Pizza Luca teased Gothamites earlier this year when it debuted at a few locations in Lower Manhattan. Since then, owner and head pizza man Dean Medico has centered his operations primarily on the lower Hudson Valley, where you can find his custom-outfitted 1952 Chevy one-ton truck at various locations around Westchester County when he's not catering private events. Slice caught up with Medico at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah on a recent Saturday for a First Look.
Medico, who comes from a family of commercial pizzamakers, caught the Neapolitan bug first from his uncle, who, he says, was doing Neapolitan-style pizza in Westchester 20 years ago. His love of the style was later reinforced by trips to Italy, where his father's side of the family originates ("outside of Naples, about one and a half hours up in the hills, where all the wheat is grown," Medico says).
True to Neapolitan tradition, Medico's menu is simple—a marinara, a Margherita, a bianca; sometimes a filetti.
Truck-based, various locations mostly in Westchester County. Follow @pizzalucanyc on Twitter or on Facebook for locations and schedule. On the web at pizzaluca.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan
Oven type: custom-built wood oven
Must-haves: The bianca or one of the special pies available at farmers' market locations
Price: $12 for a small, Neapolitan-style pizza (feeds one)
He'll often throw a couple specials on the bill, but only when he parks the truck at one of the Hudson Valley farmers' markets, where the ingredients inspire him. "I added the Pizza Milla [above] to take advantage of this season's great tomatoes," he says of the pie I tried topped with Amawalk Farm cherry tomatoes.
Why "Milla"? That pizza's named for his daughter, while the operation itself is named for his son, Luca.
The truck is a custom job outfitted by Medico and his friend Alex Barant. Medico says they didn't have to do anything to the cab—it was in beautiful condition when he bought it from the original owner, a Pennsylvania farmer. He and Barant completely remade the bed, though, installing refrigerators, the oven (of course), and a bank of sinks that slides out from under the bed when you pull on the bumper. It's like Xzibit got his hands on a pizza truck. ("Yo, dawg I heard you like pizza...") All of the customization is hidden behind removable mahogany sideboards that do double duty as the barriers of the Pizza Luca stand. See the slideshow for more truck photos »
The pizzas are small and simple, made with Caputo "00" flour, DOP San Marzano tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella that's flown in weekly from Italy. Medico mixes his dough using either a sponge or fresh yeast depending on when he needs it by.
The pies I tried were flavorful enough but could have used a longer fermentation. "This dough's a little too young," Medico told me as I ate a Pizza Milla.
But the ample use of garlic and sea salt on the bianca more than made up for that day's crust. I couldn't stop eating the bianca I took to-go as I drove back to the city.
The texture's all there, and the balance is just about right—I'd like a little more cheese, but what's there tastes good. I'd love to try this pizza again when Medico has a dough he deems sufficiently developed. Maybe next time I'm tooling around Westchester.
On that note, Pizza Luca will be in NYC this weekend at Meatopia (Saturday, September 8), where they'll be serving up a pizza al carpaccio. It will have a Neapolitan dough as a foundation, with extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, and salt. Medico will cook that, let it cool, then add thin slices of carpaccio with lemon.