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A Perfect Tuscan Retreat - Review by Avery G | Pazzia Restaurant

Pazzia Restaurant

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A Perfect Tuscan Retreat 4/29/2006

There's certainly fancier places for Italian food in the city, but when it comes to the sort of everyday Italian that I had the pleasure to eat while living in Europe, you really can't beat Pazzia. From the moment you walk in, it feels like the sort of simple cafe you would find anywhere from Munich down to Firenze... and I've eaten at dozens of these places. Bruschetta, Pizza, Pasta and some simple secondi (roasted stuffed chicken breasts, mussels in broth, scallopine, etc...) is the name of the game. When you walk in, it's very simple - square tables in a mustard colored square room with only a Monet-esque mural of the Tuscan countryside. As you peek into the open kitchen, you see plates being assembled, pizzas coming out of the ovens and the telltale blue boxes of Barilla pasta. What? Barilla pasta like in the supermarket? It's a myth that most Italian restaurants make their own pasta. Even in Italy, most cafes and smaller family restaurants don't have the time, space or skill to be able to produce enough dry pasta to feed their customers, so they find a brand they like and use it and instead focus on the sauces, where the real skill is. No offense, but let's face it, dry pasta is water and wheat - it's easy to make a good dry pasta, but almost impossible to make a great dry pasta. Unless you're operating a restaurant known for making your own spaghetti and you're investing an extraordinary amount of cash to get the best pasta maker, equipment, water and flour, it's perfectly acceptable to use a higher grade commercial pasta (De Cecco and Barilla are most common). I've had Pazzia's simple cuisine twice. The first time, I brought home pizzas, and the fennel sausage was amazing. This time, I went with a Calzone Romana - a perfect dough brushed with olive oil and filled with fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto, eggs and parmasan cheese. As calzones go, this is one of the hardest ones to make, because the mushrooms and mozzarella will both give off copious amounts of liquid, making it a watery mess that spills out of the calzone shell once opened and makes the bottom of the crust turn into mush. Through a thorough understanding of the dough, the filling materials and the temperature of the ovens, the calzone ended up perfect - with a moist filling, crisp shell and fantastic flavor... and guess what? I cut it open and not a drop of liquid spilled out of the calzone. For me, this is the sort of comfortable, every day Italian food that I crave when I think back to Tuscany. more
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