For me, pizza is all about the crust. First and foremost, the flavor of the crust. Period. Then, I’ll look to the air bubbles and density. And, then last, but, certainly not least, the crisp golden brown shell that opens to expose an inner chewy bubble-filled center that comes from a perfectly baked pie. The hint of char on Varasano’s perfect pies are the icing on the cake. But, without the foundation of perfectly made dough, all else is meaningless and downright impossible.
You know those people… those people who will eat a slice of pizza and discard the crust?? I don’t understand those people. What are they looking for in a pizza? Gooey cheese and sauce?
Lately, when I read comparisons between Fritti and Varasano’s, I think of these people. There are plenty of reasons to eat Fritti’s pizza… the cleverly created topping combinations (I love the arugula pesto), the wood-fired oven, the quality ingredients, the scene, the super-friendly staff. Or, maybe you’d like to start the meal with something other than a salad. The incredibly delicious seafood makes Fritti a destination on its own. But, to compare Varasano’s and Fritti is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. And, it all boils down to the crust. Where Varasano’s dough is artfully fermented and aged, Fritti’s is not. The maturation and fermentation allows the dough to strengthen and lose the flavor of raw dough.
The taste of Fritti’s dough exposes the first flaw. The flavor of raw dough (or nearly raw dough) is quite strong. So strong, in fact, that it sometimes masks the impeccable freshness of the sauce and toppings. Then, I look for the bubbles. It lacks the ability to hold onto air bubbles. This makes for a denser, heavier crust. While, it is possible that Fritti might briefly ferment the dough, it clearly hasn’t matured sufficiently to eliminatate the taste of raw dough or develope the gluten structure needed to hold on to big air bubbles. Finally, the wood-buring oven does allow for the dark golden color, crisp exterior, and a wee hint of smoke flavor. But, when you tear the crust open, a dense heavy interior with only the smallest air bubbles is revealed.
This is a huge flaw making the two restaurants incomparable. I enjoy both and will eat at both. Each fills a need and a niche. But, they are apples and oranges.