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

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Village Social (Mt. Kisco NY) Delivers Great Cuisine

A new restaurant in my home town of New Canaan will feature the cuisine of Village Social’s Chef Mogan Anthony so one night I drove to Mt. Kisco to sample his cuisine. And I am very glad I did. The chef combines textures and flavors incredibly well and I look forward to his arrival in my little town.

The restaurant is large, separated into a vibrant bar area to the right and a dining room the left. The décor creates a great vibe and as I sat at one of the high tables in the bar I watched a steady stream of young, old, singles, couples, and groups…an eclectic clientele, all looking forward to an enjoyable evening. And during my 90 minutes of wonderful cuisine, I saw smiles on every guest. And the cuisine was one of the prime reasons. The food that Chef Mogan served was outstanding.

BL Tunajpeg (1)I started with the Salty Pretzel Crusted Tuna; a sliced, slightly seared wedge of tuna that sat atop a spicy kimchi aioli with a few sliced scallion. The tuna was cool in the center with the salty crust offering both a textural and salty contrast. Adding the kimchi aioli to the tuna added a level of spiciness and creaminess to the dish and the scallions increased the flavor profile. This was one delicious dish combining salty, spicy, crunchy, soft…all great together.

bl beetsjpegAnother light, small plate that I enjoyed was the salt baked beets with whipped ricotta, mache, orange slices and pistachio vinaigrette. The earthiness of the beets were beautifully offset with the sweetness of the orange segments and the whipped ricotta added a soft creamy texture. The pistachio pieces complemented with a touch of earthiness and crunch. This dish was fantastic.

BL SteakjpegAnother outstanding dish was a small plate of the slow cooked skirt steak with onions over mashed potatoes. Although the menu states Chimmichuri, the restaurant is currently serving this dish with caramelized onions and I really liked the change. The perfectly prepared medium-rare steak was rubbed with a slightly spicy Japanese seasoning, nestled in creamy mashed potatoes with a rich beef jus. The steak was tender and flavorful and the caramelized onions were soft and sweet and worked perfectly with the steak and potatoes. The beef jus added an added level of flavor.

Another dish I sampled was the Burrata poached in olive oil and served in a jar, served with a basket of bread. This was not to my liking. The server informed me that I pour the Burrata over the bread and then the table normally shares the Buratta covered bread slices. As much as I like the idea of sharing great cheeses with friends, I found the olive oil diluted the wonderfulness of the Buratta, and I would prefer enjoying the Burrata and the bread without the olive oil.

BL PizzajpegSince the New Canaan location will feature Neapolitan pizzas, I asked which was the most popular at Village Social, and the server told me the “Sunny Side Egg.”  When it arrived I was anxious to try Chef Mogan’s red-sauced creation that included mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto di San Daniele, with a sunny side up egg perched in the center and slices of truffle finishing the combination. This was an excellent pizza with a fabulous sauce, great mozzarella, the egg and truffles added additional decadence and the crust was perfectly charred from the wood burning oven. I would have preferred slightly less saltiness from the prosciutto.

BL dessertjpegSave room for dessert. 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 scoop of mild-flavored vanilla ice cream that offset the sweetness of the pie and created a great balance.

Overall the atmosphere and food at Village Social were outstanding. Serving up to 700 guest on a busy weekend night, this restaurant is a go-to place in Mt. Kisco and Chef Mogan Anthony is creating delicious food.

Village Social Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon