[Photographs: Kenji Lopez Alt]
I used to work at a grilled pizza shop back in my on-the-line kitchen days, and it remains my favorite way to make pizza in the summer. But what do you do to get your winter grilled pizza fix?
If you live in Rhode Island, it's simple. Just head to Al Forno and get grilled pizza straight from the source (it was invented there in 1980). Even in Boston or Cambridge, you can get great Al Forno–style pizza cooked over hardwood coal at Cambridge 1's Harvard Square or Fenway location. But in New York? Not so lucky.
There's Coals Pizza (which is way out in Morris Park—I haven't made it out there; has anyone been?), there's the abominably bland, cheesy thing at Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights, and then there's Academia di Vino, a very respectable two-location wine bar (Upper West and Upper East) with very respectable pizzas. The Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella ($12) features a few splotches of a cooked, olive oil–heavy tomato sauce (a departure from the uncooked canned San Marzanos that top Al Forno pies), and a good amount of fresh and dried mozzarella.
But the Robiola, Black Truffle Pâté, and Pecorino ($15) is the one to get here. The truffles are jarred, so mild, which is actually a good thing here—there's enough going on with the cheese and char from the grill that overwhelmingly strong truffle aroma's not necessary.
If there's one complaint to be made, it's in the crust. Unlike the Al Forno crusts, which are both chewy and crisp, the crust at Academia leans strongly toward the latter. I'd like to see a bit more soft, doughy chew instead of the thick crackerlike crunch you get here. A lot of it might have to do with the fact that they seem to par-grill their crusts, adding toppings and regrilling them to order rather than starting with raw dough for each pie.
It's most likely because of their grill: It's gas-fired. It doesn't get hot enough to grill pizzas in the 1 1/2 to 2 minutes it takes over real coals—the reheating phase takes a full 4 minutes (I timed it in the kitchen), leading to a crust that dries out more than it should.
Still, it's grilled pizza, and that's pretty much always a good thing.