Ah' Pizz: Montclair, NJ
May 12, 2010
If you like Ridgewood's A Mano, you'll like Montclair's Ah' Pizz. That is to say, if you like Neapolitan-style pizza, you'll like Ah' Pizz. You may very well love it, in fact.
But let's be clear, this isn't "thin crust" pizza, contrary to claims I've seen on the internet. "Thin crust," to my mind, describes the pizza at Star Tavern, or Kinchley's; the cracker crust style we all know and love. But this is not that. Ah' Pizz is cooking Neapolitan-style pizza, and from what I can tell, they're doing it really, really well.
Ah' Pizz seemed to pop out of nowhere. It wasn't on my radar until I read the blurb in the New York Times. Within 24 hours of reading that article, I was sitting at a table, ordering a pizza.
The menu reads a lot like A Mano's did, before that restaurant started expanding its menu: a few salads, a bunch of wonderful pizze, and Nutella pizza for dessert. You'll hear no complaints from me. A focused menu with a clear vision is something that too few restaurants have these days.
On my one visit, I ordered the "Ah' Pizz": mozzarella di bufula, crushed tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano, basil, EVOO.
Students of Neapolitan-style pizza appreciate the notion that less is more. Ah' Pizz is with us on this. The pizza was topped with a deft hand. Nothing was overstated. Balance, balance, balance. In any cooking balance is important. In pizza cooking, perhaps even more so. Each element had its role, and each was exceptional. The mozzarella was damned near as creamy as ice cream. The flavors of the pizza were bright, clean, fresh, and crisp. The cornicione was puffy and flavorful (it killed me to see another customer leave all of the crust on his plate, the fool!).
My pizza came out of the wood-fired oven after 2 minutes. That's a bit longer than the 60 or 90 seconds that I've seen at other Neapolitan wood-burning places, but this stuff is variable. Two minutes is still very fast, and a short enough time to create a great pizza with a soft yet crisp crust. Do you ever wonder why the crust at your local pizza joint is always left in the box? Because it's dreadful. The dough is dreadful to begin with, and then 10-15 minutes in the oven turns it into cardboard. Not so in Neapolitan-style pizza, where it can easily be, and has been, argued that the crust is the most important part. This is bread-making, after all.
Lovers of good food and passionate chefs can only hope that the Yelpers and bloggers don't come down on this place for perceived flaws that really aren't flaws at all (don't try to pick up a slice with your hand and walk down the street eating it, ya dope). What you can do to help the restaurant, and help yourself, is ignore the people who criticize that which they do not appreciate or understand, grab a bottle of wine, and get down to Ah' Pizz for some exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza.
As t:e field reporter jimmy:rocks reported back: "Outstanding. We'll be hitting that plenty." I couldn't agree more.
Ah' Pizz : 7 North Willow Street : Montclair, NJ : 973.783.9200 : BYO