Luca Bella: Vodka Sauce Pizza

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The world of pizza is vast and diverse; it includes slices with cheese, without cheese, with sauce, and without sauce. But when someone thinks of pizza sauce, it is usually some variety of tomato that comes to mind. That is why it is such a nice change of pace when a pizzeria goes a different route and uses vodka sauce instead; and Luca Bella does so exceptionally well.

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This slice is interesting in that its somewhat a mixture of both traditional and Sicilian slices; it has the shape of a Sicilian, but the thin crust of most “traditional pizzas.” The flavor and texture are both spectacular; the crust and shape combination allows you to gain a good grip on your slice (what we in New York call “the fold”) and the cheese was its usual enjoyable self, but it was the sauce that was the real star here.

Now I am Italian, I love pasta, and I cannot tell you how many times I have had Penne alla Vodka; Vodka sauce is in my (proverbial) blood. It is with that background in mind that I say that I have never tasted a vodka sauce better than the one at Luca Bella; and it keeps me coming back for more as it is rich, creamy, and slathered all over the slice. It is literally a taste that, during consumption, you wish would never end.

So as usual, Luca Bella’s Vodka Sauce pizza gets my stamp of approval; and if you are in White Plains and yearn for something both delicious and different, well, you know where to go.

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PPT’s: Garlic Balls

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Today’s review is a little different as it will be my first ever review of a side dish; namely, Garlic Balls from Pizza, Pasta, and Things (which can be found in both Port Chester and West Harrison).

Now some of you may have immediately thought of Garlic Knots, and if so, you need to put that completely out of your mind; because Garlic Balls are a different, and more delicious animal than are Garlic Knots.

Part of what makes Garlic Balls so great is that they are a rare commodity; there are only three locations that you can acquire these treats, with two of them being in Westchester (Clino’s and Michelangelo’s). So without further ado:

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Full disclosure; you have not had a true pizza experience until you have had Garlic Balls with your pie/slice. So I know you are wondering how they taste, right?

The outside “skin” of the ball has a light crisp to it (you will hear a crunch of sorts when you bite in), but at the same time is soft, doughy, and lightly moist. There is a definite element of grease there, but it is in no way overwhelming; and the flavor combination is a complex and thoroughly enjoyable one. PPT’s combines their seasoning generously to bring about a taste that is garlicky, sweet, and even a bit buttery.

Garlic Balls are a rare treat that breaks away from the traditional Garlic Knot, and is a side that will always leave you wanting more (and that’s not a bad thing); so when you have a chance, treat yourself to a nice order of Garlic Balls down at Clino’s or Michelangelo’s Pizza, Pasta, and Things.

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Tarantella: Sicilian Slice

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There are certain key elements that go into making a good Sicilian style pizza; first the crust must be firm enough to hold its shape when picked up, but soft enough to give you a full, doughy bite (think of a pillow of dough, as opposed to a pillow of cheese).

Second, the sauce should be spread out evenly enough to lubricate your mouth with each bite; and finally the cheese must be melted in such a way that it stays on the pizza when you chow down.

I once visited a hole in the wall pizza shop (if you could even call it pizza) that served me the exact opposite of what I’ve described. The crust was too hard, the sauce was cold (after being heated up!), and the cheese was hard and slid off the slice after one bite. Last time I checked, this shop had closed down and Tarantella is still going strong; why? Because Tarantella knows how to make a proper Sicilian.

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Soft pillow of dough? Check. Melted cheese that actually stays on? Yep. Enough tomato sauce to compliment the other ingredients? You bet. This particular slice also had a nice crunch that started the closer you got to the crust. A crunch that was not the result of too hard a crust but rather just the right amount of time in the oven; and as usual, the the taste was just as good as the texture.

If you have never had a Sicilian before, you are missing out; this style takes the traditional taste of good pizza and applies it to a thicker canvas, putting a nice spin on an already great work of art; and quite simply, if you want to experience one of the best artists in the business, you must go to Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack.

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Tarantella: White Pizza

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Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack makes the best pizza I’ve ever tasted; I have had White Pizza from many different locations and while other vendors are really good (its New York after all), no one does it better than Tarantella.

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Tarantella’s White comes with a hot, thin crust; and while it is thin, it has enough of a body to it to provide a good crunch and chew with each bite. It is garnished very well (as you can see in the picture) and is layered with a soft, but thick cheese; the first thing that popped into my mind while eating it was that this slice had a “pillow of cheese” on it. The cheese was melted perfectly, it did not slide off the slice like some other cheeses would, and it also did not have the “puff of cheese” that many pizzerias tend to go with, as seen in the example below:

Picture courtesy of http://www.seriouseats.com

Now there is nothing “wrong” per se about a slice of pizza with a cheese “puff”, as they can be very tasty, but I have found that the best White Pizza, like Tarantella, avoids that method and instead gives you a straight forward White slice.

Trust me, if you like White Pizza and have the ability to get over to Nyack any time soon, do it; I have brought out of town family and friends there on multiple occasions, and hear nothing from them but rave reviews.

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Luca Bella: Big Mac Pizza

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New York is one of the pizza capitals of the world; you can get good pizza just about anywhere. But it is because of this plethora of good pizza that truly great pizza can often fall through the cracks and go unnoticed. All too often the best pizza shops do not get the business that they deserve, due to so much competition; which really is a shame. Luca Bella doesn’t deserve that fate.

Luca Bella makes great pizza.

Today we are focusing on their Big Mac pizza; they also make excellent Plain, Sicilian, Philly Cheese Steak, and Vodka Sauce slices among other things, so stay tuned for further reviews.

This is Luca Bella’s Big Mac:

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Looks amazing right? Having had this slice on many an occasion, I can tell you that Luca Bella has found a way to make their slice not only taste, but smell like you just ordered a signature burger from McDonalds; I’d argue it actually tastes and smells better than the real thing.

Their meat is fresher, their vegetables are crisper and more flavorful, and the sauce is on point and out of this world; but the key? Look at that crust, it is a perfect, crispy version of a hamburger bun. It is a great touch that adds the cherry on top to an already great concoction (did I just make a food analogy about food?).

Even my friend Eric who is one of the biggest food snobs I know and would never willingly go to McDonalds (childhood aside), was amazed at how authentic and spot on this slice of pizza truly was; a high compliment from him.

When it comes to taste and aesthetic quality, the Big Mac pizza from Luca Bella is easily a **** 1/2 star slice and is a must eat. So if you are ever in White Plains and fancy a different kind of pizza, pop in to Luca Bella at 206 Mamaroneck Ave., and you will not be disappointed.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com