Florence pizza depends on preparing pizza down to science
Do you have a furnace, he will travel.
That may be the motto of Felicia and Stephen Meyer, owners and operators of Firenze Pizzeria in Northeast Heights. The Myers have dried their pizza oven across town since launching Florence as a food truck and mobile catering operation in 2011. They took their wood-fired backbone to farmers markets, weddings, and other special events before opening a brick-and-mortar store on Ninth Street and Park Avenue downtown next to Java Joe’s.
After a successful downtown run, Meyers raised its stakes earlier this year and moved to Bridges on Tramway, a mixed-use development in Northeast Heights.
The pizzeria occupies a site that was vacated earlier this year by a short-lived juice and bowls place called Refresh.
A domed oven sits behind a brick counter in Firenze’s small, high-ceilinged dining room. Standing on tall metal legs, with a small semi-circular opening in the front emitting a fiery glow, it looks like something George Lucas dreamed of.
Above it hangs a huge hood the size of the engine compartment of an SUV with a few ventilation ducts that run from the top to the ceiling.
The oven’s output includes more than a dozen pizzas ranging from the basic cheese version ($9.95) to the Godfather loaded with meat and vegetables for $14.95. The pies only come in one size, roughly equivalent to a medium-sized pizza elsewhere.
As evident in their cheese pizza, Myers has clearly learned a thing or two from all of their years in the oven. The pizza, served on a set sheet, had a good balance of cheese and sauce. The high heat of the oven left the crust covered in bubbles and tiger spot but it didn’t burn. It was crisp on the edges, mushy in the middle, with a well undercooked side and free of grease.
Spinacci ($13.95) evokes the Mediterranean with a blend of spinach, pine nuts, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers. A spray of garlic oil enhances the effect. Opinions differ on whether spinach should be cooked before placing it on pizza, and whether it should be placed under or on top of the cheese. In Firenze, fresh spinach leaves are drizzled over the cheese. The spinach escaped the pizza oven without burning. It’s a very good pizza that would have been better reheated the next day.
Next to the colorful Spinacci, New Mexico White ($13.95) appeared positively anemic.
Instead of tomato sauce, a creamy garlic sauce bolsters the cheese over the triangles of capoccolo ham—”jabbajul” if you want to look like a New York gangster. This pie has some big air bubbles around the edge. The feta and bits of green pepper gave it some flavor and spice.
Pepperoni ($11.95) is served with large slices of pepperoni the size of beer mugs; So big that you only get one piece per slice. Personally, I prefer a lot of smaller pepperoni slices, because it’s easier to get one in every bite.
Of all the Florentine pizzas I’ve tried, my favorite is Salsiccia ($13.95), an appetizing landscape of crumbly sausage, mushrooms, and kalamata olives dotted with chunks of ricotta. Sharp notes of olive brine and a lighter hint of licorice than fennel in sausage, from Keeler Sources, cut the flesh from the pie. If I was picking, the distribution of the olives was a bit uneven.
The Picante Ferns Pizza ($13.95) is a sweet, savory, and spicy mix of bacon, pineapple, and jalapeño slices. Even after cooking, the pineapple remained juicy and helped take the edge of a smoldering jalapeño.
All Florence pizzas are available in gluten-free versions served on perfectly round perforated crusts. These prepared crusts are a little dry and gritty and not as good as the homemade gluten-free crusts at places like Paisano’s and Amore Pizza.
Besides the pizza, Firenze offers three salads for $7 each. Gorgonzola salad, with Gorgonzola crumbled on spring greens with walnuts and a dark balsamic vinaigrette, is the best of the bunch. Sliced strawberries added a pop of color and took the edge off the strong cheese. The creamy pesto salad was a pile of greens and toast with some thin slices of pecorino romano cheese mixed into it. He brought this creamy, tangy, garlicky pesto to life.
Although our pickup orders were ready and waiting when we showed up 20 minutes into the connection, the experiences weren’t without its glitches. On one occasion I ordered a pesto pizza and ended up with Picante instead. Also, my wife asked for no Salsiccia mushrooms and got a great portion of it. Having employees repeat the order on the phone will help. The place can get busy around dinner time, especially on the weekends, so expect longer wait times after that. As of this writing, Firenze doesn’t have a website and there isn’t much of a presence on social media.
There are no sweets, and drinks are limited to soft drinks, although House Drink specials such as lavender lemonade are expected in the near future. Meanwhile, Boxing Bear and a wide selection of award-winning beers are located, as are the countless sweets at Paleta Bar.
After more than a decade in business, Felicia and Stephen Meyer have baked pizza down to science. Firenze Pizzeria nicely fills the lineup at Bridges on Tramway.
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