485 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 (Powers/Grandmap); 718-388-8820; forcellaeatery.com
Getting there: G/L to Metropolitan-Lorimer
Pizza style: Neapolitan
Oven type: Wood-burning Acunto brand oven
The skinny: OK. Forget for a minute that Forcella is doing some solidly legit traditional pizzas. That's all well and good and totally worth your while. But just know that the place is the only pizzeria I know of in NYC that's doing a deep-fried "montagnara" pizza
Price: Marinara, $9; Margherita, $11; Pizza alla Carbonara $12
The montanara pizza at Forcella is reason enough alone to put this new Williamsburg Neapolitan joint on your shit-I've-gotta-hit-it list. It's a small 8-inch pizza whose crust is first stretched, then deep-fried until almost cooked through, and finally tossed in a pan, topped, and finished in the wood-burning oven (an Acunto imported from Italy, if such things excite you).
As one of my dining companions last night said, "The oil gives the flavor a whole other dimension." Indeed, the crust has that extra bit of savoriness from its oil bath, but its texture is just as special. Imagine a very good Margherita pizza, with a bright, zingy sauce and some incredible house-made mozzarella but with a foundation reminiscent of one of those fried-dough wonders you only see at the state fair—at once crisp, chewy, moist, and puffy in only that way fried breads get.
It's a bit different from the fried pizzas of Naples (pizze fritta). Those are almost calzone-like with sauce and cheese inside. These have the unusual two-step cooking process—one that Forcella pizzamaker-owner Giulio Adriani says only two or three places in Naples do. And Adriani is certainly the only one I know doing this in NYC. (If you haven't seen this on the menu at Forcella, that's because they just started serving it on Wednesday night.)
But to focus only on the unusual at Forcella would do a disservice to the rest of the excellent options at this month-old pizzeria. The traditional Margherita and marinara pizzas are well worth your time, dollar, and stomach space.
What I said above about the montanara's sauce and cheese holds true for the Margherita, since the same elements are used. The crushed tomatoes are well balanced in sweetness and acidity.
The cheese is made in house daily. It's an attempt to tamp down on excessive moisture, says Adriani. He buys curd, heating it for stretching not in water, but in milk. It gives the mozzarella an incredibly creamy flavor, balanced by an ample amount of salt. This cheese should be sampled on its own—in a caprese salad, for instance:
The crust at Forcella is flavorful, crisp, chewy. It has a nice rise at the rim. It's sometimes a bit too charred in places.
Not burned, mind you—it's perfectly edible—just at times a bit overpowering, masking the otherwise pleasant flavor of the dough.
Another showstopping pizza here is the marinara pie. "It's the most difficult pizza to make," says Adriani. That's because there's nowhere to hide with this one. It's simply tomato sauce, garlic, and oregano. And, oh, the oregano. The herbiness of this pizza tweaked our noses as soon as our server placed it on the table. Adriani says that this pizza is a slow seller—maybe 1 to 2 every couple of days. Hey, well, 'muricans love their cheesy pizzas. And, hell, I do too. I'm not the biggest marinara fan and almost never like—or order—these pizzas. This one is worth it.
I should now take the time to point out that you might recognize Giulio Adriani's name from last year around this this time. He was the opening pizzaiolo at Olio e Piu, which I thought was pretty hit or miss when it opened in Greenwich Village in August. It showed promise, I thought, but just didn't quite hit all the marks.
Forcella is Adriani's promise realized. The Margherita pizza, which was a bit soggy, is retooled just a bit and is just firm enough for an American audience but probably moist enough for Neapolitans, who tend to like the wetter centers.
At Olio, pizzas were sometimes clumsily topped. No more. Adriani is slicing toppings thinner and seems to be a bit more restrained with them. There are still inventive toppings—like the Vomero, with its mozzarella, ham, corn, cream, and ricotta. It's like a really good ham and cheese sandwich ... with corn. I can't say it stunned me, but it wasn't bad, either. Probably just not something I'd order again.
What I would order again ...
... would be the Pizza alla Carbonara, which is just what it sounds like. Served only at brunch on weekends, it's one of Forcella's two weekend egg-topped pizzas—a mashup of pizza and bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich made with the creamiest scrambled eggs you'd want.
And it's made in a rather unique way. Adriani says that his oven is too hot to properly cook an egg on a pizza. He wanted a soft, moist egg base but realized it would overcook by the time the crust was finished. So first he spreads a layer of crushed ice onto a round of stretched dough:
And then cooks that in a cooler part of the oven, pouring off the melted water and returning the dough to the fire for a little bit. Then he tops the pizza with an egg-pecorino cream, some pancetta, black pepper, and some more shaved pecorino. This one is worth a brunch visit, folks.
It's nice to see Adriani in a new space with a completely different vibe from Olio. This place is warmer, more natural, more pizzeria-like. It's small but not uncomfortably cramped. The staff seems attitude-free, and the focus seems to be less on the pizza-competition awards Adriani has won (at Olio they were noted on the menu) and simply on the here and now—which is to say just some great pizza.
But, hey, seriously ... GO GET THE MONTANARA.