Back in March, I stumbled on a Syracuse-based news article that profiled one of the owners of Dinosaur BBQ. The article focused on the new pizza place they were opening directly across the street from the original Dinosaur location; Apizza Regionale.
According to the article, they’re cooking the pizzas in a wood-fired oven imported from Naples. They claim to have cooked one thousand test pizzas before opening. They’re going for Neapolitan style pizza, made with ingredients sourced from New York State producers. The flour for the dough, for example, comes from a mill in Ithica.
I ‘m a sucker for Neapolitan style pizza, and it made for a great excuse to make a day trip out to Syracuse to try the pizza, and visit a couple of other iconic places since I’d be out that way. Wegman’s immediately came to mind as a must stop. And since I’d be passing through Utica, I thought it’d also be cool make a detour there and have chicken riggies and Utica greens for lunch.
Things didn’t quite work out as I had envisioned. It’s a day I won’t soon forget.
I found a Utica restaurant that has a riggies and greens lunch special. The Yelp reviews I read all raved about how good it was. Perfect! Only I got a late start from Albany and didn’t get into Utica until after 2. The restaurant’s lunch service ends at 2. Dammit. I missed it. So I ended up at the bar across the street, where I ordered a beer and an average, but still tasty, Reuben. There were a couple of regulars at the bar, we started talking, and they asked me to play pool with them. I ended up hanging out at the bar, in the middle of the afternoon, playing pool and shooting the breeze with a couple of local bar flies for a couple of hours. Not what I had planned at all, but it was fun.
I think by the time I arrived at Apizza Regionale, it was close to 6. Usually, I would plant my butt at the counter smack dab in front of the oven and watch them make the pizzas. But it was a beautiful evening, so I seated myself on one of the four small picnic tables outside in a small patio area, with my back to the restaurant, facing the street.
I think Apizza Regionale had been open for about five weeks at this point, and my waiter asked me if I’d been before, and how I heard about the joint.
So here’s the thing. When I do these excursions, I do them, in large part, to generate content for the blog. But I never disclose that fact to the staff. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything. But what I don’t want is to be treated differently. I want a typical experience that an average customer would have. I fear that if I let them know I have a food blog, that they’ll take extra care with me, and I don’t want that.
Back to my waiter. I made the mistake of telling him I drove from Albany to try the pizza. When he asked why I said as a pizza fanatic, I enjoy taking day trips to experience some of the better pizza in the region (this is all true of course).
This must’ve set off alarm bells in his head. Shortly after he left the table, another gentleman came over to me and started chatting with me. I knew something was up. He introduced himself as the manager and one of the owners. I took advantage (as I always do) to pepper him with questions, mostly about the pizza. He said to me “I feel like I’m talking to a reporter.”
I realized he thinks I’m a reviewer for some publication, and that’s when things got weird.
His statement unnerved me. A lot. That’s never happened to me before. It made me very nervous. It was the way he spoke with me. I could sense that he looked at me as some kind of bad guy. Like I was there to disparage his restaurant. He was cordial to me, but his tone was suspicious, and it made me feel unwelcomed. Needless to say, I was being watched, which also had the effect of making me self-conscience. It made the experience much less enjoyable.
Ok, enough about me. How’s the pizza?
It’s not really a Neapolitan style pizza, though, it’s much closer to NY style. To their credit, I can’t find any reference to Neapolitan style pizza on the menu or the website. I’m willing to bet they were shooting for Neapolitan style initially, but after development and testing realized they were closer to an NY pie, and stopped referring to it as Neapolitan.
I ordered the Calabrian. Tomato sauce, soppressata, caciocavallo, fresh oregano, clabrian chili, local honey.
I was really excited about this toppings combo because it hits on a lot of flavor profiles. Salty, spicy, sweet, herby, meaty. The flavors weren’t balanced, though, and the pizza was overwhelmingly salty. It wasn’t nearly as spicy as I had hoped, and while it was slightly sweet, I couldn’t taste the honey. I also couldn’t taste the sparingly applied fresh oregano. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t tasty.
The crust is solid. In the NY style, it’s a touch dense and chewy, like good Italian bread, and it was very browned with enough char to add some needed bitterness.
Overall, the pizza is very good, especially considering it’s their first attempt at a pizzeria. These guys have done their homework. Perhaps they’ll expand, and just as they did with Dinosaur, open an Apizza Regionale in the Albany area.