Pizza Margherita in My Favorite Restaurants in New York City and New Jersey and How I Make My Own
My first introduction to pizza was when I came to the USA for the first time and, of course, I liked it right away. What's not to like? Is there anyone who is immune to pizza's charms?
New York has plenty of pizza to choose from and from the start I gravitated towards the thinner crispier slice.
So no wonder that when I tried thin-crust pizza in Italy it was love at first bite. In Italy you can find both good and bad pizza like everywhere else. But when it's good, oh my god, it's so unbelievably deliciously good!!! The two pizzas I remember distinctly many years later are one in Venice and another in Pompei.
My husband and I first visited Italy with a group tour "Classical Italy" when we lived in Moscow. Our first great pizza we had was in a small, family-owned restaurant in Venice. The crust was thin and crispy with bright red sauce and just the perfect amount of fresh mozzarella and olive oil.
The second one was when we took a tour of Pompei. Lunch wasn't included in the tour package so we had to find something on our own.
There were only a few places to eat right next to the site. One had takeaway thick pizza sliced into squares that looked atrocious and was clearly meant for desperate tourists. I am so glad that we didn't settle for that.
The other option was a sit down restaurant. The problem was that we had very little cash left since the night before, we realized too late that we needed to exchange money, and all of the exchange places were closed.
Fearing that we might not have enough money to pay for lunch we still chose the sit-down restaurant and luckily pizza was in our price range. It was one amazingly great flavorful pizza! And it was so much better knowing that we could have easily had the horrible one right next door. And thankfully we had just enough money to the last coin to pay for our lunch!
After we returned to the USA we started searching for authentic thin-crust Neapolitan style pizza in New York City.
Our first discovery was Una Pizza Napoletana which unfortunately doesn't exist anymore. Their pizza was amazing and we really liked that they used a lot of olive oil with garlic. Later Motorino pizza restaurant opened in the same location but it wasn't the same quality.
Another find was Luzzo's in the East Village. We go there to this day to enjoy their excellent pizza.
In Hoboken, we like the Pizza Vita truck when it comes to Pier 13 during summer and our latest find, Razza, in Jersey City.
Pizza Margherita from Pizza Vita truck on Hoboken's Pier 13
Pizza Margherita from Razza restaurant in Jersey City
Our most recent discovery is delicious pizza Margherita and meatballs from Brunetti restaurant in West Village in New York City.
I am so happy that finally there is a good Italian restaurant in Hoboken - Zero Otto Uno Cafe on Washington Street. They have pretty decent pizza Margherita and several other tasty pizzas. Their pasta dishes are very good. We love quadrati con ricotta e spinaci with a nice touch of lemon butter sauce and pistachio nuts.
Some years ago our obsession with pizza became such that we decided to make it at home.
The internet provided a wealth of information on the subject. One thing I realized right away is that conventional ovens can never replicate wood-burning brick ovens with their high temperatures. A typical wood-burning pizza oven burns around 800°F while most conventional ovens only go up to 500°F.
So I knew I could never replicate the crust of a good authentic Italian pizza. Nevertheless turning my oven to the highest temperature, investing in a pizza stone and rolling the dough thin does achieve a crispy and thin crust. Of course it's different but it is still quite tasty.
Where our pizza shines is the toppings. Since I make pizza for ourselves I am not stingy with the mozzarella, basil and the rest like some restaurants might.
I know that authentic Neapolitan style pizza requires to use ingredients for toppings sparingly but I have to double the amount because I feel that it's healthier this way (I am not only eating carbs from dough but beneficial elements in extra tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and basil). :) Plus all this stuff just tastes good!
After making the pizza dough with yeast, flour, water and olive oil, I let it rise. Then I roll it thin and place the dough on a pizza stone and spread a mix of olive oil with chopped fresh garlic.
Next step is to spread some tomato sauce that I make from Cento peeled whole tomatoes in a can and sprinkle sea salt on top. The pizza goes into the oven for around 3 minutes.
After that I add chunks of fresh mozzarella that we buy in our neighborhood Italian deli, Fran's, where they make it fresh daily. Another 3 minutes in the oven before the pizza is ready.
We take the pizza out and before slicing it I spread basil leaves on top.
Our wonderful pizza is ready!
Even though it is a lot of work to make pizza from scratch, the results are worth it!
It's funny how every time I try to resist when my husband asks me to make pizza and I grudgingly agree only to be saying "Yeah, it's totally worth it!" while scooping up every last morsel of it!