Finnochio Flower Power ($16)
The cheekily-named Finocchio Flower Power, the same pie that won Faulkner first place in the Caputo World Pizza Championship in Naples in 2012, garnered lavish praise from Wells. Indeed, what we received had the sure-fire signs of greatness. The combination of anise-y braised fennel, chunks of juicy fennel sausage, and veiny fennel fronds makes for a subtle, layered topping (though there was a notable absence of the titular fennel flowers).
Polpette Al Forno ($9)
The first in a series of disappointing non-pizza items, the baked meatballs were so dry and tough that we had trouble cutting through them with the side of a fork. At least the sauce had hints of freshness.
Fritelle di Baccala Con Cannelini ($12)
Falkner's fried fish and potato cake is light and crisp, though perhaps too subtle in salt cod flavor. But the bed of cannellini it came served on top of were beyond al dente, venturing into raw territory. We pushed the unfinished plate away.
Pappardelle Alla Bolognese ($20)
The Bolognese ragú was so thin it would have better borne the title zuppa. A few token pieces of wan ground meat floating in ruddy broth does not make a satisfying course, no matter how good those noodles are (and they were quite good).
The Cure ($15)
The Cure combined good salami with fresno chilis, mozzarella, and a dusting of pecorino. Simple, balanced, and tasty, but we wished the salami been crisped up just a little bit. It's the kind of pie that makes you wish you were eating the soppresatta pie from Motorino.
It's never a good sign when you want to pull out a salt shaker to give your pizza some sort of flavor. The two bits of kale that managed to peek out from their shroud of four different cheeses turned beautifully crisp and sweet as they caramelized in the heat of the oven. Meanwhile, the rest steamed under its white blanket, pulling away as a solid mass when we tugged at it with our teeth.
Many folks can find typically tender and (ok, we'll admit it) somewhat soupy traditional Neapolitan crusts to be too soft. Faulkner's pies ranged from tender with just a bit of sag, to outright crackery-crisp, allowing you to fold-and-hold them like a New York slice.
This particular pie had virtually no hole structure to speak of.
We wondered if the story would have been different had Falkner or her partner had been slinging the pies themselves. On one of our trips, they were nowhere to be found.
Crisp, greaseless, stuffed with a not-too-sweet ricotta filling, the cannolo hits the perfect balance of bitter chocolate, pistachio, and bitter-sweet candied orange zest. A few crunchy slices of candied fennel frond proved an altogether more satisfying use of the vegetable than on our pizza.
The hazelnut and chocolate Tartufo is another excellent dessert. We could have easily managed another helping (or three) of the excellent salted caramel sauce and crumbled sbrosolona, a shortbread-like Italian tart.
Our version of the Cassata looked markedly different than the one pictured in the New York Times review. In fact, we realized that the dessert is comprised of the exact same elements as the cannolo—ricotta cream, candied citrus, bitter chocolate, candied fennel, and pistachios—if you subtract the unifying crunchy shell (our sponge cake was more mushy and wet than moist and spongy), and throw on an icy tangerine sorbet and three campari-soaked cherries.