Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Best Pizza in the World

This is Wednesday. There's a 50% chance we'll eat pizza tonight. The Mrs. has group and doesn't get home until 7:45 and she also wants to watch Lost which still has 15 minutes to go. So that tape gets started at 8. And as I was sick for most of the day (note to self: in the future refrain from having both juice- and dairy-based adult beverages together), we just jumped up to about an 80% chance on the Pizza Probability Predictor. The usual suspects for us are: Conan's, Mr. Gatti's, Austin's Pizza, and Double Dave's. We are all about supporting the locals but sometime's the pies from Conan's smell bad, like somebody's feet, or are all gooey and wet on the bottom. Gatti's, as it is meant to do, comes at you pretty much the same all the time and it was started in Austin. Sometimes half the toppings just fall off, but you can put them back on. DD is just kind of ehhh (shrugs shoulders) and Austin Pizza is the best but they charge for delivery and their prices are higher than the others to begin with. I have this thing about paying too much or too little for certain things. And a delivered, large surpreme pizza should not cost $18+ in Austin, Texas. It's for this reason that we also avoid the Parlor, too, which sucks b/c that joint makes a mean pizza.

A few weeks ago we ordered a Conan's. It was of the gooey and wet on the bottom variety and it did not improve, even after we kept it in the oven for another 45 minutes. Well, we said, this was fitting as we were going to the NYC the next day. The birthplace of the pizza pie. We had been told by a friend, G, to go a place called Lombardi's in Little Italy. And to get extra marinara sauce. When we got there, it turned out that another establishment, Una Pizza Napoletano, had come on the scene and was, as they say, da bomb. Da bomb as in White Heat has a friend who is the king geek of pizzas (and I say that as a geek myself), and he could not stop talking about the place for more than 4 minutes; we know it was 4 minutes because we timed him. He, and others, said this place had the best pizza. Period. End of Story. Lombardi's, once the king, was now number 2.

The Mrs. and me made it to Lombardi's at the end of a rainy day spent seeing KD, helping an old man who did a faceplant running down the wet sidewalk, and checking out the Met. It was almost exactly as I expected it to be. Corner establishment, little door, big main dining room with a bar, and a smaller one that was the business next door once upon a time. Filled with people. It was a good vibe. We got a booth in the back room and ordered a couple of glasses of wine, a salad to share, and a large pepperoni, onion, 1/2 calamatta olives, 1/2 roasted pepers, with extra marinara sauce and got the garlic that was free upon request. For our tastes, we could have done without the extra sauce; it might have been a little dry, but it was a watery sauce and so, ehh. Otherwise, that was a good fuckin' pizza, yo. And it came out fast for as many people were there, maybe 15 minutes. She took one piece home.

The day after Christmas, was Sunday and our last chance to hit Una Pizza Napoletano. It's only open Thu-Sat from 5 until they run out of dough, and Sunday from noon until they ran out of dough. (And I don't mean as in short on funds, if that's what you were thinking.) It was a small place, maybe 8 tables, but they could only cook 3 pies at a time in their wood-burning brick oven. The... what do you call a guy who makes pizzas?... he was a guy, probably in his 30s, with tattoos all up and down his arms. He offered 4 variations: one margherita, one w/o cheese, one w/o tomato sauce, and I can't remember what the other one was, maybe a margherita with garlic? or pesto? (How about a little help, White Heat?) If you wanted to drink, you brought your own. He had soft drinks, juices, and water. As we were with White Heat, we got one of each, except for the Margherita. There were 2 empty tables when we came in around 6. It took maybe 20-30 minutes for ours to come out. They were about the size of a plate and you got a fork and a knife. We each cut ours into 6ths and shared. The crust was pretty thin, but with ash on it, so you know it's good. The piemaster(!) also used a noticeable amount of salt which I didn't care for. I liked these pizzas, my favorite being the all cheese pie. But they weren't as off the chart as I had been led to believe. They were good and obviously hand-made, but they weren't the be-all end-all for me. The NYC pizza battle would have to go to Lombardi's.

But the best pizza I've ever had, and the Mrs. agrees with me, was in Barcelona. We were going to the Picasso Museum and found this place just down the narrow, brick-paved street. I don't have any idea what its name was. Maybe I could find it online, if it's even still open (this might be it). Like most of the pizzas in Europe their pies were personal-sized, and served on cutting boards with a fork and knife. This place just did it up right. The toppings were perfect. Good cheese with just enough sauce. The crust was crunchy without being thin. Thinking about it now makes my mouth water. If I have one complaint, it is this: they could have been bigger. Not much, just a little. We would go back one more time before we caught the train to Italy. And this was the best pizza in the world.


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