Went to try Village Pizzeria in Larchmont Village last night, after many months of reading about it on here. I went with high expectations that this was among the best simulations of New York- or New Jersey-style pizza in our city.
I'll describe up front the yardstick I use: the pizza I ate growing up in central NJ, which is very similar to the classic NYC type. The edge should puff a little and be slightly charred. The crust underneath should be browned, and dusted with either fine cornmeal or semolina flour. The dough should be very toothsome, almost like a bagel, not bready or crackery. It should be thin enough to fold along the radius, and when I do this, red oil should drip out the pointed end. The sauce should be primarily uncooked tomato puree, slightly tangy and bright. There shouldn't be any pronounced flavor of garlic. The mozerella and sauce, when they cook, should muddle together. There shouldn't be anything added to the top of the pizza before it's baked except oregano. I shouldn't have to put parmesan or pepper on it to make it taste good. It should be edible cold and it should taste good when reheated. I "test" pizzerias based on their standard plain-cheese thin-crust pizza before I go back to try one with toppings.
I have been to places in California (though not in Los Angeles) that have gotten it just right, so I feel confident I'm not striving against an impossible ideal.
So how did Village Pizzeria do? Well, not so well. The underside (no cornmeal) was thin enough for folding, and the crust was tasty. I thought it was a little underdone, and that's probably fixable by asking them to leave it in a little longer next time. The edge didn't puff enough for my taste, but it wasn't inedible.
The topping was a little more problematic. There seemed to be either too much cheese, or not enough sauce, and there wasn't much mingling of sauce and cheese as a result, almost just a plain white layer with a few brown spots here and here. There was no oregano baked on, but there was a shaker of that on the table, which helped a tiny bit. I sort of felt like I was drowning in melted cheese, rather than eating a balanced ensemble of crust, sauce and cheese. What sauce was detectable tasted okay.
I'm eating the leftover slices now, reheated, and they taste more like grilled cheese sandwich than like "pizza." Not good.
I think it would be pretty good pizza if they backed off on the cheese a little and upped the sauce, put oregano on it before baking, maybe a little olive oil too, and left it in the oven another five minutes. The menu suggests that they're accommodating of special requests, but that's a whole bunch of little things, and it might be easier to go someplace else that does those by default.
The service was pretty good, although the restaurant was at capacity (we took the last free table when we walked in). The pizza came out reasonably fast, I thought.
All in all, it wasn't bad. The first two slices made me pretty happy. Might be worth trying to go back to see how wide the variance in pizza construction swings. But for now, Pizza Buona (Echo Park) stays at the top of my list for places that come closest to hitting the pizza ideal I described above.
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