Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pizza Brutta is...uh...very good-ah!

What? It rhymes!

Anyway, last night me and my fella headed over to this new restaurant over on Monroe Street to find out whether their "Neapolitan Style Pizza" was up to snuff. See, we're like, experts on the subject now and highly qualified to judge. Ahem.

A friend of mine had recently recommended Pizza Brutta to me, mentioning that they had a wood-fired oven and used lots of organic ingredients. Sounded good to me. I love thin crust pizza, especially when it's cooked in a wood-fired oven. The deep dish, Chicago-style stuff has never appealed to me, but unfortunately, here in Madison, it's much easier to find thick than thin. So it was with great relief that I left Pizza Brutta last night with one more place in town to get great thin crust pizza.

We walked into a warm, inviting space where, just behind the main counter, the oven and its low, hot embers could be seen. A friendly guy, presumably the owner and/or main chef, greeted us with a smile. Being snobby traditionalists, we both ordered a margherita pizza (I complimented mine with a Spotted Cow, which, along with the Capital Maibock and something else I can't remember, they had on tap) and then went to find our seats and wait for the food to be brought out.

I'm told that cooking pizza in a wood-fired oven, when done properly, only takes a few minutes. The speedy delivery of our pies suggested that Pizza Brutta knew this, too.

The pies looked great: thin, lightly charred crust topped with a tasty tomato sauce, melted fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and a sprinkling of oil. The crust was a bit crispier than the stuff we'd had in Naples, but still delicious. In fact, the whole thing was really, really good and I finished it off without much trouble. Pro tip: the slices are so thin that I found it easier to eat them folded, but that's half the fun!

During our meal, we overheard the main guy talking to a table of people nearby, asking them what they thought of the gelato. Our ears perked up immediately. In addition to a love of thin crust pizza, we'd also picked up an addiction to gelato during our travels abroad. Ever since, we've been hunting out places in the area where one can get the tasty cold treat, so far sampling the goods at both Java Cat (our favorite) and Paciugo. We were excited to hear that there was yet another location in town where we could sate our addiction.

There were only three flavors available that night: chocolate, pistachio and lemon-basil. Intrigued and slightly confused, we inquired about the lemon-basil. He told us that they were actually out of lemon that day and so the gelato was only basil flavored, which only served to confuse us more. Basil flavored gelato? How could that be good? But he insisted we try some. Hesitantly, we both took a bite of the stuff. I braced for an overly herbal flavor wave, but actually found it to be quite pleasant. Not at all ordinary. Still, it struck me that it would be best with the lemon compliment, and so we both decided to go with the more traditional chocolate.

The chocolate gelato was wonderfully flavorful without being too rich. Owner/chef guy asked us what we thought of it, and we both agreed that it was very good, if just a tad bit grainy. He admitted that their machines for making it were a bit small, making it harder to get it to freeze fast enough to beat the formation of ice crystals. It sounded like something he would be working on improving, but even still, it was good stuff.

Overall, I was much impressed. The ingredients were fresh, the wood-fired oven seemed well used, the prices were very reasonable, and the other food options looked interesting, too. I can say, without a doubt, that we'll be back to try out some of the other dishes and different types of pies. I would whole-heartedly recommend Pizza Brutta to anyone who asked and I'm extremely happy to have even a close approximation of Neapolitan style pizza nearby.

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