Friday, September 6, 2013
Last December, I posted a review of Six50 Black Oven Cooking, a wood-fired pizzeria, bar and restaurant in Chili. Because it had just opened, I didn't give Six50 a grade, but I did note that the crust was "remarkably pale underneath," "heavily floured, and firm but not really crisp," and that the "edge displayed a little charring, but was hard and chewy." So there were some issues.
I recently went back for lunch with a friend, and am happy to report that things have improved.
Before I get to that, though - in my prior post, I confessed to being mystified by both the terms "Six50" and "black oven cooking." I've since been informed that "Six50" refers to the temperature inside their ovens. "Black oven" means that the pizza is cooked in the same chamber as the burning wood, as opposed to a "white oven," which uses indirect heat, typically with the wood burning in a separate chamber. "Black," I guess, refers to the presence of ash in the oven chamber.
OK. Back to the pizza.
I ordered a diavolo, which is topped with tomato sauce, sopressata, roasted red peppers, red pepper flakes, and mozzarella. My companion got a salsiccia, with garlic oil, sweet Italian sausage, banana peppers and Parmesan cheese.
Upon the arrival of my diavolo pie, first thing I did was check the underside. It was considerably darker than last time, with an inner circle of char spots and more charring along the edge.
That was encouraging, but this pie also had too much flour on the bottom. I know flour can help keep an unbaked crust from sticking to the pizza peel, but too much is too much. When you're biting into a pizza, you don't want the sensation of taking in raw, or burnt, flour. And I did get some of that here.
Despite the charring, the crust was still fairly soft. Even the edge was pretty soft. There just wasn't much bite to it.
Now this gets into matters of style and personal taste. I like a balance of crisp and chewy. But I also make allowances for different styles of pizza, and I know that some people may want more crunch, while others like a soft crust, or don't even focus much on the crust.
What makes a crust crunchy, crisp, chewy, spongy, etc., also involves a lot of factors. The type of flour used. The oven temperature. Oil in the dough or on the cooking surface. Whether the dough contains sugar, milk, or other ingredients. And the cooking method - oven deck, screen, pan, and so on. These characteristics can also differ based upon the style of pizza -- Neapolitan, Sicilian, New York, Chicago thin crust, etc.
So I don't want to overly penalize this one for its soft crust, but personally, I would've liked a little more crispness. And Six50's menu does state that its "pizzas are cooked in our black ovens, which gives them a crispier, darker crust." If that's what they were shooting for, this fell a little short.
OK. I probably said more about the crust than I needed to. But it's easier to write about flaws, or at least things you don't like, than about virtues. So I don't want to suggest that the crust was terrible. It just had some issues.
I did like the flavor of this pie. It wasn't terribly spicy, but then again I'm a pepperhead, and my palate is a bit jaded where hot food is concerned. It had a nice balance of sauce, cheese and other toppings, which added some interest without overwhelming the pie. The sopressata slices gave the pizza some meatiness to go along with the nicely melted cheese, and was complemented by the roasted red peppers, which I always like - in fact I consider them an underrated ingredient that I'd like to use, and eat more often.
My companion's salsiccia didn't have my diavolo's flour issues, but it wasn't quite as charred and was equally soft. But again, the flavor was good. It was topped with big chunks of salty sausage, and the banana peppers gave it a vinegary tang that I liked, though keep in mind that I've been known to eat banana peppers straight out the jar, by the forkful. The cheese on both pies was smooth, nicely melted and a good base for the rest of the toppings.
All in all, these were both generally good pies, with just a few relatively minor shortcomings. Certainly an improvement over my first visit, good enough to recommend, and and good enough to rate a solid B.
Six50 Black Oven Cooking, 3765 Chili Avenue
Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.