Or, 'Solidarity Through Pizza'

When the subways stopped rolling, everyone tried to roll with the punches. Some people pounded the pavement while others simply slept in. I ate pizza.

Two weeks ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority illegally refused to negotiate a contract with the workers who move New York. This courageous yet unfortunate work stoppage brought the city’s transportation infrastructure to a screeching halt. It was like Independence Day without the bombs. For the Slice czar, it meant a treacherous commute by shoe leather. For me, it meant a car ride from Queens and an impromptu commuter club with three colleagues.

The commute was surprisingly pleasant, at times evoking memories of college road trips. Packed in a carful of strangers, after an hour or two—the time required to reach the Williamsburg Bridge from Chelsea Piers—we all needed to get out to flex our cramped muscles and recharge with food. This, however, beat any highway rest stop (with apologies to the Roscoe Diner).

FORNINOTES

A large part of Fornino's success might be attributed to its use of in-house ingredients. Chef-owner Michael Ayoub and his staff make fresh mozzarella each morning and grow herbs and tomatoes for the pizza and other dishes in a small greenhouse in the restaurant's covered garden space.

A blog post that Tien Mao wrote after he and Slice editor Adam K. visited Fornino in October 2004 drew much controversy. A commenter there questioned the wood-burning authenticity of the oven. It is indeed a wood-burning oven, but a gas-assisted wood oven. A huge jet of gas flame heats the custom-built oven to temperature in the morning, and wood (see photo above) is used thereafter.

Some of us mined our unusual commutes for blog fodder by photographing pizzerias along our route. My club did so by actually eating pizza—and mighty fine pizza, too. If not for this circuitous drive in and out, who knows when I would have found myself on the bourgeois stretch of Bedford Avenue to dine at Fornino, which is quietly churning out some of New York’s finest pizza.

Fornino is a somewhat recent addition to the artisanal pizza scene, having opened in October 2004, and it’s not to be missed. Rare are the pizzas that have no flaws, but this may be one of them. The light buffalo mozzarella on our Margherita was dreamy, and the standard mozzarella wasn’t far behind. The sauce was bright and tasty with a perfect balance: not too spicy, not too tangy. Even the crust, the most difficult part to master, was superb: very thin, with no sag. The gas-assisted wood-fired oven produced a surprisingly respectable char on the crust, cooked evenly across both pies we ordered.

If you enjoy Nick’s Pizza in Forest Hills, a Slice favorite, you’ll love Fornino. Nick’s is considerably less experimental, as Fornino offers a menu filled with sometimes offbeat toppings: soppressata, goat cheese, and portobello mushrooms are among the Fornino varieties.

Our second pie had eggplant, anchovies, and black olives. The consensus was positive, but the standard Margherita was superior to a degree that an otherwise worthy topping can only weaken it.

As for our commuter club, thanks to JF for her patient hand and accommodating spirit during this trying week, as it was her car that brought us in and out of Manhattan for three days. We did our part trying to keep the city moving with its spine on the disabled list. Should the city’s and state’s transportation funding continue to fail us and these selfless transit workers are forced to walk off the job in January 2009, perhaps Fornino should think about delivering to the Grand Hyatt. Heck, considering the historical association between subway fares and pizza slices, perhaps a city editor from Slice should have a seat on the MTA. It couldn’t possibly make the situation worse.

FORNINO

Address: 187 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn NY 11211 (Williamsburg; map)
Phone: 718-384-6004
Getting There: L train to Bedford Ave.; exit at west end of platform. Fornino is just steps in the direction of North 6th Street.
Photo Gallery: For more pictures of Fornino's pies, see Adam K.'s Fornino set on Flickr.

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