L'ASSO,IN THE HEART OF LITTLE ITALY vs
VILLA ITALIAN SPECIALTIES,IN THE HEART OF EAST HAMPTON
THEY BOTH USE THE SAME CRUST, A PREPARED ONE PRODUCED BY STILL RIDING,
YET THE TWO PIZZAS THEY BAKE COULD NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT.
EVEN BOBBY FLAY WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PREDICT THE WINNER!
The Still Riding crust used on each of these pizzas is oddly reminiscent of the Bisquick pizza my mom tried once, to the dismay of her family. Those of us who make or are planning to make gluten free pizza crusts of our own might learn from how these pros managed to overcome the shortcomings of the crust, or didn't. I will say one thing about Still Riding which is important to vegetarians. Gelatin, an animal product unless otherwise described, is often used in gluten free pizza crusts, and the Still Riding website does not list it among the ingredients of this crust.
The pie above was served with a lovely salad (see the slide show). It is clearly made with quality ingredients. Fresh mozzarella. Fresh basil. The last-minute sprinkle of oregano over the sauce (and a great sauce it was)--this pie is stylin'! But just when the crust needed some serious help, it was abandoned. Somewhat underdone, pale, dry. A bad dress, beautifully accessorized.
At Villa, in East Hampton,I think the mushrooms were canned. If they weren't, then they sure tasted canned. The sauce was fine, nicely acidic (not a fan of sweet sauce, here). The cheese seemed to be that nondenominational pizza cheese, kinda mozzarella, kinda not. No fresh basil or gentle sprinkle of oregano. The crust: still not that chewy, oily, glutenous crust of my Bronx childhood, the kind that resulted in oily elbows never helped by the three tiny napkins provided, but some effort was made here. Or maybe it was just habit, or good training. This crust was tended to, babied, even. It was oiled, and, importantly, left to bake long enough. And on second thought, scratch my negative comments re the cheese. True, there was no fresh taste to speak of, but when it melted, it added oil to the sauce and ultimately to the crust. Remove the mushrooms, and readers, you have the winner.
I wonder, would Bobby Flay, king of culinary throwdowns be able to guess which establishment created which pie? Could you? Let's see...the fresh cheese? The chefly touch of fresh basil? The last minute thoughtfulness of oregano? Sounds pretty fancy, definitely the high-priced spread.
Or might the winner be the pizza resulting from a nothing-special, somewhat slapdash approach that miraculously produced the best taste and definitely the best crust? Yes. And therefore, the champ is: Villa Italian! So drop your prejudices about the overpriced froufrou food of the Hamptons, and head for Villa Italian Specialties for down home Italian Specialties, even if you're gluten free and vegetarian.
I won't dismiss L'Asso, though. They just need to bring the crust up to the level of those other top-notch ingredients! As for Still Riding? It's gluten free, it's vegetarian, so I'm grateful, if not 100% enthusiastic.