Forno Italia, Astoria, Queens
43-19 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria NY 11105 (at 43rd Street; map); 718-267-1068; fornoitalia.com
Pizza Style: Small, Neapolitanish-style pizzas
Oven Type: Wood-burning brick oven
The Skinny: While not a top-tier pizzeria, it's cranking out some tasty pies nonetheless, with creamy, delicious house-made fresh mozzarella cheese—and a pretty damn good bread basket. And you can't beat the price
Price: Margherita, $8; quattro stagioni, $10
Had a couple pizzas at Forno Italia on Friday night. It'd been quite some time since I'd visited the place, and I'm happy to report that it lived up to memory.
Girl Slice and I ordered a Margherita and a quattro stagioni. Truth be told, I wanted one with spicy sausage on it, but we were sharing, and my dining companion wanted to work some vegetable matter into her meal.
I had remembered Forno Italia as serving a not-exactly-top-tier but still solid pizza, but when our Margherita came out, I was a little disappointed. It looked for all the world like one of those perfectly round, uniformly brown-crusted pies whose run-of-the-mill flavor you can almost taste before first bite.
Well, books and covers, you know, and we were pleased that our assumptions were proven false. The crust is crisp throughout but still has enough chewiness, even though the moderately dense hole structure and lack of puffiness would seem to indicate otherwise.
In the breakout box above, I describe it as Neapolitanish-style pizza. That is to say it has the familiar dimensions and simplicity of a Neapolitan-style pie—Forno Italia does not do giant cheese-blanketed pizza—but the soupy center and bready cornicione you might find at Kesté, Motorino, or the now-defunct UPN is absent. (In fact, it's a bit puzzling why the pizza crust is not as puffy as it could be, given the amazingly good, fluffy bread that comes out pre-entrée.) Instead you get a sort of hybrid of Neapolitan and New York-–style pizza: the form factor and balance of Naples with the crispness of NYC.
The sauce tastes less of fresh tomatoes than you'd expect from a Neapolitan pizza. It's slightly thicker, more pasty, and much more salty than you'd find on a striving-for-authenticity Naples-style pie yet good nonetheless.
And the cheese is a standout. It's made in house, and as Ed noted in his write-up of the place, it's "so good that the proprietors wholesale it to other Italian restaurants and pizzerias in the know." It's creamy and slightly salty and makes you wish there were a bit more.
I'd avoid the quattro stagioni, as the water from the vegetables tends to pool in the center of the pie. Although I will say it did present a pretty tasty veggie medley. It probably suffers in my memory from the fact I'm still craving the spicy sausage pie I had my eye on.
Well, there's always next time—and there will be a next time.