Locali Pizza Bar & Kitchen (New Canaan) – Outstanding Apizza

DSC_2446A few weeks ago I posted a review over at http://www.ctbites.com on Locali Pizza Bar & Kitchen. Over the last few weeks I have returned numerous times to enjoy some of the best pizza in Fairfield County. The pizza that is baked in their enormous ceramic covered, wood-fired oven produces a wonderful charred crust with a crispiness that maintains the integrity of the pie with the delightful toppings. From a simple Marinara to a complex Spicy Capicola, Chef Anthony’s pizzas are setting the standard for true Neapolitan pizza.

BL OvenThere are three elements to a pizza, the dough, the sauce and the toppings. Miss one and the pizza fails, each must be perfect by themselves to create a flawless pie. And Locali hits the trifecta with several options for the last. The dough is delicious. The taste delivers just a touch of sweetness, the texture balances the slight bite and crispiness, and handles the 800+ degree oven to create a charred rim. The sauce accentuates the deep, rich flavors that only true DOP San Marzano tomatoes can offer and the toppings range from mild to spicy, blend these to create individual desires.

BL Margherita PizzaThe “Marinara” is the classic apizza featuring two of the ingredients, dough and sauce. The simplicity of this pie allows the guest to enjoy the ripe tomatoes, accented with a touch of garlic and sea salt. The “Margherita” apizza adds a few circles of house-made Mozzerella and Pecorino cheese, finished with basil leaves. The addition of the creamy Mozz mellowed the flavors and the basil added just a touch of earthiness.

BL Mushroom PizzaA totally different flavor profile is found in the “Wild Mushroom” pie. Void of tomatoes, this combination focusses on the deep, earthy flavors of a variety of wild mushroom, nestled in cheese and finished with a sprinkling of Pecorino. If you are looking for a spicy combination, order the “Spicy Capicola,” with toppings that include Mozzarella and Capicola and then finished with Mike’s Hot Honey. I never thought I would enjoy honey on a pizza, but its sweetness was the perfect complement and mellowed the spiciness of the Capicola.

BL MeatballsSave room for some of Chef Reuben’s creations. The “Local Kale” salad is one of the best around. The Locali version includes cranberries, walnuts, pomegranate, grapefruit sections, and Gorgonzola cheese and dressed with a Sherry vinaigrette.  A kale salad and Margherita is one of our go-to dinners for two. For an additional vegetable dish, we add the “Brussels Sprouts,” which include chopped

pistachio nuts for a little crunchiness. For a meat selection, order the meatballs that are some of the softest and most flavorful combination when paired with the Locali cheese curds.

Locali is a great addition to New Canaan and should not be missed.

Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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My Top Five+ Fairfield County CT Dishes from 2013

2013 was an amazing year for food lovers in Fairfield County…several great restaurants opened, several chefs moved and are now creating incredible meals in new locations, several more restaurants announced their openings and I cannot wait.

During the year I enjoyed hundreds of courses in Connecticut and on my travels. With all of those flavors and textures, it was an incredibly difficult task in choosing my five favorite Fairfield County dishes for 2013. In fact, I did not since I couldn’t whittle the last one from this list, so it is six, plus three special categories.

Here are my favorite dishes from 2013:

  • elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
  • Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
  • South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End’s meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
  • Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
  • Mama’s Boy – The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
  • Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.

Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.

Top Bolognese – Cava Wine Bar – My colleague at CTBites, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava’s Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.

Top Pizza – Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.

Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen (New Canaan) – Outstanding Debut

DSC_2446Clean…Balanced…Flavorful…

Three words to describe the outstanding cuisine that Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen, the latest addition to New Canaan’s Restaurant Row. This twenty-eight seat restaurant / pizza bar is already making its mark on the culinary landscape of New Canaan.

BL Mogan, Anthony, RubenExecutive Chef Mogan Anthony and his team are creating vibrant flavors and textural contrasts in many of their dishes, intermingled among other selections that are pleasantly soft and mild.

The interior design, with a strong focus on organic materials, creates a cozy and inviting environment with guests choosing between table or bar seating. In full view of the dining and bar area is the beautiful, hand-crafted ceramic encased Stefano Ferrara wood-fired brick oven.

BL OvenJoining Chef Mogan in the kitchen is Chef de Cuisine Ruben Liriano and Chef Antonio Legato oversees the wood burning pizza oven. Chef Mogan gained his training at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore and subsequently under Chef Jean Georges Vongericthen in three different locations, plus the Bedford Post and Village Social in Mt. Kisco. Chef Liriano fine-tuned his craft at A Voce in New York and spent six years under the tutelage of Mario Batali, most recently at Tarry Lodge in Westport.Chef Antonio is a third generation bread maker whose love for breads and pizzas started as a child. He perfected his art by obtaining APN (Authentic Neapolitan Pizza) certification, adhering to the strict standards of ingredients and methods of pizza makers (pizzaioli) for over 150 years.

The menu includes a variety of small plates, larger entrées, and six pizza combinations.

