Friday, October 23, 2009
Ricci's Family Restaurant, Latta Road
Despite its name, Ricci's is not what I would call a “family restaurant.” Family-run and family-friendly, perhaps, but not a “family restaurant.” They don’t serve breakfast, and there are no gyros on the menu, so that right there pretty much disqualifies it from the family-restaurant category.
Not that I'm complaining. No, it's just that Ricci’s, which opened in 1970 as Ricci's Pizza, is really more of an Italian restaurant, and it’s one of the suprisingly few around here that includes pizza on the menu. I stopped by for dinner recently and got a medium, with pepperoni.
My pizza, which arrived on a shiny, silvery platter, had a medium-to-thick crust that was quite a bit thicker along the edge. The underside bore screen markings, and was baked to a golden brown.
The crust had a little crispness, and the lip was crisp and crunchy. Not surprisingly, since it had just come out of the oven, it had a fresh bready aroma and flavor.
The bright red sauce was moderately applied, and had a tangy, tomatoey flavor. There were some hints of oregano, but I’m not sure if that came from the sauce itself or from the dried oregano that had been sprinkled over the pizza.
Atop the sauce was a solid blanket of melted mozzarella, which was still semi-liquid and stringy when the pizza arrived at my table. Interestingly, the thin slices of pepperoni, which had a mild flavor and were moist and chewy, lay under the cheese. I’ve seen that before - putting the cheese on last, over the other toppings - but I’m not sure that I like that with pepperoni. With a vegetable topping, like bell peppers or fresh garlic, I can see it, since it might keep them from drying out or burning, but pepperoni, I think, benefits from sitting on top of the pizza, so that it can crisp up a bit.
Ricci’s pizza offerings are modest, compared to those you’d find at a full-fledged pizzeria, with “only” ten toppings available. Pizzas come in small, medium and half sheet sizes.
The rest of the menu is dominated by Italian dishes, with a variety of pasta entrees, and all the local favorites like Chicken French, Parmigiana, and Cacciatore, plus greens and beans, calamari, tripe, veal piccata, and shrimp scampi. But it also includes steaks, burgers and hot sandwiches, wings, soups, and a Friday fish fry. There’s a modest dessert menu, and Ricci’s also serves beer and wine.
This was some pretty good pizza, but it occurred to me that when you get pizza at a restaurant, other than a restaurant that really focuses on pizza, you’re apt to get something a little different from what you’d tend to get from a pizzeria. I’m thinking here specifically of the crust and the baking process. I’ve never worked at a restaurant, but I imagine that most of them don’t have specialized pizza ovens, and chances are that the ovens they do have are not set to (if they’re even capable of reaching) the kind of temperature that you would typically find with a commercial pizza oven.
In other words, you’re unlikely to get a really crisp, charred crust on a restaurant pizza, again, with the exception of places like Rocco or Tony D’s that have specialized ovens for that purpose. So you have to bear that in mind when you order, and I’m taking that into consideration here too. This pizza did not have an especially crisp, well-baked crust, and I probably wouldn’t look to Ricci’s for takeout. But it was flavorful, it wasn’t greasy, and it did have some pleasing bready qualities. I’ll peg this one at a B-.
Ricci’s Family Restaurant, 3166 Latta Rd. at Long Pond. 227-6750
Mon. - Thu. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sat. 4 - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 - 9:30 p.m.
Pizza Guy's note, 11/19/09: I'm told by a reader (whom I consider a reliable source, though I have no confirmation or corroboration of this) that for their first 25 years or so, Ricci's baked their pizzas in cast iron pans, but switched to pans or screens in the mid '90s. The ovens, however, are the same stone deck ovens that Ricci's has been using since 1970.