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Monday, August 1, 2011

Ferrara's Potato Pizza

Pizza Guy Note: sad to say, Ferrara's appears to have closed. Mr. Sam's Pizza Kitchen is now in this location.
It's not exactly uncommon to see potato pizza on local menus, but usually that means an "American" version, typically a "stuffed" potato pizza that's overloaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream and other artery cloggers.
The basic concept, though, goes back to Italy, where potato pizza is - so I've read, at least - well known, particularly in Rome. (I first ran across a reference to it in Local Breads by Daniel Leader, which is a great book for bread bakers who would like to recreate various European-style breads at home).The Italian version is sparser and more subtle than the American, with no sauce, often no cheese, and typically includes a brushing or drizzle of olive oil and a sprinking of rosemary.
Fortunately, there are a few examples of the style around here that stay closer to their Italian forebears. Napa has a good one, and Pizzeria Americana in Greece used to; I don't see it on their online menu, but they might be able to do it for you on request. Local Breads The version you'll find at Vinny's in Fairport is a little different, but since Vinny learned his craft in Sicily, I am not about to call it inauthentic; maybe it's simply indicative of regional variations on the style within Italy itself.
Still, it's not something you see a lot of around here, so it was a welcome sight to see potato pizza on the menu at Ferrara's in Gates. I've posted before about my fondness for Ferrara's Margherita pizza, so I was keen to try their potato pie as well.
I've found that in general, good pizzerias make good pizza. That sounds silly, I know, but what I mean is that if a pizzeria does a good job on one style, it probably does a good job on others. And that was true here. This was a very enjoyable pizza.
The crust was fairly crisp, not crackly crisp like a classic New York slice, but firm on the outside, with some interior chewiness. It was simply topped, with a little olive oil, thin potato slices, finely chopped garlic, a smattering of Rosemary, and a little grated Romano. If that doesn't sound good to you, then you may as well stop reading this now, because to me that's a mouthwatering combination.
One of the things I liked about this pizza was that not only did the various components complement each other well, they also provided a range of contrasting flavors and textures. The potato slices were cooked enough to be soft, but not mushy; al dente is probably the most apt descriptor. The garlic, rosemary and Romano formed a winning trinity of flavor and aroma, all conveyed to the palate by just enough olive oil to bring everything together without turning the pizza greasy. The rosemary in particular was judiciously applied; with its assertive flavor and pine needle-like texture, it's easy to overdo, but in the right proportion - as here - it's a terrific partner for potatoes.
Although there are five separate toppings on this pizza, it's still the antithesis of the typical American "loaded" pizza. The toppings were flavorful yet subtle, were well balanced, and complemented each other without losing their individuality. All in all, this pizza was a study in restraint and balance, rather than in excess, like so many overloaded specialty pizzas today.
That, of course, does not make it better than a 10-topping meat-lovers' pizza with the works. That comes down to a matter of individual preference. If your tastes run toward pepperoni, sausage and hot peppers with extra cheese, you might find this pizza a little bland or boring. But for me, this was a delight. I couldn't see myself eating this day in and day out, but as an occasional change of pace, I thought it was terrific. I'll give it an A-.
Ferrara's Pizza, 485 Spencerport Rd., Gates 14606. 247-6777
Tue. - Thu. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. - 11 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m. Closed Mondays.

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