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DINING: Patachou spins off pleasing pizzeria Napolese

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Dining - A&E

Since none of its initials stand for things one would find on a traditional pizzeria-style pizza, let’s break down the P, the F, and the G in the PFG at Napolese, (114 E. 49th St., 925-0765).

In reverse order, the G is for gorgonzola, a blue cheese more often paired with fruit than made part of a pizza. The F is for roasted fingerling potatoes, small spuds reacting flavorfully to the other simple ingredients and, in their haphazard scattering, reminding diners that these pies aren’t created by formula. The P is for the Italian bacon pancetta, included here in not-very-salty, crunchy crumbles that make you wonder why they aren’t a permanent part of the pizza-topping pantheon.
 

Pizza Artisan pizzas–including one with smoked salmon–form the core of the Napolese menu. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The initial not in the name, though, is C. That stands for crust, the heavenly base concocted for the PFG ($13) and the rest of the larger-than-personal/smaller-than-your-local-chain pies at Martha Hoover’s latest eatery. With a brick-oven crispness and the strength to hold its ingredients, the crust also features a light, pillowed rim. It’s equally effective containing the moist dilled crème fraiche on the Smoked Salmon variation and the more recognizable ingredients (but here, still tasting new) on the Buffalo Mozzarella version ($14 for either).

While creative in its combinations, Napolese allows room for varying degrees of experimentation. Feeling bold? You could try the Broken Yolk pie ($14) where you crack the quail eggs yourself. A little more conservative? Pick your own ingredients ($3 each) to add to the mozzarella and sauce topped House Pizza ($9). The management strongly recommends no more than three in order to let the crust properly bake.

The pies at Napolese are light on sauce, so forgiveness isn’t required for opening a meal with Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Sauce ($7). The slices of bread weren’t quite ideal for carrying the soupy mix, but the effort was worth it (and the bread replenished without our asking). I’d also have liked to have another size option besides the bowl for the Minestrone ($6), but that’s a minor issue.

We closed out with Gelato ($4 a scoop), made exclusively for Napolese by Zingerman’s in Michigan. I know that, by design, gelato isn’t as sweet as ice cream, but still, the Rocky Road ($4 a scoop) seemed to have lost some character on the long road here. On the other hand, our visit coincided with the inaugural appearance of the Torte De Nonna ($6), a deliciously subtle pine nut and pastry cream tart.

It all added up to a dinner worthy of its Patachou parentage and one that justifies the line you’ll likely find on 49th Street for months to come.•

—Lou Harry

__________

Second in our month-long series of visits to new Broad Ripple area dining spots.

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  • Overpriced and Underwhelming
    The product was disappointing and was inauthentic based on what I've had in Naples and Neapolitan-style restaurants in New York. The dough was too bready and bland (seemed to lack an extended fermentation) and was blond-colored and lacking wood-fired char on the upskirt (a term created by foodies and pizza connoisseurs). The toppings were just okay. I did not find it to be a good value for price.
  • Traditional?
    I assume you're referring to Domino's or what have you when you say "traditional." Pancetta, potatoes, and gorgonzola (part of a genuinely traditional quattro formmagio) are pretty standard ingredients on actual pizza. An egg is pretty common too. Napolese is good, very good, but you're misrepresenting it as some sort of creative crazy town of wacky pizza ingredients. It's not. This is what pizza is in the countries that invented it.

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