Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taste of the Mediterranean (Sea, that is)

When you think of pizza, generally the ingredients that come to mind are cheese, tomato, bread, basil, maybe pepperoni or sausage, mushrooms or anchovies, maybe even olives and garlic. Thanks to California Pizza Kitchen, pineapple and BBQ chicken aren't so far-fetched. But one ingredient that is often involved but not predominant is salt.

Well, the ideas change at Adrienne's Pizza Bar in the Financial District. Because the main flavor component of the pizza I tried at their hip restaurant was not cheese or tomato or basil even. No, it was sodium.

Adrienne's is found among the restaurants and bars on Stone Street, an almost secretive cobblestone street not far from Battery Park. I've been on this street before for the annual oyster festival and to eat at Ulysses Folk House. It's quaint and makes you feel completely removed from the city.

Adrienne's opened here about four years ago but somehow it still feels like they're getting their feet on the ground. The cocktail menu seems sort of up in the air and the service is tentative and a bit pushy. The logo features a line through the word "pizzabar". It almost looks crossed out. After some examination, we seem to think that it's an actual "bar" (or line) to represent the bar half of this new pizzabar idea. But it didn't make much sense and came across more as if the pizzabar hybrid wasn't a good idea after all and they decided to literally scratch the idea out all together.

But we surrendered to the pizzabar and ordered two glasses of mediocre Italian red wine and one old fashioned pie with pepperoni. Adrienne's only serves grandma-style pizza, which is basically thin crust square pies - influenced from the Sicilian style.

The pie was served in a pan and it looked pretty good. There were charred pieces of cheese in the corners and the pepperoni brought out some nice aromas.

As I mentioned before, the biggest problem with the pizza was the salt content. I felt as if I had accidentally swallowed a little bit of the ocean. Have you ever been in the ocean and a wave catches you off guard and before you know it your mouth is doing a saltwater dance? I think I may have accidentally ordered that here. I know Sicily is an island, but I'm pretty sure they keep their pizza away from the seawater.

The pepperoni pieces were charred and tasty but the natural salt content of the cured pork just made this salt party even more intense. Every once in a while I would get a welcome burst of oregano that would relieve my taste buds from the saltinity. The cheese and tomato sauce were both fine, but contributed to the salt overload. There was no escaping.

The one redeeming quality here (besides for the tasty pepperoni) was the crust. It was served in a pan and was slightly burnt at the edges, which resulted in some nice crispy cheese and crunchy dough.

The experience reminded me of a pizza party. I can see my younger self in a roller skating rink or a bowling alley or a friend's house eating way too many square slices of this crispy crunchy pizza. It's fun and tasty to chomp down on, but even my 11 year old self would probably be complaining about the salt.

Is Adrienne's Pizzabar the best pizza in NY? I want to taste cheese and tomato and salt should only help bring those flavors out, not overwhelm them. There were a few things about this that were tasty, but the overseasoning causes my 5 out of 10 rating.

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