Monday, July 11, 2011
Cibon, Park Avenue
A reader recently asked me why I had not reported on the pizza at Café Cibon, a Park Avenue establishment that's been on my pizza map literally for years now. I didn't have a particularly good answer to that question, so the other day I did something about it, and went there for lunch.
Cibon offers eight varieties of what the menu describes as focaccia pizza. I had a tough time deciding, as several of them sounding tempting, but finally settled on the tomato bianca, which is topped with garlic pesto, roasted tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil, and a balsamic reduction. (Ordinarily I would've gone for the Margherita, but I love garlic, and this pizza didn't sound too far off from a Margherita anyway.)
Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I was a bit surprised by the appearance of this pizza. Given the "focaccia" label, I'd anticipated something a bit thick, perhaps pan baked, with the dimples on top that are characteristic of focaccia.
This wasn't that. The crust was surprisingly thin, and very firm, with a crunchy, toasty exterior underneath and along the edge. The underside was well browned and dry, and appeared to have been baked on a stone or the oven floor.
The flavor was good, if more subtle than I'd expected. Mostly I noticed the well-melted cheese and the garlic. While the menu refers to a garlic pesto, I would've said that this crust had been brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a generous helping of fresh garlic. I'm not complaining, but just saying, don't expect a garlic equivalent of basil pesto (which would be a bit much even for a garlic lover like me). It certainly gave the pizza a garlickly flavor, but a mild one, and in fact the crust seemed to me to have an almost buttery flavor.
The tomatoes were pretty good - I do think small tomatoes like cherry tomatoes can be a better choice than the bigger beefsteak type, which are often hard and flavorless, but it might've been better to slice these, as they tended to fall off the pie. The finely chopped basil added some flavor as well, but again it was given a relatively light touch, in balance with the other components.
Aside from pizza, Cibon offers salads, panini, antipasti, pasta, and various entrees from the animal kingdom. (Is it just my computer, or is their online menu fragmented? I had to cut and paste parts of it to get it to look right in the image on the right.) There's a small bar serving specialty coffee drinks, various martinis, wine and bottled beer. During good weather, you can sit outdoors, as I did, and see and be seen on Park Avenue.
This pizza was good, although not what I was expecting a "focaccia pizza" to be. Maybe I've been misled about what that term means. (One of these days, by the way, I'm going to try Nino's focaccia pizza, which is probably as close to genuine Italian as you're going to find around here.) It was also a little pricey - all of Cibon's pizzas are $12 - but I know you can expect to pay a little more on Park Avenue. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that rents are higher there, although I suspect that people in that neighborhood are also simply more willing to pay higher prices.
I won't get too hung up on labels, though, and all in all this was some pretty tasty pizza, with a decent crust. I'm curious to try some of Cibon's other pizzas, although frankly I'm not too eager to shell out another $12 for a personal size pie right away. But price aside, I'll give this one a B+.
Café Cibon, 688 Park Ave. 14607. 461-2960
Open Daily 11 a.m. - midnight