Does New Canaan need yet another pizza place? Hell, yeah! Especially if the dynamic team, behind Village Social in Mt Kisco, of Chef Mogan Anthony (a competitor on Chopped) and co-owners/cousins Anthony Legato and Joe Bueti are behind the venture. Locali Pizza Bar and Kitchen is due to open its doors very soon… and here, you will find Neapolitan pizza that is as authentic as it gets.
With Locali, the idea is to go back to basics. Making pizza like it used to be made. Using seasonal ingredients and local toppings. A simple small menu which will keep focus on freshness and flavor.
Other items on the menu will be some small plates with hand cut pasta dishes, some mediterranean dishes, vegetable dishes, salads, and a couple of simple desserts. And they all hold a promise of deliciousness. Like the butternut squash dish that I got to taste. It had a delicate cheese sauce, nuts, lavender and a wisp of Indian spice blend – enough to surprise but not overwhelm you…. yet all the while making you wonder what is in it! In this dish I got a taste of local and seasonal bounty (squash) with a hint of France (lavender) and dash of India (spice blend) all rolled into one bite!
As for the pizza, Chef Mogan puts all the ingredients on the pie, at the same time, in a 700-800 degree oven, for just a short 1-2 minutes! Toppings will be simple yet creative, like the perfectly cooked, super tasty, mozzarella, brussel sprouts, pecorino cheese & pancetta pizza I tried.
Chef Mogan was born in Malaysia, trained in french restaurant, and is now cooking in an Italian restaurant. The fusion of all these cultures and how they compliment each other is going to be the essence of the menu at Locali. Chef Mogan loves to play with textures and flavors. And he loves the role of acid in a dish. He is my kind of chef.
I asked Anthony (owner), “what makes a good pizza”. “Pizza is a very simple meal”, Anthony told me. When you do a simple pie very well, using the best ingredients and authentic techniques – what you will get is a perfect balance of flavors….. “the perfect pie”! According to Anthony, “when the dough is at a high standard- you don’t need a lot of toppings and garnishes. If someone is putting too much on the pie – they are hiding something.” Hmm…
He said, in Italy, one of his favorite pizzerias offers only two pies: marinara (just sauce and dough) and margarita (just sauce, dough and mozzarella). Naturally the quality, freshness and flavor of those ingredients matter. And so, Anthony wants his margarita pizza to be his best pizza.
Anthony has been researching dough for years. For his research he went back to his roots and how his parents used to do it. The dough has to be chewy, airy, crusty, crispy, and it should have body. Yet, one should be able to eat a whole pie without feeling too full.
Anthony’s mom and dad are from Calabria, Italy. His mom’s family were bread makers. Every morning they would make 300 lbs. of dough by hand. When his mom came to USA, she opened up her own bakery. Ever since his childhood years, Anthony has watched his family make bread and break bread. The smell of bread dough brings back great memories for him. Every sunday his mom would make 30-40 loaves of bread for the family and close relatives. According to Anthony, “pizza is a simple way that a family gets together….. if its done well”.
Living in America, I wonder how many of us really know what a good, authentic pizza should be like. And while we are at it, what exactly is Neapolitan pizza? Neapolitan pizza dough, Anthony explains, should have leopard spotting and air pockets which are an indication that its a very well fermented dough. Puffy crust means dough is light and very airy. The time the dough takes to rise can vary from day to day depending on room temperature, weather and other conditions. If it takes time, it takes time. Unlike most other restaurants, there will be no artificial tricks used at Localli, to ferment the dough faster and more efficiently.
“There is a lot of love in our dough”, says Anthony. He recalls how his mother would cover the dough with a blanket, not because it would otherwise dry out- but to save it from “noise”! Sometimes she would even lock the kitchen door, so no one would “scare” the dough while it rises. Love. Tradition. Perfection.
Anthony likes a slight yeasty flavor and a little salty taste in his dough. I felt that it may be a little bit of adjustment for the American palate – specially the saltiness – but keep in mind that what you will be getting at Locali is the real thing.
Now I must tell you all about the oven at Locali: It is a wood burning, brick oven made by Stefano Ferrara in Naples. It is hand built Neapolitan oven. It is approximately 7’ X 7’ X 8’ feet in size and it weighs 13,000 lbs. Brick, cement, and all other materials were shipped from Naples. This oven can cook at 700-800 degrees of temperature. It is going to be the star at Locali. It was so sweet to note that Anthony had his dad’s name engraved on the oven – keeping the legacy alive.
I anxiously wait for the grand opening. and I will be sure to check out the oven when I visit Locali.