Giulio Adriani’s Forcella is undeniably hot right now. The big draw? Its ingenious montanara, a pizza that’s deep-fried and then baked in the restaurant’s 1,000-degree oven. Adriani honed his skills in Napoli, then made a name for himself at the West Village’s Olio Pizza e Piu before opening his current pizzeria in Williamsburg. Next on his list: opening a second Forcella on Bowery by the end of this month. The wiry pizzaiolo talks with us about the origins of the montanara, the deal with the new Bowery location, and why you should never eat your pizza with a fork.
First, let’s talk about the montanara. Where did it come from?
The montanara was something that was made in every apartment in Napoli. Originally pizza wasn’t made in the oven but fried, because in the 1800s and 1900s not everybody had an oven at home. In those days all of the bread was baked in communal ovens in the center of town.
The only way to make a pizza at home was to fry it. Basically, the original montanara was fried and then topped with tomato and Parmesan. In my house, my grandma would prepare the montanara for the whole family. She was making like 20 pizzas and putting them one over the other [in a tower of slices]. Why do this? Because then you’d get pizza covered with ingredients on the top and bottom. So I’m trying to reproduce that in the next restaurant as an appetizer.
The montanara that we serve now has an origin in Napoli, where they would deep-fry the dough and cook it in an electric oven. When you cook it in a wood-fired oven, it dries out a lot of the oil from the fryer, but the taste of the dough is that of fried dough. I try to make my dough so it comes out a little crispier than usual, because otherwise it comes out really chewy.
When do you think Forcella will get its license for wine and beer?
We’re going to have it soon, maybe one or two weeks. My primary business is pizza; alcohol, for me, is not a way to make money but a way to help people enjoy their experience more so they’ll come back more often. So I’m going to keep the price really low on the alcohol. In Manhattan, there are a lot of places where you have beer and wine and you end up spending $40. I come from a background where pizza is something for everybody, from the poor coming once a month to the rich coming once a day. So I don’t believe that price for a pizza, beer, and small appetizer should go over $30. I want to keep prices really, really low, like $4 for beer and around that for a glass wine. The wines will be Italian, and the list will change weekly, because I don’t want to be stuck with product. We’ll also have one Italian beer and one Brooklyn beer, both on tap.
How is the Forcella on Bowery going to compare to the one in Williamsburg?
Nothing will be different. It will be exactly the same, except that the space is going to be a little bit more open. It’s going to be a little more comfortable; to fit my concept of a pizzeria, you need to get the orders out fast, so with one oven you don’t want more than 74 seats. The space there is 2,500 square feet, so we had to reduce the space by bringing the kitchen up from the basement to the ground level. It’s a little more industrial-looking, but overall we wanted to keep it traditional Italian.
Any dishes you’re developing for the new location?
I’m working on creating some mozzarella drops that I will deep-fry. I’m also thinking of making a pizza for Halloween, maybe using butternut squash.
Settle this for all of the pizza lovers out there: Should you eat Neapolitan pizza with a knife and fork?
Americans think Italians eat their pizza with a fork and knife. That is a big mistake. The only difference between here and there is that in Italy we don’t like for the restaurant to cut the pizza into slices for us. So we cut the pizza into slices and then we pick up the slice and fold it and eat it. In Napoli, many of the pizzerias are on the street, so you find a pizzeria and get your slice through the window on a piece of paper.
Check back in tomorrow, when Adriani names his favorites pizzerias in New York, the secret to a great Margherita pizza, and why you can’t get good salami in this country.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2011