The missus and I popped into Fritti recently to sample the Neapolitan-style pizzas now that they’re made in a fancy-schmantzy new oven hand built by an Italian pizza oven god.
Compared to the pizzas I’ve enjoyed before at Fritti, I found the crusts from this oven more charred around the edges and on the bottom, and less prone to the gooey centers that are not uncommon in Neapolitan pizza. The crusts were also, alas, distinctly softer and more pliable. We kept looking in vain for a crisp edge somewhere to give the pizza its all-important texture contrast, but couldn’t find it.
A return visit a week later revealed the same situation. Great salads, great fried mushrooms, good wine and the always-welcome finish of chocolate soup for desserts. But the pizza crusts were indistinguishable in texture from gyro wraps.
I called owner Riccardo Ullio, who said that he personally eats the pizzas four or five times a week and has never had a problem with soft crust. But he did suggest that the dough may possibly have been “blown out” from over-rising. Dough for the lunch pizzas is prepared the night before, and sometimes leftovers will be used for early diners, when it is past its prime fermentation and gluten development.
Because the new oven also retains heat better, the kitchen has needed to adjust the hydration of the dough. I wonder if the extra moisture results in a pizza that is crisp as it leaves the oven but quickly wilts — as we all do — in this early summer heat and humidity.
Ullio consulted his head pizzaiolo, who said the pizzas have been consistently on target, and then suggested that I didn’t understand the kind of crispness they were going for.
“It could be not operator error but user error,” said Ullio. I suppose there might be some kind of special crispness devoid of all resistance, though I have to say I never noted such in Naples.
[UPDATE: Please note Ullio's response below. He says the "user error" comment, which some readers took umbrage with, was about the person manning the oven, not the customer."]
Pizza, like barbecue, can vary a lot from visit to visit. Even the usually reliable Antico Pizza Napoletana let us down the other day with a calzone filled with stiff, unmelted cheese and cold sausage. But that was solved with a quick complaint and fix.
We like Fritti a lot in my family and will keep patronizing the restaurant in hopes that the next pizzas are as good as they used to be.