What do you get when you combine Roberto Caporuscio (of Keste fame) and Antonio Starita? A smokin'-hot Neapolitan pie that is authentic, delicious and begs for roasted marshmallow accompaniment.
John and I have reviewed Keste before, and have been fans of Roberto's expertly-crafted pies which feature large, billowy and charred outer crusts, chewy centers and simple, fresh toppings. Antonio Starita is a third generation owner of one of Naples' oldest pizzerias, Pizzeria Starita a Materdei.
The two have joined forces to create Don Antonio in Midtown, an Italian eatery focusing on expert pizza craftsmanship.
John, not being available I convinced my friend and fellow triathlete (expert pizza-eater) Brittany to accompany me to the pizzeria.
We settled in to seats at the bar, and took a look at the pizza offerings. One jumped out at us immediately: The Montanara Starita. Advertised as a lightly fried dough, topped with signature Starita tomato sauce, smoked buffalo mozzarella and finished in their wood-burning oven.
Here is the text message conversation I exchanged with John post Montanara-eating:
Yes, people, a campfire pizza donut. And it does make sense. Here's why:
The crust was a super-thin layer of just-fried crispiness that practically melted into the warm, bready air pockets that it protected. The middle, while still thin, retained a certain billowy quality that absorbed the tangy tomatoes and frosting-like cheese while still maintaining crunch.
And the cheese...oh the cheese! I think it was the crowning glory. Like the glaze of a donut, the frosting of a cupcake or the filling in a cannoli. It was the yin to the pizza crust yang. "Smoky" doesn't quite cover it.
It tasted like the delicate globs of mozzarella were roasted marshmallow-like on a campfire and plopped straight away onto the pie. I thought I heard crickets chirping and the ocean lapping against the shore while I took bite after bite.
We also sampled another pie, the Sausage and Pistachio.
While still well executed, the crust seemed to pale in comparison to the fried glory of the Montanara. The pistachio pesto was well done, nutty and sweet, and it blended perfectly with the mild sausage giving the whole pie an earthy and rustic flavor. I did think the toppings could have used a little kick - perhaps a bit of seasoning other than basil.
As of now, you can expect a Don Antonio-inspired fried pizza (perhaps finished on the grill) will be rolling out of my kitchen and into the recipe index of this blog. It must be done. I can't guarantee it will be as impressive as the specimen from the Don Antonio kitchen.
I would recommend you go check this pie out. Bring sun glasses, as you might get a sun burn from the magnificent rays of light biblically emanating outward from its magnificent center...
Overall Pizza Eating Experience: HEAT
309 W 50th St, New York 10019
(Btwn 8th & 9th Ave)