Eat @ Joe's By Ralph Raffio
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Alone Together: Ten Great Pizza Places on the Road
Thursday, February 21, 2019 -- I used to like traveling without my wife. It was my only chance to eat pizza wherever and whenever I wanted.
I want to eat pizza practically all the time. The woman I married? Not so much.
Though she bristles at the charge that she is a pizza hater--"I only like good pizza," she will sometimes argue, lamely--take my word for it: The woman doesn't like pizza one bit. The two of us never--and I mean never--eat it together.
Now that most of the traveling I do is with her, I've got a real problem on my hands. In order to sample the best pizzas on the road I now need to carve out time for myself during our trips together, often at great personal--read: marital--risk.
You, of course, are in no such peril. So allow me to offer these 10 must-try stops when you're out on the road and jonesin' for a slice.
ATLANTA: Varuni Napoli
Luca Varuni now has two locations, one in Midtown and another in the Krog Street Market. Menus aren't the same, but the Neapolitan-style pizzas (left) are worth sampling at either spot. In Midtown I'd go with the Friariello, a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe, Italian sausage and pecorino ($20). At the market I would be all over the Bastardo, with fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomato, pepperoni, 'Nduja (spicy spreadable pork sausage), pecorino and basil ($15).
BOSTON: Area Four
I'm a total sucker for clam-topped pizza and Area Four has a fine one in its Wellfleet Cherrystone Clam and Bacon pie ($17.50 for small, $26.50 for large). Area Four's wood-fired pizza used to be available only in Cambridge, across the Charles from downtown Boston, but a second location with a broader menu is now open in the South End. They only sell small-size pies in the South End, so I'd go with the Florentine, dressed with garlic sauce, baby spinach, pecorino and farm eggs ($15).
CHICAGO: Coalfire Pizza
You'll find Coalfire Pizza locations in West Town and Lakeview. But be warned. This is not the iconic Chicago-style deep-dish pie. We're talking coal-oven-fired, thin-crust pizza charred in an 1,500-degree oven. Consider the Pistachio Pesto pie, with mozzarella, crumbled berkshire sausage, stracciatella and clover honey ($21). Or the Pepperoni and Whipped Ricotta, with mozzarella, garlic and basil ($20).
There are now six Olivella's locations around Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, which means that a good pie is never too far away. Make that two good pies, because the mini-chain offers both Neapolitan and Roman-style pizza under the same roof. You don't see that too often. All pizza combinations can be had in either style. The Regular pies are the Neapolitan, the Metro pies are the Roman style. I'll take the Bufalina D.O.C. either way, as it's topped with the classic buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil ($18/$24).
LOS ANGELES: Triple Beam Pizza
Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina's Triple Beam in Highland Park follows the Roman tradition of serving pizza not by the slice but "al taglio," or by the cut. Just tell them about how much you want to eat and they'll cut it right in front of you--with scissors, no less--then charge you by the ounce. Grab a little inexpensive vino and head out to the patio for a swell time.
Tell the truth. Sometimes all you really want is to drop into an old-fashioned slice joint (all by yourself) and grab a couple squares. Frankie's has been at this game since 1955. Its square slices ($1.50-$2.20) are topped with old-fashioned things such as pepperoni, ham and extra cheese and such. Those seeking designer pies adorned with creamy burrata or charred Brussels sprouts should seek sustenance elsewhere.
NEW YORK: Sottocasa
You have many choices in New York, of course, but for my money none beats Sottocasa, an under-the-radar Brooklyn standout. (There's now a second location in Harlem, too.) Pies are fired quickly in a 1,000-degree oven and they never disappoint. Try the Amatriciana, with tomatoes, caramelized onions, pancetta, pecorino and basil ($19). Or a Radicchio, with mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, hot Italian sausage and balsamic reduction ($17).
SAN FRANCISCO: Tony's Pizza Napoletana
The classic Margherita ($24) is the play at Tony's. But you'll need to act fast in order to score one. They only make 73 (that's right, precisely 73) Margherita pizzas per day. After that, you'll have to "settle" for another type of pie. There's the $26 Quail Egg, Potato and Guanciale pie, with mozzarella, rosemary, calabrese peppers, chorizo, fromage blanc and lavender sea salt. Or the $27 Tartufo, with mozzarella, burrata, peppered goat cheese, wild mushrooms, truffle oil, prosciutto di parma, piave and arugula.
SEATTLE: Big Mario's
If your thing is down-and-dirty New York slice joints then Big Mario's is for you. There are cheese, pepperoni, and Sicilian slice options ($3.75-$4.75 each), easily washed down with cheap beer. But there's more here. Like the Pear Gorgonzola pie, with caramelized pear and onions ($23), or the Arugula Tomato Feta ($25). There are now three Big Mario's locations, in Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and Fremont.
WASHINGTON: Timber Pizza Co.
Daniela Moreira used to drive her wood-fired pizza oven from farmer's markets to festivals, but now Timber Pizza Co. is a destination in the district's Petworth neighborhood. Pizzas are available in red (tomato sauce), green (pesto) and white. I'd go with the Penelope, with pesto, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, bacon and smoked paprika ($16); or the Lucy, with fresh mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, ricotta salata, roasted sweet potatoes and oregano ($15).
This column is Copyright © 2019 by Ralph Raffio. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2019 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Ralph Raffio. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.