The handsome beehive oven at American Flatbread, one of two
American Flatbread is a small but ambitious chain of pizza parlors that originated in New Hampshire Vermont. The chain recently opened a massive new pizza parlor at the corner of Hudson and Canal. As you wait for your pies, you can watch convoluted lines of cars entering the tunnel as they go back to Jersey. “What a beautiful view!” The waiter exclaimed, as the two of us stared out the window in near-disbelief, wondering at the chain’s choice of location.
Topped with candied pecans, the Spiced Pecan and Winter Vegetable Salad
The room is L-shaped and certainly holds over 100 diners. There’s a bar at one end, then a pair of wood-burning beehive ovens, which form the centerpiece of the décor. One is currently operating; the other appears to be still under construction.
Booths fan out from the ovens, then go around a corner into an alcove. There are lots of windows. At night, the room is dimly lit, mainly by street lights. The wine list seems sophisticated for a pizza parlor, and not all that badly priced. (Glass of decent Austrian Zweigelt: $9). The by-the-bottle list offers mainly New York, California, French, and Italian wines. The draft beer list features brews from New England.
The service is enthusiastic. “I feel like I’m in a Shakey’s,” my guest observed, noting the rather corporate-seeming trappings of the place.
The concept is Yankee/Hippie: locally sourced ingredients, including New England cheeses, free-range pork, organic onions, yeast-risen bread with wheat germ restored. An even clearer picture may be formed by reading the names of the pies: Medicine Wheel, Punctuated Equilibrium, TriBeCa Community Revolution Bread, Dancing Heart Bread.
Three salads are offered. We chose the winter vegetable number, which had beets, shaved fennel, “roasted local squash,” spiced pecans, and lettuce. The spiced pecans were a species of candy, the dressing on the sweet side, the beets relatively profuse, but the “roasted local squash” almost nonexistent. About 95% of the mass of the salad was lettuce of the infant variety. Not bad for $8.50, since it was shareable.
The Medicine Wheel seemed almost like an attempt to recreate Dom DeMarco’s pies (click on any pie to enlarge).
The Dancing Heart Bread sounds vaguely Native American, but it’s really a variation on Middle Eastern Za’atar bread.
Of the pizzas: The Medicine Wheel ($11/$15) seems like the most normal, with sauce, cheese, and herbs, mainly oregano. It was the one we liked best, though there wasn’t all that much mozzarella. The predominant cheeses on this baby were two forms of Grana Padano – one domestic, the other Italian. The name of the American one is Blyethdale Farm Cookeville Grana (misspelled on the menu). The creator of the Italian D.O.C. cheese is not identified. Rarely has such subtlety been displayed in a pizza parlor. The only reason I can think for using two granas is that the Italian one must certainly be cheaper.
The Dancing Heart Bread ($9/$13) uses the same crust as the pizzas to create a sort of bendable lavash. It has lots of sesame seeds and cracked black peppercorns, and the same mixture of granas.
Finally, I couldn’t help but order the most awful-sounding pizza: Mopsy’s Kalua Pork ($16/$21). Wasn’t Mopsy one of Peter Rabbit’s pals? Anyway, let’s reproduce the description of the pie in full: “House smoked free-range pork shoulder, house-made organic mango BBQ sauce, organic red onions, pineapple, VT Butter & Cheese Chevre, whole milk mozzarella, Blythdale Farm Cooksville Grana, Grana Padano, and fresh herbs.” The pineapple’s lack of pedigree made me suspicious, but you know, the pie wasn’t all that bad, and not as sweet as I expected.
The crust, though of irregular girth (the small one is about 10 inches), seemed almost like that of a regular neighborhood pie, only a little tougher. Then there’s the char from the wood-burning oven. Not a bad crust, but not one that you’d rave about either.
The name of the place, American Flatbread, seems a trifle jingoistic. Since pizza as we know it was invented in New York, it’s really not necessary for New Englanders to claim the distinction of inventing an American pie – especially when what their pizza resembles most is New York neighborhood pizza, but with more expensive ingredients.
American Flatbread Tribeca Hearth
205 Hudson Street
The quantity of pork on Mopsy’s Kalua Pork seemed a bit stingy.
A close-up of Mopsy’s pie