One of the easiest food arguments to start is about the “best” pizza, although as food fights go, pizza is probably in a photo finish with burgers and barbecue. However, I think the notion of “best” is at best, a skewed way of looking at accomplishment.
I got to thinking about the word “best” in relationship to pizza while eating at Motorino, a New York City pizza place in the East Village. It was anointed “best” by New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton in February 2010. I’ve listed it as a recommendation in the When We Travel section of the restaurant web site www.atLarrys.com
Visiting Motorino with my wife and daughter, we ordered three pies. That was one too many after we had the addictive antipasti of “fire-roasted” mortadella. Our pizza order was a marinara, an overlooked classic according to our NYU daughter; a soppressata picante, with mozzarella, spicy soppressata, garlic, oregano; and a Brussels sprout with smoked pancetta, mozzarella, garlic and pecorino.
The pies were terrific. What impressed me most, though, were the crusts — light and delicate. That in turn reminded me of my favorite pizzas in Los Angeles at Pizzeria Mozza. When Mozza opened, owner-chef Nancy Silverton suffered criticism that the crusts weren’t “authentic.” Naysayers complained that her dough was too flavorful and light, as though the way to measure a pizza crust should be its resemblance to body armor.
Chain pizzas – certainly the ones advertised on TV – need a thick, impermeable crust to hold the weight of their industrial mozzarella cheese topped with mounds of meats.
Motorino pies and the ones at Mozza use moderate amounts of quality cheese and toppings. They resemble pizzas in Italy served in places where the crowd is 90 percent Italian and pizzas are eaten with a knife and fork (credit erik). In Florence our family is partial to Il Pizzaiuolo, just down the street from Cibreo, a well-deserved Larry Levine recommendation at atLarry.com.
Both tiny Motorino in the Village and Mozza in Los Angeles are tough to get into. Is either the “best”? New York Magazine reported a national “competition”, and both Motorino and Mozza were “beaten” by Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. The pies at Pizzeria Bianco are wonderful, and it’s as tough to get into as Motorino and Mozza; a line forms a half-hour before it opens. When you finish, happy and content, you are a half-block from the Arizona Science Center and a couple of blocks from the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.