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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Pizza Files and Chronicles of Creams/Chronicles of Creams/The Pizza Files

I knew this day would come.

That is, the day in which I would discuss pizza or chinese or fried chicken and some sort of cream in the same post. It is all fine and good to keep these things separate, but there are times when they must be spoken of concurrently. Today is such a day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012. A rather normal hump day, until I learn that Forcella is offering a margherita for $2. In general, life is a depressing wasteland of nothingness, but every now and then it chooses to be kind and offers up a treasure. When this occurs, I am much more likely to say "yes please" as opposed to "I'd prefer not to."

Yes please.

And so, rather than going home and doing my taxes, I ventured down to the Bowery. Forcella is run by Giulio Adriani, a lanky man with an astonishing chin beard who has apparently won a pizza world championship not once, but four times. He has an unmistakable aurora of greatness, although he seems more like Obi-Wan Kenobi than Master Yoda. Still, that's quite respectable.

The place feels at home in the East Village, on the fringe of the Lower East Side, which is to say it has a certain hipness to it. It's right across the street from Peels, the Freeman's affiliate, and very much seems like a place patron's of Freeman's would go to for pizza.

Can a place serving - and being served by - hipsters have good pizza?

The margherita was fairly solid, although the crust was anything but solid (more on that later). The sauce was "bright." Basically every review of pizza I come across describes the sauce as bright, so I thought I might as well, too. The fresh mozzarella was "creamy" (again, most pizza reviews describe the cheese as creamy) with a hint of nuttiness. All in all, pretty flavorful and good.

Now, about that crust. Like the "bright" sauce and "creamy" mozzarella, it was flavorful. Consistency-wise, though, it was limp and pliable. It was so soft and bendable, in fact, that I was surprised it held up the sauce and cheese without giving way and tearing.

I am well-accustomed to Naples-style pizzas, which tend to be wetter and softer, particularly in the center. Robert Sietsema, in his recent review of Barboncino (which I went to a few months ago and liked), quotes Yeats: "things fall apart; the center cannot hold."  This seemed different in that it wasn't particularly wet, but rather the entire crust seemed to lack a super-structure, if you will. Not only did the center not hold; nor did the outer rims. This is not to say it ruined the experience of the pizza, but there was something slightly disconcerting about it, and I am not one to obsess about crust.

So that's that. And now the Cream portion of this broadcast.

I had been to the Forcella outpost in Brooklyn twice, and each time had one of the most magnificent creams of my life. It was a millefoglie, or what the French call mille-feuille. And what is this thing the French call by this name? In short, layers of cream and flakey pastry. The versions I had at Forcella in Brooklyn was nothing short of layered bliss, the thin shards of pastry adding an ever-so-light and buttery substantiveness that played off the pillows of whipped cream. Really, a combination as perfect as chocolate and peanut butter or apples and cinnamon.

The version I had this evening at the Manhattan branch paled in comparison.  Do not get me wrong: it was enjoyable.  But rather than cream, the dessert was composed with custard.  Far be it from me to disparage custard, but the cream version I've had in Brooklyn is superior.

Anyhow, at $7, the millefoglie was 3.5 times more expensive than the pizza, but $9 is a fine price to pay for an imperfect but still very enjoyable meal.  Again, we must take what we can get in this life.