Europa in Bensonhurst: So That's Schiacciata
A few weeks ago, I wrote on my own blog, Pizzacentric, about a quiche-like pizza called pizza rustica and the confusing nomenclature that can get attached to foods. Along with several other words and terms, I referred to a pizza-like food called schiacciata. I wrote that it means "flat bread baked with non-tomato stuff on top" and that it can be synonymous with focaccia, or pizza without sauce. Literally translated, the word means "crushed."
At Europa Restaurant in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, schiacciata refers to a pizza, first baked plain, then sliced to make top and bottom halves, and then filled and baked again. (One could also call this pizza farcita, which is a non-enclosed pizza sandwich. Native Italians: please post corrections or elaborations in the comments section below.)
Two of the three schiacciate listed on Europa's menu include halved cherry tomatoes. I don't know how this plays into the actual definition of schiacciata—I would guess they are allowed—but last Monday night the schiacciata did play fabulous with my taste buds.
I tried Schiacciata #3 ($19). After the pre-baking phase, the pizzaman—whose name is Alan Leggri (he's from Rome)—covered the bottom crust with cubes of house-made (from curd) mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, black pepper, and a 50/50 blend of Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses. He then baked it without the top crust for a few minutes; removed it from the oven; added paper thin prosciutto slices, arugula, and olive oil; and baked it with the top on top for another minute. He finished it with another drizzle of olive oil, and then a server cut it into eight slices.
The tomatoes were juicy enough to excuse the lack of sauce. The mozzarella was rich and stretchy. The prosciutto added salt and extra chew—and softness, because Europa does not slice its prosciutto until an order comes in—nice touch! And the arugula? It made the thing seem healthy.
I also tried Europa's pizza Margherita ($13 for a medium), a pie that succeeds in large part due to the mozzarella. Because it's cut into cubes, it melts out to cover the dough. It stretches more like a low-moisture cheese than the thin slices of fresh mozz often deployed by the corner joints. Europa's sauce is good, sweet, and natural; and the crust, which tastes of good Italian bread, comes out golden but not charred.
Europa uses a gas-assisted, wood-burning brick oven. A Margherita slice, when lifted, does sag a bit. But drippage is not a problem and the pizza has a nice, slight crunch as you approach its edge.
Meanwhile, the schiacciata slices do not sag at all because those pies are rendered sturdy by their baking method—and by Europa's use of a dough docker, which perforates an uncooked dough to prevent it from rising much during the bake.
At one point, when Alan and another employee (actually, the owner's son) asked me why I was taking photos. I mentioned that it was for the Slice blog. Later, the owner came out from the kitchen to get some Parmesan but she didn't say a word to me—despite the camera. Good sign. Good place.
Europa opened as a commercial bakery in 1991 and has been a restaurant with pizza since 2002. I had been reluctant to visit it for a few years because sometimes pizza in full-menu restaurants can disappoint. Not the case here. One schiaccata down, two on the menu to try.