What can pizza be? ReNapoli in Old Greenwich answers with one kitchen, two ovens, and three distinct pizza styles. Dining at ReNapoli isn’t just a meal, it's the equivalent of a three-credit course in pizza.
Owner and pizzaoilo Bruno DiFabio has been making pizza for thirty years. A fact made more interesting when you consider he is only 42. A first generation Italian American, DiFabio was already working the lead sauté station at age 16 in his grandfather's restaurant kitchen. Fast forward a few decades, several restaurants, five World Pizza Championship titles and stints at the famed ovens of Spacca Napoli, Da Michele and Trianon in Naples, and you have the genesis of ReNapoli.
In order to appreciate ReNapoli's pies, it helps to understand the ingredients, methods and care that go into creating each of the three styles of pizza. With Bruno DiFabio as my expert guide and several appetites at my side, I've outlined my version of Cliff Notes for ReNapoli.
NEW YORK PIES
Oven: 500˚ gas-fired flat top brick oven (Baker's Pride)
Dough: All Trumps Flour, yeast, water
Fermentation: “Biga” method: an 18 year old starter and a two-day cold-rise fermentation
Sauce: Whole peeled tomatoes (Modesto, California), flat leaf parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, peco-romano, sea salt, ground pepper, evoo, 24 hour marinade
Cheese: Grande whole milk mozzarella (Brownsville, Wisconsin)
The New York style is marked by a well-seasoned sauce and a thin and flavorful crust. At ReNapoli, these pies are anchored with pecorino romano cheese (heavy on the cheese!), crushed robust tomatoes, and a penchant for herbs including fresh garlic, basil and parsley. A high gluten flour and a two-step Biga fermentation yields a much more flavorful dough than a Napoletana.
There are about six types of New York-style pieu on the meny named from various neighborhoods and boroughs of Manhattan including a Flat Iron, West Village, Bronx and NOLITA. These pizzas are sold by the (gigantic) slice at ReNapoli as well as whole pies, and are ideal if you're stopping in for a quick lunch or if you have to squash that New York-style pizza urge without the train ride.
Oven: 900˚ Wood Fired Cirigliano Oven
Dough: Caputo 00 flour, fresh beer yeast, Trapani sea salt.
Fermentation: 8 hour wood box fermentation at room temperature
Sauce: San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. (destemmed and deseeded), Trapani sea salt, smashed
garlic cloves (removed after 24 hours), Frantoio cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil
Cheese: Fior di Latte Mozzarella (Bronx, New York), Bufala Mozzarella (Campania, Italy),
60 day aged Mozzarella (Brownsville, Wisconsin), Burrata (Puglia, Italy), Caciocavallo (Abruzzo, Italy), Piave (Belluno, Italy)
The Margherita–a combination of San Marzanos, fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil–is one of DiFabio’s World Cup Award Winners. In other words, start here if you're going Napoletana. The ReNapoli take on this pizza begins with a dough that is made and used in the same day. A combination of Caputo 00 flour, water, yeast and Trapani sea salt, it undergoes a relatively quick eight hour fermentation in wood boxes. A 900˚ Cirigliano wood burning oven gives this style its signature char, and is finished with the simplest sauce and whole milk curds. Compared with the longer fermentation and aged cheese of the New York style, the Napoletana is the freshest composition and one that ReNapoli executes to near perfection, thanks to DiFabio's stints in several hallowed pizza parlors of Naples.
The Napoletana menu is two sections – for white or red. Start simple with a Marghertia or an Original Tomato Pie. But linger long enough to try the DiFabio's award-winning and self-titled ReNapoli. A combination of zucchini, pancetta, parmigiano, fior di latte mozzarella, halved cherry tomatoes, fava bean puree and burrata netted a "Best in U.S." at the 2010 Pizza World Championships.
Oven: 650˚ Gas Fired Flat Top Brick Oven [Bakers Pride]
Dough: Blend of All Trumps, and 5 Stagioni Red (Padova, Italy) flours,
Fermentation: “Poolish” method, 72 hour fermentation
Sauce: San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. (Destemmed and deseeded), Trapani sea salt, smashed garlic cloves (removed after 24 hour marinade), Frantoio cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil
Sometimes referred to as pizza rustica, Pizza Romanas at ReNapoli are 12 x 24 inch behemoths. Baked in a teglia pan inside a gas oven, the Romanas boast three distinct sections that are meant to be enjoyed as a complete meal. Most often beginning with a vegetable section, then a savory or meat and ending with a sweet, these pizzas are native to central Italy and are often associated with Campagnia or Lazio.
The obvious physicality of these pies belie a complexity and delicacy of flavor in its crust. A longer fermentation allows the dough to gas, leaving it with dense air pockets yielding a lofty pie that is both light and chewy. At ReNapoli, you’ll find three Romana pies, each with three sections and each named after a pizzaoilo: the Tony G., the Benici, and the Ferlito. If you had to choose one meal to eat for the rest of your life, it may just be the Tony G. The first part is an amuse bouch of vegetables and herbs, including cherry tomatoes, black olives, basil and garlic with mozzarella cheese. The second part is a combination of soppressata, arugula and parmigiano and mozzarella cheese. And the third and most mind-numbing section (pictured above), is the sweet fig preseve, prosciutto with gorgonzola with a balsamic glaze. The combination of a 72-hour delayed fermentation and an expert hand with ingredients and balance of flavors yields an impossibly well-balanced pizza.
The attention to method in the execution of each style of pie is clear. "Respect time and temperature," as DiFabio says (pictured above). But equally important to method, is a dedication to provenance and thus ingredients. A pivotal moment in his career came about seven years ago when he decide to trace the roots of his raw materials. For a pizzaiolo that means seeking out the tomato vines, meeting dairy farmers and scouting flour mills. Visits to the Agugiaro Family flour mill in Padova Italy, the Cortopassi Family cannery in Modesto Ca, independent artisinal cheese making families in Campania italy, as well as Brownsville Wisconsin and Belmont section of the Bronx, elevated his attention and appreciation for the quality of his ingredients.
With this devout understanding of pizza, I feel more inclined to refer to Bruno DiFabio as Professor rather than Chef or Owner. Listening to him animatedly discuss pizza, you get the sense that the man has clearly tapped into his calling. His passion for his chosen vocation matches his sprawling pizza kingdom, with pizza parlors across Fairfield County and Westchester (Pinocchio in New Canaan, Wilton and Pound Ridge; Amore Pizza in Scarsdale) and a handful of spots in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
And as it turns out, you can call him professor. He is also a the co-founder and instructor at the International School of Pizza in San Francisco. Thanks ReNapoli, going to class never tasted so good.
ReNapoli Pizzeria & Chicago Italian Beef (yes, the beef sandwiches dredged in jus are a worthy foil of any pie) is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. ReNapoli is located at 16 Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich, CT. Information at www.renapoli.com or call 203.698.9300.