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Finely Tuned Pizza

June 17, 2019

One unexpected consequence of trying to sell the house is that we’re eating out a lot more.

In part, we don’t want to dirty the kitchen lest someone decides they want to come by for a showing. But there’s also an incredible amount of stuff to deal with. Amazingly, one of the kids finishes school this week, and I’ve got to drive down to Pennsylvania this weekend to bring him to summer camp. Don’t tell anyone, but my secret plan is to eat my way back home. We’ll see if I’m able to pull that off.

When time is tight, and deliciousness is a priority, pizza is often a good option. Mrs. Fussy almost never gets to go to Blaze, because one of the kids always votes it down. But this past weekend, the kids were off in Boston, so I offered to take a bullet and bring her to this fast, convenient chain, where one can get a surprisingly healthful pizza topped with all kinds of vegetables.

Except when we got there, the line was so freaking long and moving so slowly, we realized it would take at least 30 minutes to get our pie. Instead, she wanted to hop on over to Paesan’s for a slice. Marissa’s may be better, but it was also further away. Don’t forget, we were eating for convenience.

But every now and again, if you can take the time, it’s worth it to eat better pizza. Because this past weekend I also returned to Restaurant Navona, and I realized something incredible.

The last time I tried the wood fired pizza at corner of New Scotland Ave and Ontario Street was when it first opened. It was actually an outing with the All Over Albany pizza judging crew. And Jon in Albany was talking with chef Mike about all the steps he took in building the wood fired oven from the ground up. At that point, Jon’s own homemade wood fired pizza oven was merely in the planning stages.

Back then, I thought the pizza was quite good, but maybe a little bit underdone with a slight gumminess under the toppings. Most people wouldn’t notice. It was purely a pizza snob thing. Even at the time, it was already one of the best pizzas you could get in Albany.

Well, on Friday, my father-in-law was in town, and he loves pizza. So we took him to Restaurant Navona and we split the Cheese Puddle which now comes with house pulled mozzarella, caciocavallo cheese, roasted garlic & ricotta. And we also ordered a Pizza Navona which is tomato sauce, olive oil, house pulled mozzarella, and basil. Both were fantastic. Better than they had ever been. And I complimented Mike on getting these dialed-in.

As we were talking, I came tor realize that I hadn’t been in there in almost four years.

Four years! How did that happen? Where does the time go? A lot can happen in four years. Like getting a talented pizza chef to man the wood burning oven, so that Mike doesn’t have to cook all the pizzas. But you also learn a lot about the oven itself, and how it performs. As well as experience with your dough in changing conditions, which include the ambient temperature and humidity. Navona cares. So they notice. And they’ve learned. And it shows.

Personally, I’m still partial to the cheese puddle. Give me fat, and smoke, and gluten, and I’m a happy camper. The others preferred the restaurant’s namesake pizza. And I was into that one too. But I’m such a sucker for a crispy bottom crust, I’m almost always going to prefer a white pie that isn’t saddled with the moisture of sauce.

Now, some people might question whether or not a pie without tomato sauce is actually pizza. And that’s fair. But I’ll leave that conversation for the pizza forums. Right now, just listen to these words: if you haven’t been to Navona in a while, go.

The rest of Mike’s menu also looks quite good. If I lived in the neighborhood and I was able to pop in all the time, I might eventually get tired of his pizza and venture off into other foods. Maybe. I’m told man can’t live on pizza alone. However, I’m not entirely convinced that the person who said that ever gave it a solid effort.

Hey, if you want to discuss this further you can comment here, or you could meet up with me and some of the Yelp crew tonight at PŌST on Lark Street. Your call. But I hope to see you there. Cheers!

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 21, 2019 8:23 am

    Not to toot my own horn, but I’m going to toot my own horn.

    I’ve been preaching to anyone who will listen since January 2016, when Navona first opened the pizza there is special, and among the best in the region. And, I was the first one to do so. I’ve also been the only one I know of, that has steadfastly sung its praises for the past three and one-half years.

    Here’s the Yelp review I wrote way back then: https://bit.ly/2YcmUa8

    I feel vindicated.

    For those reading, and for the sake of repetition, because repetition helps cement the memory: The pizza at Restuarant Navona is among the best in the Capital Region.

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