“This crust,” declared the Maestro, “is practically not there.”
We were sitting by the window at Coalfire, the latest eatery in our year-of-pizza adventures. Outside, the day had assumed the very first hint of late October chill. Golden leaves swirled on the sidewalk, stirred by a lackadaisical autumn breeze. Late afternoon sunlight slanted in through the window, striking the brick interior of the joint and giving it an even warmer glow than its beiges and browns typically would.
The Maestro was right about the very, very fine crust of our respective pizzas. He’d ordered something, as usual, with dead animal on it; upon looking up and down the menu, however, I had frowned, not quite sure what to get.
“I mean, I want a mushroom pizza,” I’d told our waitress, who was the kind of attractive that seems impossible to, you know, not mention in a blog entry, but who inhabited her attractiveness so effortlessly that it seems, like, overwrought to make too big a deal of it in said blog entry. “But it says here no substitutions, and your only mushroom pizza has, like, meat on it.”
She nodded glumly, patiently sympathizing with my plight. Across the table, the Maestro, who had made a declaration of his ravenous hunger the moment we sat down, impatiently tapped his foot.
“I suppose I’ll just get the margarita.” I was chagrined. I really wanted mushrooms.
“You could,” our server noted, fixing me with an inexplicably mischievous smile that made it impossible to not notice her dimples, “Add mushrooms to that margarita pizza.”
My eyes widened. “Yes. Yes, I could.”
“And,” she added, “it won’t take too long. Our pizzas cook in ninety seconds.”
The Maestro’s eyes widened. “Ninety seconds?” he asked.
She nodded. “It gets up to eight hundred degrees.” Both the Maestro and I craned our necks to see this oven back in the food prep area, the little boys in us suddenly both very impressed. The both of us were obviously both having the same thought: “I wonder what would happen to (various objects) when put into an eight hundred degree oven?”
I looked back at the Maestro as our server went back to put in our order. “She’s great,” I opined. The Maestro, not particularly known for being a ladies’ man, raised his eyebrow in assent as he sipped on his Sprite.
When our pizzas arrived, they were, as the Maestro declared while carving his first slice and sliding it onto his plate, thin layers of toppings practically floating atop crispy, almost cloud-like crusts. The crust sagged a bit, though I’ve come to kind of accept saggy crust as sort of the price of admission to Neapolitan-style pizza. The main thing about Coalfire pizza, for me, was the way the topping seemed to be measured out in very precise doses: not stingy, exactly, but my sense was that not a spoonful of sauce, not a ounce more of cheese was used in the creation of our pizzas than was strictly necessary.
Which made sense, really, in a restaurant where they take pride in knowing exactly how hot their oven gets, and exactly how long their pizzas take to cook. Everything about Coalfire is precise; uncluttered; classic, in its way. Coalfire deals in restrained accuracy, not excess. It is the George St. Pierre of pizza places.
“Do you ever, like, just throw stuff in the oven, just to see what will happen to it?” I asked our server as she returned with a second glass bottle of Diet Coke for me.
She nodded. “Leftover dough, sometimes.” She squinted a bit. “Though there’s not a lot of leftovers, usually.”
Of course there aren’t a lot of leftovers. Such would violate the precision-centered ethos of Coalfire.
Coalfire isn’t the kind of place you go when you’re in the mood to feed a bottomless pit. It’s not hangover pizza, nor is it fuck-the-diet-it’s-Friday-night pizza. It’s clean and precise– so much so that I’d recommend eating it bite by bite, paying attention to texture as much as taste.
“Eight hundred degrees,” the Maestro murmured as we left. “That’s, like, Death Star imploding temperature.”
“At least in the Special Editions,” I replied.