Behind the Slice posts (when I write them) are intended as supplements to my Friday reviews that give additional background. It's the place for much of the blathering that I self-edit from the actual review in an attempt to make those posts more relevant and interesting to a general audience. Here, I run on at the mouth, unedited. Enjoy. Or Not. —AK
I wasn't that excited when I first heard Giulio Adriani was opening Forcella in Williamsburg. I'd had his stuff at Olio e Piu in Greenwich Village. His simpler pizzas were very good, but he sort of wobbled on the topped pizzas. And while the place showed promise on the food front, it was a disaster on the service end. Horribly slow and forgetful. Some of the worst service I'd had in a pizzeria short of Sally's Apizza in New Haven.*
This was months ago and I'd forgotten about Forcella and Adriani until some tweets started rolling in:
"Pizza may be slightly better at Motorino but menu is better/broader here. Also, less crowded, no attitude, and BYOB." —kludt
And then an email from "The Professional":
sent you an email a bit ago about this new spot in williamsburg. not sure why you guys havent sent someone over yet...it is amazing. 16 reviews on yelp and its at 5 stars. i read slice every day and love pizza like you do...and i can say this is easily top 3 spots in nyc. you are doing yourself and the blog a disservice by not checking this spot out. its damn good.
OK. Back that up. "Kludt" is Amanda Kludt, editor of Eater New York. She's the one who originally urged me to try Motorino a few days after it had opened. Since then, I've trusted her pizza judgment. I knew how much she loved, loved, loved Motorino so that caught my eye.
Plus a suggestion from Slice editor Meredith Smith told me I needed to get here.
Up to this point, I had still not remembered that Adriani was behind this place. I try to pay as little attention to the hype behind a place until after I've tried it. It wasn't until I was seated that I saw ... OH SHIT. Giulio Adriani. He was sitting at the little counter that faces the pizza oven, with his back toward me, noodling on his laptop. I was worried that A) He would turn around and recognize me and B) get angry about the less-than-stellar review I'd given Olio.
It wasn't until I was finished with my pizza that he got up and then noticed me. At that point, I was made. Cover blown. I always hate this moment. I was trained as a journalist to be objective, and I prefer to dine undercover, only revealing myself after visiting in order to get info. But I'd met Adriani before, and he came over.
He was friendly enough and started explaining his latest pizza. The Carbonara. It sounded intriguing. The way he used crush ice to suppress cooking so the egg mixture worked better on top.
And then I asked him what the deep-fryer I saw behind the counter was for. I shouldn't have. Because that's when he sent out a montagnara pizza. I protested. I had already eaten. As a pizza journalist, I couldn't accept it. But you know how stubborn Italians can be ... ;) So I tried the montagnara, and WHAM. Awesome. Love it.
At this point, we were made, so there was no way we were going to get standard service. We did pay for all the pizza -- but Adriani sent out some extras -- rice balls, potato croquettes, two desserts. We accepted them, but I made sure to leave the equivalent dollar value of the comped items, which is my SOP when this happens.**
Anyway, what more can I say about Forcella than I haven't said in my review?
I'm happy to see Adriani's new venture take on a different vibe than Olio. Over there, it was all "I am an award-winning pizza-maker." All that crap all over the menu. Look, I know the awards are hard won and to be respected, but when it comes down to it, you're only as good as your last pizza. I prefer the buzz to come from word of mouth and trusted sources than from menu.
What's nice is that Adriani seems to have toned down that stuff. And the pizzas speak for themselves.
I do remember, too, that Adriani got in a bit of trouble with some remarks about Neapolitan pizza authenticity when Olio debuted.
In retrospect, his remarks from then seem to have been taken out of context -- or least to have been mountains made from molehills. He doesn't seem like an arrogant dude at all. He's proud of his pizzas, but he doesn't seem like one of these hard-headed Neapolitan-pie-or-the-highway types. (I'm guessing that in his heart, he's probably a die-hard Neapolitan fan, but he's not STRIDENT about it.)
Anyway, Olio seemed like a CONCEPT. And it probably needed to be to earn the rent in that space over on Greenwich and Sixth avenues. Here, it seems like a natural part of the neighborhood. It just makes sense.
Last ... Adriani is a teacher for the AVPN -- the Associazone Vera Pizza Napoletana, the same organization I complain about here. Forcella doesn't seem to be VPN-registered. If it were, it would be one of those rare examples of a VPN place that was actually GOOD.
Anyway. Blah blah blah. That's all the extra I have to say for all two of you who discover this "secret post."
* I'd even forgive Sally's on this because their horrible service seems to be part of their business plan, whereas Olio's was just utterly clueless.
** You would think that I would enjoy getting comped items. And that this would be a "perk" of being a food writer. I don't. I do appreciate the generosity of the restaurant, but I really, really, feel that I must leave the equivalent dollar amount on the table so as not to be a scummy food-cadging foodblogger. Essentially, these comps often end up adding way more to my "bill" than I expected to pay. Again, I'm appreciative of the gesture, but I really do have my meal and budget planned and don't like the surprise.