Bonkers For Bonci
Mary Ann Fitzmorris August 14, 2019 05:00 Anxiously Awaited
Here’s the truth: I am an emotional eater. I’m not even sure really what that means, but it is fair to say, I think, that all kinds of things contribute to a dining experience, well more than just the palate.
This is the thought that I had driving away from the new Bonci Pizzeria in the Warehouse District. It is the second American outpost of this Roman pizzeria, and we are flattered to have it.
I love pizza in Rome. Is it Rome? Or the pizza? Pizza in Italy is usually sold out of a walk-up, sometimes just a window, where seemingly endless varieties lie side by side. These are not circular as they are here, but rectangular slabs of pizza about two feet long and eight inches wide. It is served al taglio, literal translation: by the cut. You wait in line, (there is always one), and order a slice that you eyeball and communicate to the server. In Rome, they have a giant pizza cutter or mezzaluna, the large two-handle convex knife, and they whack off the chunk you requested, weigh it by the kilo, wrap it in thin brown waxed paper, and off you go.
I have two favorite places in Rome for pizza. One is literally a hole in the wall outside the Metro station in Piazza di Spagna, or Spanish Steps. The other is Forno, in the corner of the Campo di Fiori. Was it this remembrance that I pictured when I tasted the pizza from Bonci?
This Bonci pizza would have to stand on its own, because today’s experience could not be farther from the romance of those memories. The building where Bonci occupies a tiny space is still under construction, and it is barely noticeable under the construction equipment. I pulled up behind an enormous truck where workmen loaded their equipment for the weekend.
Inside, the space is small but big enough for the business to be conducted here. It is spartan but chic, and there is enough room for people to relax with friends or pick up a half-pound of pizza (no kilos, though all the recipe ingredients are metric.) Either by take-away, as it is called in Europe, or eat in, it is to be enjoyed.
And it is most enjoyable. I expected the kind of good but not great pizza like you get at Eataly. But this was quite exceptional. I got a tiny slice of sausage and leeks, then I saw Calabrese and red pepper and got some of that. Until I noticed a meatball pizza with little crumbly meatballs. Of course I needed some of that too. And finally four cheese and sausage. I got some of that, totaling a pound. This was not cheap pizza. The bill was $17. Each variety averaged $13-19/lb.
I got mine heated in the Italian ovens. It is not a brick oven, but rather the Italian version of regular pizza ovens. And the girl sliced it into two-inch squares, while I discussed what a suppli is with the other girl. It sounds a lot like arancini, but it can also be made with spaghetti. I’ll have to try that next time.
Driving away, I took the first bite of the sausage and leeks. The crust was crunchy and chewy, and the flavor exploded in my mouth. I tried the meatball; even better. The Calabrese. Fantastic. It was all so good I couldn’t decide which I preferred. I had to make myself stop eating this delectable pizza.
I wondered why the dough was so perfect, until I remembered reading that it was semolina, or is it durum wheat? It comes from Italy. And that’s what makes it special. And better for you. Not American processed. It is a proprietary blend of 100% heirloom wheat stone ground. It rises up to three days.
No, this was really delicious pizza. Different from everything else. And it had nothing at all to do with the context.
726 Julia St New Orleans
Friday & Saturday 9am-11pm