Omnivore - Fritti's new oven: is it perfect?

To be crisp or not to be crisp, that is the question


The latest battle in the Pizza Wars followed Fritti's installation of a world-class oven from Uno Forno. John Kessler reported "limp" pizzas during his visits, which precipitated a discussion with owner Riccardo Ullio.

Ullio was also inspired to start a new blog, further narrating the discussion.

As I reported earlier, there is nothing new about this discussion. When Fritti opened, several critics including Christiane Lauterbach and I, found the center of the pies a bit gooey and the crust overall not very crisp to our taste. They became better and I retained my preference for them despite the hysteria over, first, Varasano's and then Antico Pizza.

So, Wayne and I visited Thursday night, hoping to see how the pizzas satisfied us. I ordered my usual Regina Margherita made with San Marzano tomatoes, bufala mozzarella and basil. I gotta say the experience was a bit strange. The pizza was not truly round — one side of it was literally flat, creating a virtual oblong. No matter.

I picked up a slice. I should say I tried to pick up a slice. The pizza was literally too soft to pick up and fold. I hate to use the word "watery," but I'm afraid it fit. All the ingredients slid off the crust when I attempted to pick it up. Weirdly, too, there were only three very wilted basil leaves on the entire pie. Flavor was good and, as the pizza cooled, it was easier to pick up, but there was no true crispness anywhere except in a few charred spots.

I expect a somewhat limp structure in a margherita, owing to the water in the cheese. And, God knows, it has been miserably humid lately, which can affect the dough's structure, no matter how much water has been removed from the bufala.

Wayne's pie, however, was about perfect. He picked one topped with prosciutto and arugula. That's probably my favorite pie here. If you want to taste the difference in really good prosciutto and the average around town, order this. The pie's crust was everything the margherita's was not — a bit crispy, a bit gooey, reverberating with strong flavors. He agreed to swap two slices with me.

I'm leaving questions of Neapolitan authenticity to others. During the zenith of the Pizza Wars, I read so many differing opinions about the appropriate texture of pizza crust, that I came to the conclusion that this debate is really about the hybridization of American and Italian tastes. Whatever, I still prefer Fritti above all.