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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Captain Tony's Part II - "New York Thin Crust"

My less than favorable review of Captain Tony's generated a few comments disputing my critique, as well as an email from the "Captain" himself inviting me to try one of their thin-crust, New York style pizzas. So I did.
I was afraid this would be simply a thinner version of the pizza I had before. Not so.
The crust was indeed thin. Not super-thin, but, well, thin. The underside was well browned and dimpled, which I think indicated that it had been baked on a dimpled aluminum pan. Apparently a dimpled pan is supposed to result in a crisper crust, although I'm not sure what the theory is behind that. This one wasn't particularly crisp, but there was some firmness to the crust; a slice could be held in one hand without flopping over. The texture was somewhere between soft and crisp.
While I often find that the edge of a pizza gives a good indication of what the crust is like, there wasn't much of an edge to speak of here. The toppings went right up to the very edge of the pie, which was barely thicker than the rest of the pizza. If you like a nice, thick, bready edge, you may find that a negative. If you're the type of pizza eater who leaves the uneaten crusts on your plate, and likes toppings in every bite, you'll appreciate this one.
Speaking of toppings, this was definitely a saucier slice than the "regular" Captain Tony's pizza that I had last time. The sauce had a tangy, tomatoey, slightly herbal flavor. The cheese was applied moderately but uniformly - no bare spots here - and was lightly browned, with a stringy/chewy texture.
The wide and thin pepperoni was OK, and like the cheese, was precisely applied, with exactly three slices of pepperoni on each slice of the pepperoni half of the pizza.
So what did I think of this one? Well, I did like it better than the "standard" Captain Tony's slices I had last time, which I found too soft, cheesy and greasy (or "oily," for those of you who insist there's a difference) for my taste. This was a little more firm, if not really crisp, was not nearly as oily, and the components - crust, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni - were in good balance with each other.
Having said that, I wouldn't call it an authentic NY style pizza, as it says on the menu. Your average pizza in NYC is typically baked directly on the oven floor, and tends to be crisper than this, with a flour-dusted, dry underside, maybe a little charring underneath, a thicker, crimped edge, and a predominantly bready flavor. That's just not what this was.
Still, I don't want to get hung up on labels or semantics. Whatever you want to call it, this was pretty good pizza. It struck me as kind of a throwback pizza - nothing too fancy, no pretenses to being "gourmet" or "artisanal," just your basic, straightforward pizza. In fact, it actually reminded me of the pies we used to get from a particular pizza shop when I was growing up, more years ago than I care to ponder.
I should mention in passing here that I picked up some wings with my pizza, and they were pretty good - crisp and meaty. As for the pizza, it was worth the trip back to Captain Tony's. Most pizzerias can make your pie thicker or thinner as you prefer, but again this pizza wasn't just thinner, it was qualitatively different from the original Captain Tony's "pan" pizza. New York style? I don't think so. But on its own terms, not bad at all. Its most ringing endorsement in my household came from our 6-year-old daughter, who pronounced it "real, real good to me." So she might give it an A. Me, I'd still like a little more crispness underneath - a little crunch when I bite into it, a little more bready flavor and texture - but the overall flavor was good, the components were well balanced, and there were no real problems to speak of, so I'll give it a B-.

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