1240 Spring Garden Street Philadelphia, PA 19123 (Map); (215) 238-9311; Bufad Pizza
Pizza type: Neapolitan-style
Oven type: Wood-fired
The Skinny: Fresh, interesting toppings make for an enjoyable pizza experience at Bufad.
I'm never, ever early. I'm not usually late, either, by more than ten minutes. But somehow I made it to Bufad Pizza half an hour before my dining companion. Located at 13th and Spring Garden, there is a dearth of parks or benches or coffee shops in which to kill time. It's an industrial neighborhood, full of brown vacant factories and empty lots. Regardless, it was a beautiful night, with the sun slowly slipping behind the buildings, and I wanted nothing more than to sit outside and read while waiting. I asked the host at Bufad, inside the squat brick building with a mustachioed strongman logo, if there was any way I might be able to wait at an outside table. She couldn't have been more accommodating, and the server kept me in steady refills, pouring from a carafe of water on the wooden slatted table.
My dining companion arrived, and we set about the task of ordering. We started with the Tritora Salad($10), an unusual combination of fava beans, tiny cubes of Pecorino Toscano, tangy red onions, and fresh parsley, all dressed in a red wine vinaigrette. The simple and light combination with salty and dry in the best was possible, a perfect dish for the last weekend of the summer and a lovely introduction to our pies.
The menu lists two forms of pizza, "Le Pizza Terrone," which are more traditional Neapolitan pies served with a red sauce, and "Le Pizza di Estate," which are the seasonal summer pizzas. Both are baked in a wood-fired EarthStone oven.
We ordered two pies, one from each section. The Melanzane($14) was a pleasantly spicy, heavy pizza: Tomato sauce, ricotta salata, and roasted eggplant, topped with an over-easy egg and a pile of homemade breadcrumbs, finished with a sprinkle of chili flakes. The whole pie was reminiscent of a pasta dish, with the heft of a big plate of noodles doused with sauce. The real standout was the roasted eggplant, marinated in olive oil and smoked paprika. Simply prepared, it had a fleshy but soft texture, able to stand on its own, sweet and savory at once.
But while the toppings were excellent, they couldn't quite stand up to the crust, which was puffy, heavy, and a little dry, reminiscent of almost sourdough. I'm also not really sure why the egg and breadcrumbs were included; they didn't much, and were largely overwhelmed by the heat from the pepper flakes. and was mostly overwhelmed by the spiciness.
The Pomodori($12), on the other hand, was surprisingly balanced and delicious. Based on the menu description, I was expecting a relatively simple variation on a classic Margherita, but what emerged was a white pie. Light, with amazingly fresh ingredients, the crust was covered in burrata sourced in Vermont, which was topped with heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Philly-based farm Greensgrow, and a smattering of fresh basil.
The tomatoes were hardly your average pizza tomatoes, which are usually savory and flavored with Italian seasonings. Simply marinated in olive oil, thyme, lemon zest, and shallots, these guys were sweet and fresh, giving the pie a bright, summery tartness. With that finishing touch of fresh basil, the ingredients really pulled together to create something special, truly bigger than the sum of its individual parts. The pie was juicy, almost buttery, working perfectly with that simple plain crust, overcoming the dryness that the Melanzane struggled with. I don't often gush over pizza, but this one is a welcome exception. Excellent work, Bufad.