Friday, July 15, 2016
Fiamma: Montanara Pizza
Even at pizzerias with long lists of specialty pies, you don't often see potato pizza among them. When you do, it's apt to be of the "stuffed potato" variety, loaded with cheddar cheese, bacon, sour cream and whatnot. To me that's overkill, and I generally avoid that kind of pizza. I don't even like my potatoes that way.
But there is an Italian tradition of adding potatoes to pizza. And Fiamma, one of my favorite pizzerias, offers its version, which I tried recently.
During a recent lunch visit with two friends, I ordered Fiamma's Montanara pizza. I'd seen it on the menu and been wanting to try it for some time. The Montanara is topped with smoked mozzarella, sliced potato, crumbled sausage and porcini mushrooms.
(As an aside, I should mention that I've seen the term "montanara" applied to pizza with a fried crust, typically topped with a tomato-based sauce. This was neither.)
Now I would not ordinarily order a pizza with mushrooms. There aren't many pizza toppings I shy away from, but mushrooms are one of them. I just don't like mushrooms, mostly because of their texture.
But another principle I tend to follow is that at certain restaurants, I trust the chef. I don't think chefs should refuse reasonable customer requests to alter a dish slightly, but after all the fine pizza I've had at Fiamma, I figure, either get it as described, or don't get it at all. That's particularly true if I'm going to review it on the blog. So I ordered the Montanara, mushrooms and all.
As usual, I'll start with the crust. There's not much I can say beyond what I've said before about Fiamma's consistently good crust. Puffy cornicione, black blisters along the edge and underneath, supple and flavorful. I think I'd be quite happy to make a meal of an unadorned Fiamma's crust. To me, it's what a wood-fired pizza crust should be.
Which makes for a convenient segue to the toppings. I know that some customers have complained from time to time that they find Fiamma's pizza soggy, or soupy, or words to that effect. I've written about that before, and I'm not going to get back into it here, except to say that Neapolitan-style pizza is simply different from basic American pizza. I mention it because the toppings on Fiamma's Montanara are not as wet as some of their other pizzas, so the crust is comparatively drier and firmer.
It's also a more subtly flavored pie than some of the others on the menu. No hot peppers, or sharp cheese, or salty anchovies. Instead, you get a harmonious blend of savory sausage and mushrooms and almost buttery-tasting, thinly sliced al dente potatoes. They're complemented by bits of rosemary and other herbs, and a touch of olive oil, against a backdrop of smoked mozzarella, which I like very much. All told, this pizza is far from bland or uninteresting, but it does use a relatively restrained combination of ingredients that invites slow eating (something I'm not always good at) and which rewards the diner's attention.
Oh, and the mushrooms? I have to admit, they worked well here. Not that I'm going to start ordering mushrooms on my pizza on a regular basis, but their flavor blended nicely with that of the other toppings, and these didn't have the rubbery texture that I find so objectionable.
As much as I remain a fan of Fiamma's red pizzas, one of the things I enjoy about going there is working my way through the pizza menu. Each variety has something different to offer, and this was another good example. Its very dissimilarity from the other pies on the menu is why the Montanara offers its own unique rewards, which are well worth seeking.
Fiamma, 1308 Buffalo Road
Mon-Sat - 11:45am-2:00pm
Mon - Thurs 4:30pm-9pm
Fri - Sat 4:30pm-10pm