Montanara at Forcella in NYC.
Yes, you read that correctly. Fried pizza is real and it’s comin’ to getcha. Imagine a sweet, innocent pizza walking home one night only to be cornered in a dark alley by a dangerous deep fryer. Sounds terrifying, but the confrontation actually results in a flavor mashup the likes of which few tongues have ever tasted. It combines the danger of oil with the familiarity of typical pizza toppings. New York pizza is currently experiencing its first real dose of the deep fryer, but what exactly is it and where does it come from?
I became a big proponent of fryers when I bought one in college. We had parties on Friday nights in which friends would bring over anything they wanted to fry. Yes, we did call it FriedDay. People brought anything from chicken and fish to cookies and Hostess cupcakes. We formulated different batters for sweet and savory items and eventually bought a second fryer to accommodate both genre. Come to think of it, I don’t remember cooking anything else when I was in college - those fryers were pretty much it!
Suffice it to say, I was into frying almost as much as I was into pizza. So when my friend Jeff called me in 2003 to tell me there was a place doing deep-fried pizza in Brooklyn, I jumped on a train from New Jersey and met him at Chip Shop in Park Slope. What we got was a lackluster slice from the pizzeria across the street battered abused by the deep fryer. We could still taste the briny residue from the day’s orders of fish and chips. It was totally gross.
New York Post article about Forcell’s Montanara. The media loves it.
Luckily, the fried pizza hitting NYC today is a completely different animal. I remember hearing about it from Keste’s Roberto Caporuscio, but Giulio Adriani was the first to pull it off at his Williamsburg pizzeria Forcella. The process begins with a stretched piece of dough, opened in the same way a dough would be stretched for pizza. The one major difference is that the dough is punctured at several spots inside the outer rim. This “docking” process eliminates gas pockets that would normally expand when met with extreme heat. The dough is then placed into the deep fryer, where it puffs up and forms a bread bowl that is both light and crispy. After pulling the dough out and drying it for a few seconds, toppings are applied and the whole thing slides into the oven in a small metal dish so the oily dough doesn’t make contact with the brick hearth and send smoke throughout the space. After a quick dip into the oven, the cheese is melted and the sauce is cooked. The result is a complete departure from pizza baked solely inside an oven.