The Early Word--Anselmo's Coal Oven Pizza in Red Hook
Red Hook's Anselmo's Coal Oven Pizzeria officially opened last Friday, and being on the pizza beat this week, I stopped by today to check it out. New coal-burning ovens are not allowed in New York for environmental reasons, but coal ovens that existed before the regulations took effect are grandfathered in. Anselmo's website says that the owners of the building were originally going to turn the place into a bakery, but when they discovered that they were in possession of a coal oven, they decided to renovate the place into a pizza joint. A coal fire burns at 1000 degrees or more, imparting char and a smoky flavor that can make wonderful pizza.
Pizza maker Anselmo Garcia has worked at several bakeries and restaurants in the tri-state area; this afternoon, he was at his post at the brick oven, stretching dough, monitoring pies as they cooked, and chatting with customers. A pile of white-hot, ashed-over coals was visible through the door to the oven.
There are two main options on the menu: Niapolitania pizza [sic] or pizza bianco. The former is shown above: a simple margherita-style pizza composed of tomato sauce, fresh mozzerella and basil. The pizza bianco is simply dressed with olive oil and salt. Either kind of pizza can be had as is (10-inch $6, 14-inch $14) or with added toppings like basil pesto, roasted peppers, wild mushrooms, onions, pepperoni, and so on ($1.75 each).
I thought the tomato sauce was fantastic: vibrant and fresh-tasting, but also with an umami-like depth that some sauces lack. It's also nice that the basil was cut into a chiffonade, so that it could be distributed more equally around the pie. The crust had a nice dapple of char, and was crisp-sturdy--no tip dip in evidence (tip dip doesn't bother me, but some people don't like it). My only complaint is that the crust was a bit dense: no puff or bubbles anywhere, making it a little tough.
Still, a very tasty pizza, at a very fair price. And these are early days--surely Anselmo will only get better at wrangling his dough and his oven.
Anselmo's Pizzeria 354 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn 718-313-0169 Daily: 11am-11pm Cash only/BYOB
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