Saturday, November 14, 2009

Art and Science and Pizza

Things are constantly changing in this city. It feels like more so than the rest of the world. There's always a new fashion, a new restaurant, a new Apple Store, a new cockroach tormenting my roomates.

The art and science worlds are two that never seem to stop evolving. Technology is constantly surpassing us to the point of where I truly believe we are now living in the future (I mean, we can talk to each other via video now!!!!)
I find it strange but somehow fitting that Fornino calls itself The Art and Science of Pizza. The Williamsburg spot was the hip wood-burning oven pizza joint in the city back when it opened in 2004. And although the restaurant world is now five years older, I don't think much has changed at Fornino.

First off the art: Exposed brick never goes out of fashion, but everything else seemed very 2004. The reviews and articles plastered on the wall are all circa three or four years ago. The music they played was enjoyable, but it was all a little out of date (Elliot Smith and The Shins are too passe for Williamsburg, but not for my Ipod). And the pizzas themselves were good looking, but they've been overshadowed by images of the new Neapolitan heavyweights - Kesté, Motorino, and Co.

The menu was divided into three different "generations": Naples, Italy, and Fornino. This seemed a little arrogant, but promising. I was tempted to order one of their fancy third generation pies with lots of truffles and this kind of cheese or that kind of mushroom, but I stuck to my guns and decided I needed to try one of their basic, first generation pizzas, the famous Mrgherita DOC. I hope they didn't think I was less evolved since I was only ordering a first generation pie.

The servers were what you'd expect from a Williamsburg spot. They were cute baby-faced cherubs with short, dark hair and an apathetic, but friendly demeanor. I had a hard time determining if they were guys or girls, but I was weirdly attracted to them regardless.

And now onto the science: I have never made my own pizza (although I'm thinking about it for Thanksgiving) but there are obviously scientific factors that go into making the perfect combination of cheese, tomato, and crust. And I think Fornino knows what those are, but I don't think they've consistently mastered them.

The first slice was quite slippery and I almost lost all my toppings. The tomato sauce was flavorful but rather wet and unven. The cheese was rich and chewy but a bit tough. I had to hold the cheese orb in place to prevent myself from eating the whole glob in one bite.

The basil was fresh and beautiful (grown in the chef's own garden) but I wish it had been shredded so I could have tasted it on every bite. The crust was thin and smokey, but a bit dark and dry in places.

I have a feeling Fornino shines in their "second and third generation" pies. Most of the favorable reviews mention their speciality toppings. So maybe the art here is a gussied up canvas and the science is a trick to making you think these are groundbreaking flavor combinations. We may have fell for that in 2004, but times have a-changed.

Is Fornino the best pizza in NY? My 5 out of 10 score says that this might have been interesting science and delicious art at one time, but just like everything else in New York, pizza has changed and there's always something new and better out there.

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