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Friday, May 18, 2012

Finger Lakes Flat Bread Pizza, Ithaca

Another hike, another pizza.
A recent hike in Tompkins County on a Saturday morning allowed me to take a short drive into Ithaca, where I got a pizza from Finger Lakes Flat Bread, which is a regular vendor at the Ithaca Farmers Market. The market in general is reminiscent of the Rochester Public Market, but with a decidedly different vibe. Where Rochester's market has an urban feel, with a mix of vendors and patrons from a spectrum of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, Ithaca's has a more affluent, liberal, NPR-listening atmosphere. It's more Berkeley, California than Upstate New York, which is to say that it reflects the overall feel of Ithaca itself.
Not that any of that matters, in pizza terms, but it'll give you some idea of the overall atmosphere.
And so it makes it no surprise that there would be a wood-fired pizza place on site. While wood-fired pizza has been around for centuries - probably since the dawn of pizza itself - my impression is that its current popularity, like that of a lot of food trends, can be traced back to the west coast, from Seattle to Southern California. (A search of the Lexis "All News" database tends to confirm this.) Wood-fired pizza and hipsterism just seem to go together.
OK, on to the pizza. Finger Lakes Flat Bread serves up fast-baking, thin-crust pizzas from an oven that reaches temperatures around 800 degrees. On the day I visited, there were three pizzas available, and I went with the pie that came closest to a classic Neapolitan pizza, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and garlic oil. (I don't remember exactly what the other two choices were, but I think one was a white pizza and the other was a much "busier" pizza with a bunch of toppings.)
My pie was ready very quickly, in probably no more than three minutes. The most immediately noticeable thing about it was its irregular shape. Now I know from making pizza at home that getting a pie into a round shape is not as easy as it sounds. And personally I don't particularly care what shape my pizza is. Still, I couldn't help being reminded of this scathing critique of "faux primitive" pizza. I suppose you could look at this, though, as demonstrating that each of FLFB's pizzas is a work of art, not a cookie-cutter pizza cranked out on an assembly line.
While there was a bit of charring on the underside and along the edge, it was relatively modest, and the crust was quite pliable, more so than I had expected. The crust did have a nice, mildly bready flavor, but its most significant attribute was its thinness. It had some crispness, and was enjoyable enough, but didn't have quite the depth and complexity of flavor and texture that make for world-class pizza.
The toppings were good. The pizza had a prominent but not harsh flavor and aroma of garlic, and a well balanced trio of creamy, melted mozzarella, tomato sauce and shredded basil. Once I'd gotten photos of it, this pie did not live a long life.
So while I'm not giving this an "A" rating, make no mistake that I liked it. And I'd stop there again. I would not like to take a chance on overcooking the cheese, but I might ask next time that my pie be given an extra 30 seconds or so, just to get the crust a little bit more done.

Finger Lakes Flat Bread
Saturdays and Sundays; Steamboat Landing, Ithaca, NY 14850
Tuesdays and Thursdays; Dewitt Park, Ithaca, NY 14850

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