BL PeppersWe started the evening with two selections from the “Vegetables” section. While both presented a high level of crispiness, they were extremely different in their respective flavor profile. The “Fried Shishito Peppers” arrived nestled in a dollop of Romano aioli and finished with sesame seeds and a sprinkling of Halen Mon sea salt. About one out of every ten Shishito peppers is very spicy (many describe eating a plate of them as spicy “Russian Roulette”) so we worked carefully through this dish…fortunately, there were no “loaded chambers” on our plate. Each of the peppers was crunchy, mild in spiciness and the aioli added a soothing creaminess while the sesame seeds added a second level of crunch and a good nutty-earthiness.

BL Brussels SproutsThe second vegetable dish was the “Brussels Sprouts,” which was served atop Mortadella cream and Px Sherry and finished with crumbled pistachios. The Brussels sprouts were first sautéed, then the Px sherry was added and reduced to concentrate its inherent sweetness. The end product was a crispy exterior and a sweetness that worked unexpectedly well with the Mortadella cream, which added numerous flavors and a touch of tanginess. The pistachios supplemented the texture with further crunch and nutty-goodness.

BL TunaOur second round of “Small Plates” included three outstanding choices.  The “Pistachio Crusted Tuna” included four slices of perfectly seared tuna sitting atop yuzu mustard, and finished with scallion sections and New Canaan Olive Oil (http://newcanaanoliveoil.com/). The pistachio crust was a delicious change from other crusted-tuna dishes that many restaurants are serving. The yuzu mustard was a unique combination that combined the citrusy notes of the yuzu with the spiciness of the mustard to create a fantastic combination.

BL MeatballsMeatballs are also a popular item on many menus and Locali’s “Umami Meat Balls” are outstanding. The meatballs were soft and delicious and served with cheese curds and toasted polenta. The cheese curds replaced the traditional ricotta, and offered a bit of a tangy background. The polenta was first toasted to intensify the flavors and then slowly rehydrated. The nuttiness and crispiness from the toasting of the polenta added contrasts that were a perfect complement to the meatballs.

BL OctopusI order octopus whenever it is offered and Locali’s “Octopus Fra Diavolo” is one of the best. Chef Anthony enhanced the soft pieces of octopus with a spicy tomato sauce and then added a tangy element with the buttermilk Dolcelatte. While many chefs crisp the exterior to offset the soft interior, Locali’s octopus was soft throughout. The potatoes were a nice addition and added another soft component. The octopus was outstanding.

BL Mushroom PizzaWhile we waited for our pizzas, Chef Ruben brought a dish that he is currently developing; Squid Ink Pasta with Squid in a red sauce. Large bowtie-shaped pasta was paired with julienned squid and served in a red sauce. This was a great combination that will be enjoyed by many as soon as it graces the menu and reminded me to include pasta dishes on my next visit.

BL Margherita PizzaWe sampled two outstanding pizzas; the toppings were exceptionally fresh and the flavors were outstanding. The “Margherita Pizza” was a traditional combination of San Marzano tomatoes, Locali (house made) Mozzarella and finished with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. The crust was delicious, the texture maintained just a small amount of bite and was nicely charred. The center of the dough was less crispy and I would expect this was the result of the newness of the brick oven continuing its curing process. The “Wild Mushroom Pizza” was a simple combination, showcasing a variety of exotic wild mushrooms accented with garlic and combined with Locali Mozzarella and Pecorino Tartufu. The mushrooms delivered a wonderful earthiness and the garlic and cheeses were perfect complements to the pizza.

BL Salty CaramelAnd when the server approached and asked if we would like dessert, we chose two, the “Salty Caramel Pie” and the “Tiramisu.” The desserts were all created by Chef Mogan’s wife, Seleste Tan, who formerly worked at wd50 in NYC and the Four Season Hotel in Singapore. The salty caramel pie was a tribute to sweetness and textures. The filling was a smooth caramel-custard and the crunchy crust was a perfect complement to the sweetness of the filling. It was served with a little whipped cream, a slice of strawberry and dusted with powdered sugar. We enjoyed the “Tiramisu,” which was served in a large glass. This was a light and creamy rendition, with rum as the primary flavor. Both of these desserts were delicious.

Locali is a tremendous addition to New Canaan’s Restaurant Row. The food presents an array of flavors, from mild and mellow options to tantalizing choices with bold and complex combinations; each work well in highlighting the flavors of each of the ingredients in the dish. The pizzas are delicious, traditional Napolitano thin crusted gems that use the freshest ingredients to showcase their natural flavors. The food and vibe at Locali are fantastic and this will be a go-to restaurant in New Canaan.

Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen – New Canaan – 32 Forest Street – New Canaan, CT 06840 – (203) 920-1440

Really Liked:

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Umami Meatballs
  • Octopus Fra Diavolo
  • Farfalle with Squid
  • Margharita Pizza
  • Salty Caramel Pie

Liked:

  • Shishito Peppers
  • Pistachio Crusted Tuna
  • Wild Mushroom Pizza
  • Tiramisu

This review was originally posted on http://www.ctbites.com at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/12/8/locali-pizza-bar-kitchen-opens-in-new-canaan.html