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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Pizzas and More About Fiamma

I just gave away a $100 gift certificate to Fiamma, but I had to do an additional post, for a couple of reasons.
First, I want to say something about the pizzas that my wife and I shared on our November visit, when chef Giuseppe Paciullo generously agreed to donate that gift certificate. Second, I've been given some information about Fiamma that I think you may find interesting.
Let's start with the pizza. I got a Regina Margherita, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, imported buffalo milk mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, oregano, basil, Gran Cru (an imported aged sheep's milk cheese), and extra virgin olive oil. My wife ordered the Amalfi, with mozzarella, arugula, thin-sliced bresaola carpaccio, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
I'd previously had Fiamma's Margherita off the "tradizionali" side of the pizza menu; the "Regina" is on the "Specialita" side. It had been so long (too long) in between visits that I can't give you a specific description of how they differ, but the Regina is a little on the wet side, with semi-liquid dollops of Buffalo milk mozzarella and chunks of cherry tomatoes rather than just a pureed sauce. The flavors blended and complemented each other beautifully, the crust remained crisp underneath, and it was with some difficulty that I was able to leave some on my plate to take home.
The Amalfi provided a nice contrast to the Margherita, and was a study in contrasts in itself. The carpaccio was reminiscent of salami, but more intensely flavored, leaner and chewier. My only complaint was that the slices of carpaccio needed to be individually cut, with a knife, into bite sizes; Fiamma provides pizza cutters with each pie, but they didn't really do the job on the carpaccio, and my attempts to bite off a small piece as I was eating the pizza were largely unsuccessful. Smaller, thinner strips would've been easier to work with, even if not as visually attractive as these.
The arugula and shot of fresh lemon juice added further contrasts, both texturally and flavorwise. I'm not always a big fan of fresh greens on pizza, but this was a fine combination of flavors, colors and textures. Definitely not your average American pizza, but quite enjoyable.
Upon learning that this was my wife's and my anniversary (well, one day short, but close enough), chef Giuseppe prepared us a special treat, a Nutella pizza. I fell in love with Nutella while traveling in France years ago, where I ate plenty of crepes laden with the chocolate-hazelnut spread. This was reminiscent of those, but with a crisp, wood-fired crust rather than a soft, rolled-up crepe. And like most of Fiamma's wares, this was made with the genuine article, imported Nutella, not its sweeter, more chocolatey American counterpart (which is still good, mind you, just not as good). I'm not sure if this "pizza" appears on Fiamma's menu, but I suspect that they can whip one up for you on request.
Oh, and the second thing - a reader (whom I thank) recently sent me an email with some background information about Fiamma. Turns out that pizzaiolo Giuseppe Paciullo spent some time working at this pizzeria in New York City, which is owned by his uncle Roberto, before moving to Rochester. I've never eaten at Zero Otto Nove, but it's gotten rave reviews, like this one. As you'll see, there's a strong resemblance to Fiamma's pizza.
The more I get to know pizzeria owners, the more I come to learn that all pizzerias - the best ones, at least - have a history, and family roots. Great pizzerias generally don't just spring up on their own, because the owner read a cookbook. There's always a background story. So this provides us with some insights into Fiamma's roots.
More than that, it points up how fortunate we are to have a pizzeria of this caliber in Rochester. New York City has long been home to some of the best pizzerias in the country, and the pizza scene there now is hotter than ever. We're lucky enough to have a pizzeria in our midst that can hold its own with the best of them.

Fiamma, 1308 Buffalo Rd. 14624

Lunch: Mon. - Sun. 11:45 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.,
Dinner: Sun. - Thu. 4:30 p.m. - 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4:30 p.m. - 'til

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