, the put boasts an inside clad in smoky marble and deeply stained woods. Lush banquettes run together austere white partitions, even though what appears to be like like table lamps with terrific round shades hold from the ceiling.
Inspite of a menu that manages to go over all the bases of Italian-American cooking, from baked clams to baked pastas, pizzas remain the throbbing heart of the cafe. Gleaming ovens run together the still left facet of the room as you enter, exactly where pizzaioli therapeutic massage balls of dough, poke their peels into the gaping maws of the wood-burning ovens, and bend this way and that as they wrangle the pies.
La Villa’s pizza menu is expansive in simple fact, it attempts to recreate practically just about every variety of Brooklyn pizza imaginable. The menu provides a few types of crust: Neapolitan (referring to the NYC’s initial round pies), Sicilian (thick-crusted and rectangular), and Metro (round pies with a tremendous-slender crust, as seen in modern Rome’s pizza tonda). These pies appear with a host of optional toppings.
Then there are 18 specialty pies, with idiosyncratic crusts and toppings. Naturally, there is a Naples-type margherita, a focaccia with broccoli rabe and sausage, and an upside-down Sicilian, the sort of Brooklyn pie favored at L&B Spumoni Gardens, in which the mozzarella goes on the base and the sauce on top rated, to continue to keep the crust from finding soggy. But functioning my eye down this listing, I was arrested by the pizza termed Romana (“Roman”).
It was a stuffed crust pie but not like the types at Domino’s. When it arrived at the desk, it was rectangular and had reached a gorgeous shade of brown on the top rated crust, with a base crust twice as thick, properly charred beneath below and there. The pie was sealed on the sides, boxing the ingredients, and when lower into 10 sq. items, the cheese seductively oozed out.
The pie was further stuffed with fennel sausage, pepperoni, and sliced, properly-oiled potatoes. Wielding a big spatula, a waiter ceremoniously served a person slice just about every to my guest and me, as we sat at a person of the breezy sidewalk tables, as tendrils of cheese stretched from pie to plate. This Romana was a single of the finest pizzas I’d at any time tasted, creamy, gooey, meaty, and smoky, with the leading crust crunchy and the bottom crust chewy. But the place did this wonderful pie (modest $16, large $27) arrive from, I wondered, considering that I’d in no way encountered everything very like it.
1 possibility that transpired to me was that it originated in Abruzzo, an isolated region on the Adriatic just across the towering Apennine Mountains from Rome. There, a double-crust pie identified as pizza rustica originated, perhaps impressed by an historic Roman pie, in accordance to John Mariani in the Dictionary of Italian Foods & Consume (1998). The pie he describes is stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, prosciutto, and mortadella, and it struck me as fantastic that pepperoni, a especially Italian-American meat, experienced been substituted in the current version. The potatoes appeared like they may well be a distinctively American contact, also.
Journalist Waverly Root also wrote about the pizza rustica in his exhaustive Foodstuff of Italy (1971), describing it as “a meat-and-cheese pie of considerable complexity.” The variation he described right after living numerous a long time in Italy as correspondent for the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune featured chopped ham, sausage, 3 varieties of cheese, and boiled egg yolks in a crust produced from a marginally sweet dough flavored with nutmeg, and egg-brushed on major to make it gleam.
Park Slope’s La Villa, which I’m confident is a person of the very best pizzerias in the metropolis, is the descendant of a pair of substantially older Brooklyn pizzerias with the same identify. The to start with opened in Mill Basin in 1982, and the second in Howard Seaside 10 yrs later — both equally from the same relatives whose patriarch, Louis “Gino” Branchinelli, had initially opened a pizzeria in Bay Ridge in 1955. The recent Park Slope place underneath co-operator Alfredo Di Scipio remains incredibly significantly an extended-relatives affair.
I questioned Di Scipio in an e mail exchange if my suspicion about the origin of the Romana was accurate. “It’s humorous that you say Abruzzo, my father is from a small medieval town called Crecchio, province of Chieti in Abruzzo. Pizza rustica as you know improvements a ton area to region….The stuffed pizza we make does have some pizza rustica base but it also displays its Abruzzese roots from the potatoes and sausage.” So much for potatoes being an American addition.
The pie was so massive that my guest and I took some property, and it was just as superior cold out of the refrigerator the subsequent early morning. How amazing, I imagined, as I chewed each individual delectable bite, that the culinary influences from a remote mountainous region of Italy were even now very significantly alive in Brooklyn.