Monday, April 29, 2013

Pizzelii Brick Oven Pizza

Fast casual pizzerias have been popping up across the nation in the last few years. Entrepreneurs are rushing to become the "Chipotle of Pizza". To me, this seems a superb business strategy: Neapolitan pizza can be made in 90 seconds with a sufficiently hot oven, so there's no reason it shouldn't be fast-casual food. Also, this approach seems closer to the actual type of pizzerias you see in Naples than the prevailing higher-end  Neapolitan Pizzeria approach you see in America. At Pizzelii you order at the counter, pick some toppings, pay ($8 per personal-size pizza), and they give you your food in a few minutes. My first exposure to this model of pizzeria was at Smashing Tomato, a small chain in Lexington - A near twin to Pizzelii which broke my previous rule that you can not get good pizza south of 275. 

Pizzelii is Cincinnati's entry into this fast casual market. The restaurant is located on Route 50, directly across the street from 50West Brewery. The "ii" name is partially a reference to Servatii Bakery. Part-owner, Gary Gottenbusch, is also part of the family that owns that bakery. 

Walking in from the parking lot, the restaurant clearly smelled like wood-fired cooking. One of the owners (I think it was Mr. Gottenbusch) was explaining his cooking strategy to eveyone on line at Pizzelii, which is always nice to see. Inside, there were two ovens: one wood-fired and one gas oven that was kinda made up to look like a wood-fired oven. While the wood-fired oven was going at full blast, everything we saw was cooked (including our pizzas) was made in the gas oven. The pizzeria exults the methods it uses to produce a high-quality pizza. Notably, Pizzelii uses a slow rise method with their dough. This longer fermentation period generally does much to enhance the flavor of the crust (and is something I do with homemade pizza). To view the results, we started with a Margherita pizza, which is usually the best type to taste of an excellent crust.

As you can see below, the crust had some light charring. Also, there was a lot of cornmeal on the bottom (not a bad thing). It wasn't a well-done as I usually like my pizza, but maybe I should have asked for them to keep it in another 30 seconds. 

Overall, the crust was pretty good. However, the taste of the crust wasn't strong enough for a plain margherita to be good on it's own (unlike say A Tavola, where the crust carries the pie). It was a tad borring. Pizzelii hit it's stride for us with our second pizza, the Carne. This pizza featured meats that were spicy and delicious.

The sauce was a traditional, understated, ("San Marzano") tomato-heavy sauce without much spice. We found it a little plain. If you want to try to spice the pizza up, Pizzelii offers a form of "chili oil" (Oil with lots of crushed red peppers in it) along with the normal olive oil. While the hot oil looked quite deliciously spicy at first glance, the heat was more understated than it appeared. 

At Pizzelii, I would highly recommend ordering a topping heavy pizza (goetta is an option). The crust, sauce, and cheese are fine on their own, but everything is much better if toppings with a kick are added to the pie. At $8 per pizza, and with 50West Beers on hand, Pizzelii is a fine option for a quick bite after a soccer game, before sand volleyball match (available next door) or for any time of day. It is worth a visit for any fan of pizza (roughly 99% of the population, right?).

Pizzelii Brick Oven Pizza on Urbanspoon
Smashing Tomato on Urbanspoon

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