216 Sound Beach Ave., Old Greenwich, (203) 698-9300, renapoli.com
Bruno di Fabio had been making pizzas professionally for over 20 years when he decided there was a lot more to learn. Not that di Fabio didn't think he was good — he considered himself an expert in making New York-style pizza. But when he went to Italy to study under a grand master pizzaiola, he felt humbled. He started studying the science of pizza making. He got into ingredients. He traveled the world to see where those ingredients are grown and how they are processed.
Today, the full range of what di Fabio has mastered can be tasted at his new pizzeria RéNapoli in Old Greenwich. He makes three styles of pizza, New York, Roman and Napolitano. Each is made from a specific dough, using different flours and fermentation methods. Each crust has a distinct texture, thickness and flavor. The toppings, which are made with artisan products, are true to each style of pizza.
DiFabio, a five-time World Pizza Champion, owns eight pizzerias in Connecticut, New York and California. RéNapoli (which means King of Naples) is his only artisan pizzeria.
Mention Napoletana pizza and most foodies will utter the words "Caputo double zero" and "San Marzano tomatoes." "Buzz words," says DiFabio, explaining that double zero means it's a refined flour, sifted 5 times and that he uses refined flour "across the board on all my pizzas," no matter the type of dough.
Double zero Caputo flour is softer — less protein (less gluten). In Naples this soft flour is used because the dough ferments for hours, not days. It's mixed in the morning, and then is rounded and placed in wooden boxes. In the evening, each round, which has doubled in size, is flattened and stretched into round pizzas. DiBruno uses the same method, including the wooden boxes, and bakes the pizzas in a Cirigliano oven imported from Italy. Lined with brick, fired with oak and ash wood, the 900-degree oven cooks the pizzas in just 90 seconds, leaving the bottoms with distinctive speckled char known as "leoparding."
Yes, RéNapoli uses San Marzano tomatoes — which are deseeded before use — in a simple sauce flavored with salt and smashed garlic cloves (removed after they have "marinated" in the sauce). RéNapoli's menu features six red and six white Napoletano pies that variously offer mozzarella from the Bronx, imported buffalo mozzarella from Italy or aged mozzarella from Wisconsin.
The classic Margherita is bright tomato red with milky white ponds of mozzarella scattered with fresh basil. The cross-cultural "New Yorker" uses the Napolitano dough, topped with seasoned "NYC sauce," 60-day aged mozzarella, ricotta, pepperoni in natural casings, slices of homemade wood-fired meatballs and imported Sicilian oregano.
DiFabio ferments the dough 36 to 48 hours for the New York Style pizza. Most New York-style pizza dough is fermented from 24 or so. Longer fermentation results in more flavor and crisp crust. "But what a lot of people don't realize is it makes the dough more digestible," he says.
RéNapoli's "NYC Sauce" is made from tomatoes from Modesto, California. DiFabio visited the farm and the processing plant. "They pick and pack within hours," he said. These tomatoes are more expensive, yet DiFabio neither waters them down nor thickens them with tomato paste. The sauce is flavored with flat-leaf parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, sea salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil. The whole-milk mozzarella is made by Grande Cheese in Brownsville, Wisconsin. The round pies are baked in a gas-fired flat top brick oven at 500 degrees.
The Roman-style pizzas are thick and puffy, with big air bubbles and a crispy crust. The dough starts with a poolish — a wet mixture of flour, yeast and water that sits for 18 hours at room temperature. The poolish is then mixed with flour, salt and yeast and rises in the refrigerator for three days. The pizzas are baked in 24-by-12-inch pans with toppings divided into three sections of the pie. The "Tony G"'s first section is cherry tomatoes, black olives and mozzarella. Part two is soppresata, arugula and mozzarella. Part three is sweet fig preserve, prosciutto and balsamic glaze.
A refreshing accompaniment to any of the pizzas is the salad of sliced fennel, red onion and avocado dressed in a simple but bright lemon, olive oil and salt dressing. The restaurant also offers sandwiches, appetizers and pastas.
Because RéNapoli seats only 20 people, most of its business is take-out. I like my pizza fresh from the oven, and so I like to snag a seat. ReNapoli is BYOB, and open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. (DiFabio's other pizzerias are Amore Pizza in Scarsdale, NY; Pinocchio Pizza and Pasta in New Canaan and Wilton, CT and Pound Ridge, NY; and Marco Polo Pizza in New Haven.)