Friday, April 22, 2011

Pranzo Forno! -- Willoughby, OH

The Pranzo Forno! stand at C-Town Chowdown
Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Cleveland's second C-Town Chow Down held in Lincoln Park in my very own neighborhood of Tremont. The first one was a huge hit, but the lines were so long that I didn't get to sample much (plus, it was freezing!). They decided to hold a second one on April 17, on another blustery (but very sunny) day.

This time, I noticed a "truck" (or, rather, a tent) that wasn't there before: Pranzo Forno!, a Willoughby catering company specializing in wood-fired pizza. (And yes, in fact, they bring the wood-fired oven to the event. Insanity!

I walked up and there was no line at around 11:15 am, and so I sampled a slice of what seemed to be a Mediterranean pizza. It had feta, huge basil leaves, garlic, and tomatoes. Everything looked so fresh. And it tasted great!

My slice
This crust was super-thin, light, crisp, and had the perfect amount of olive oil to make it flavorful and indulgent without being overly greasy.

From what I heard, Pranzo's stand was a hit at the Chowdown. Did you attend? If so, what did you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cafe Porta Alba -- Madison, WI

I am so excited to welcome my first guest blogger to the site! Her name is Leslie, and she and her boyfriend Keith are practically the authority on Southwest Wisconsin's best-kept secrets. I worked with Leslie for a year in Madison, during which time she introduced me to Cafe Porta Alba. To this day, it remains my favorite pizza place on earth! Please follow Leslie and Keith's blog, Driftless Appetite (you might have already noticed I have their RSS feed on the side of my blog!), and get ready to hear about some great food!

Recently I was asked by my friend Rachel in Cleveland to do a write up of my favorite pizza place for her blog  CLEZZA.  We've already written twice about Cafe Porta Alba on Driftless Appetite in 2009 and 2010 so I think it's about time to do another one. 

Neapolitan pizza is the oldest style of pizza, and the trendiest.  Over the last few years many great (some authentic, some not so much) Neapolitan pizzerias have popped up all over the place.  Vincenzo Pugliese, the owner, did not open Cafe Porta Alba because it was trendy, though.  He did it because he is passionate about pizza-- opening his own pizzeria has been a goal he has been working towards for most of his life.  And he (and his excellent staff) still work hard everyday to maintain their excellent level of quality.  I can honestly say I've never had a bad meal here (and we've eaten here at least 75-100 times.  Seriously.)

I can't provide an objective review of this place, that's like asking me to review my little dog Oliver (he's perfect!) or my grandmother's cooking.  But I'll try to give you an idea of why I love it so much.  The key to good Neapolitan pizza (which you probably know if you're reading a pizza blog) is in the crust.  It should be chewy on the inside, charred and crusty on the outside, and thin and slightly soft in the middle.  Once you got the crust right, you must be careful not to ruin it with excess- not too much sauce, not too much cheese, subtle toppings.  Cafe Porta Alba does this traditional style of pizza authentically and superbly.  They also have a wonderful selection of salads, antipasto and pasta in case any of your friends don't eat pizza (but you might want to reconsider your friendship if that's the case...).  The atmosphere is comfortable.  Black and white Italian movies are played on the flat screen TV as well as a rotation of pictures taken from around Naples.  There are many regulars, faces we've seen and gotten to know over the years.  It is a true testament to how good this place is.  To us it feels like going home to visit family (well maybe minus the annoying uncle). 

Pizza Pizza Pizza

Just for the record, we did not eat all of these in one sitting :)  Some were featured as specials and are not on the set menu list so I'll try to remember the names and/or describe them as best as I can.

1.  Karla's pizza (special) - fresh mozarella, spinach, parmacott0
2.  (special) - asparagus, mushrooms, fontina
3.  Margherita con Salame - fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, salame (Keith's favorite.)
4.  Napoletana - fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, anchovies (My favorite.)
5.  Marco Polo (special) - fresh baby mozzarella, basil, tomato, oregano, garlic
6.  Allegra - mascarpone, truffle oil, and mushrooms
7.  (special) - tomato, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, parmacotto, basil, garlic
8.  Maialina - fresh mozzarella, tomato, salame, salsiccia, parmacotto
9.  Regina - Buffalo mozzarella from Italy, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, basil

If you happen to have some room for dessert, my favorite item right now is gelato affogato, gelato drowned in hot espresso.  I can't say anymore except that if you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin Cafe Porta Alba will not disappoint.

The Oven From Italy

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Angelo's Pizza -- Lakewood, OH

Deep-Dish Margherita Pizza at Angelo's
Angelo's in Lakewood is one of the great pizza joints in the Cleveland area. It serves up countless varieties of pizzas, with three different crust options: thin, "our original," or deep-dish.

Now, here's my thought process. I don't usually try "thin," because it's never really that thin and I'm constantly trying to compare it to NY pizza in my mind. " Our Original" sounds good, so I usually try that; I mean, if it's the pizzeria's signature crust, why not try it?

I do like deep-dish pizza. A lot. So once in awhile I'll have to try that too.

The first time I went to Angelo's, which was over the summer, I tried the Margherita pizza in deep-dish style, and that is what I go back for time and time again. Why? Well, because it's perfect!

This pizza boasts plenty of fresh mozzarella, basil, roma tomatoes, and a delightful sauce with plenty of garlic. But the best part about this pizza is its buttery crust. It's not extremely thick, but it is divine. I ordered a small 6-slice pizza and was good to go after only two slices. Which means I got to take home leftovers and perform ...

The Next-Day Test: Weird, but even better than on day one!! You know how sometimes when you reheat pasta the next day, it's just that much better? Well, same goes here. Great the next day. (There's even reheating instructions on the box -- 350 degrees for 10 minutes.)

So, if you're in Lakewood, stop into Angelo's on Madison Avenue. Actually, go there even if you're not in Lakewood, but are somewhere semi-close. It's worth the trip.