Italians are serious about their food, and pizza is no exception. In fact, the Verace Pizza Napoletana, an association dedicated to pizza in Naples, has rules defining what constitutes an authentic Neapolitan pizza. Examples of some basic requirements include the following (full rules here):
1. Pizza must be cooked on the floor of a wood burning stove
2. Pizza must contain the following ingredients: 00 flour, San Marzano (plum) tomatoes, all natural fior-di-latte or bufala mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and yeast.
3. Pizza must be hand knead (no rolling pins!) on a proper surface
4. Once formed, the pizza dough must be at most 35 cm in diameter and no more than 3 mm thick
5. Pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire
While in Georgetown, we stumbled upon Il Canale, a charming Italian restaurant slightly off the path that had just opened in February. The owner comes from a lineage of pizza makers in Italy that goes back to 1870. He even imported (from Italy) a real Neapolitan wood burning pizza oven. This mosaic speckled ceramic beauty stands prominently at the entrance as you first walk in.
Could it be true? Is there really a slice of Italy right in a hidden side street of Georgetown? We entered to find out.
We were a party of 6, and therefore had the opportunity to sample several different salads, appetizers, a pasta dish, and, of course, pizzas! Here's what we got.
Caesar Salad $7
hearts of romaine, with anchovy, peasant bread, parmesan shavings
baby wild arugula, imported cherry bufala mozzarella, tomato, carrot, mixed olives grilled zucchini, imported smoked bufala mozzarella in a honey mustard dressing
I absolutely LOVED this salad. The mix of the smoky mozzarella, peppery arugula, and slightly sweet dressing was perfect. Soon after I returned to Boston, I actually tried to recreate this salad at home!
Frittura Di Calamari E Zucchine $13
Melanzane Alla Parmigiana $12
layers of roasted baby eggplants, imported bufala ricotta cheese, and mozzarella with cherry tomato sauce and fresh basil.
Linguine Alle Vongole $16
baby clams, served in spicy olive oil, with roasted garlic and white wine
Bryan's dad got this dish and proclaimed that it was really good. I actually did not have a chance to try it.
Of course, we were all curious about the pizza. How much of a difference does that super hot wood-fired oven make? The underside of the pizza was reasonably charred, with good leopard spotting on the crust. The crust was very thin, seemingly within the 3mm limit.
tomato sauce, parmigiano shavings and imported bufala mozzarella
We ordered a mix of authentic pies (such as the Margherita) and also some more creative pies, such as the Amafiltana shown at the top of the post.
tomato sauce, imported bufala mozzarella, artichoke hearts, fresh mushrooms and ham
tomato sauce, imported bufala mozzarella, fresh basil
The food is definitely good here. We really could not complain about any of the dishes. The salads were fresh, crisp, and full of flavor. The pizzas had nice crusts and high quality ingredients. My favorite, the Amafiltana, had a beautiful mix of fresh arugula, smoked mozarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, and basil (see picture at top of post). Though strictly not an official Neapolitan pizza, I loved the mix of flavors in this pizza and I could not get enough of it!
I think the biggest turnoff of the meal was the super slooooooooow service. We waited well over an hour before getting our pizzas - totally unacceptable. We later heard that the restaurant was severely understaffed that day, so that definitely explains most of the problem. But really, they should not have opened up the entire dining room if they didn't have the staff to fill it. This restaurant is not small, with two floors plus an outdoor balcony. By opening up the entire place, they over-stressed the kitchen and the staff, which caused the unbearably slow service. Definitely a mistake that resulted in a lot of hungry and grumpy people (those often goes hand in hand!)
Nevertheless, despite the major inconvenience of having to wait so long for our food, I have to admit that when it finally came, we were all very pleased. This pizza maker definitely knows what he's doing and he's churning out some pretty tasty pizzas. In the end, I'm willing to show some mercy since I understand this is a pretty new restaurant, and it may not have worked out all the kinks yet.
All in all, Il Canale is a perfectly acceptable place to enjoy a nice, summer lunch. The weather happened to be fabulous this cherry blossom weekend, so we totally enjoyed soaking in the sun on their rooftop balcony while sipping on wine and nibbling at perfectly baked Neapolitan pies.
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