David Burton samples a wedge of Sal’s finest and concludes that the pizza lives up to its billing.
Although clear standards can be met for the original woodfire pizza of Naples, the notion of an “authentic” New York-style pizza seems distinctly more tenuous.
Yet the New York pizza does have its own characteristics, the most important being that it is cooked in a gas oven, meaning the base is crisp on the bottom and chewy towards the top.
New Yorkers like everything big, so their pizza measures a humongous 18 inches in diameter, necessitating extra gluten to stretch the dough so wide. Californian tomatoes typically go into the fresh tomato sauce, which unlike the Neapolitan original, contains many flavourings. There’s almost an excess of mozzarella, yet the number of toppings on a New York pizza is surprisingly restrained – perhaps only cheese, mushrooms and some extra-hot American pepperoni, as in the Manhattan.
Considering each and every one of these specifications was satisfied in the great wedge of Manhattan laid before me in Wellington’s newest pizzeria the other day, I’d have to conclude that Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza lives up to its boast. Bravo!
Sal’s is late coming to Wellington; this pizza chain originated in Auckland nine years ago.
The founders, one a Kiwi and the other an American, approached Salvatore “Sal” Leo, the
PHOTO: KEVIN STENT
long-time owner of a modest pizzeria (Sal’s Pizza) in Queens, New York and persuaded him to reveal his recipe. Some effort has been made to source Us-built pizza ovens, plus ongoing imports of all the key ingredients.
Along with pizza, Sal’s offers dough balls called Garlic Knots, but I found these a little too literally knotty: first, texturally; later gastrointestinally.
However, my Buffalo Wings were perfect. With chicken, there’s a fine line between succulence and under-cooking, which these did not cross: the bones were pinkish red but the flesh was not. They were drenched in a tangy pink sauce and came with fresh cucumber sticks (chilled for extra crunchiness) plus a creamy blue cheese dip.
Depending on your point of view, Sal’s interior is either cramped or intimate. You order at the counter, then fight for a prime spot in a booth.
Of course, Sal’s is never going to satisfy aficionados of the floppy Neapolitan pizza, but one thing you can’t say is that a crisp base is wholly un-italian. As it happens, the pizza tonda of Rome is so distinctively cracker-crisp, they even have a word for it – scrocchiarella.
SAL’S AUTHENTIC NEW YORK PIZZA
109 Cuba St Ph: 384 7257 Fully licensed Open: Sun-tue 11.30am-10pm, Wed-thur 11.30am-11pm, Sat-sun 11.30am-midnight Price range of whole pizzas: $25-$36 Cost: $37 for two (excluding drinks) Food: Service: Ambience: Wine list: