There are streaky goalies in hockey, streaky shooters in basketball, streaky hitters in baseball, streaky strikers in soccer, and there’s me: a streaky eater. A few months ago I was on a chirashi eating streak; more recently I’ve been streakily visiting Neapolitan pizza restaurants.
Today I convinced my wife and son to visit Cotto Enoteca with me. I wanted to try out their VPN (virtual private network?? actually it stands for verace pizza napoletana) certified pizzas. VPN certification does not automatically guarantee a good-tasting pizza, but it does guarantee that the pizza is made with approved raw materials/ingredients and within strict cooking parameters – such as the type of oven used, the temperature that the oven has to maintain, and how long the pizza can remain in the oven. I’ve had VPN certified pizzas before, and I have to say that the certification does not always guarantee a good-tasting pizza.
I wanted to ensure that we receive the best-testing pizza the restaurant makes, so I solicited the advice of our server on which pizzas to order. She recommended two pizzas: the Pizza Carne and the Prosciutto.
The crust and the pomodoro sauce was common to both pizzas. The crust was very disappointing. Even though it was teeth-bouncing and had just the right amount of chewiness, it was completely lacking in flavours. I could not detect any of the doughy or flour-y flavors that usually accompany neapolitan pizzas. Even though I could see a few black spots on the crust, I tasted zero charred flavours. Even though I encountered large air bubbles in some of the slices, none of them gave me the expected crust-stretched-so-thin-that-it-was-burnt-t0-a-crisp texture.
The pomodoro sauce was visible to my eyes but totally invisible to my taste buds. The cheese, meat, and other ingredients on both pizzas simply overwhelmed the flavours of the tomato-based sauce. I was, however, able to detect the sweetness of the pomodoro sauce when I was eating the unfinished portion of the Pizza Carne that I took home as ‘cold pizza’.
Considering the pizzas as the sum of their ingredients, I would give the nod to the prosciutto pizza as the more enjoyable of the two – in a lesser-of-two-evils sense. The prosciutto pizza won out because of its cheese and arugula components. The cheese had a milky flavour and was wet and melty. The liquid released from the cheese made the crust quite soggy; it was flavourful enough – and the crust flavourless enough – for me to not mind the drenched crust. The arugula tasted fresh, crunchy, and juicy. It added a birghtness to the boring sauce, boring crust, and the equally boring and undetectable slices of prosciutto. I would consider the prosciutto pizza a failure of a pie at any other pizza joint, but not at Cotto.
The Pizza Carne tasted much worse. The flavours of the pancetta, guanciale, coppa, and sopressata all blended together to create an unbearable salty mess. The grana pandano was powdery and mealy; its rough texture combined with the unbearable saltiness of the four meats to create a pizza that was almost inedible. It was so unpleasant that my wife and I couldn’t even finish half of it when we were at the restaurant. We took the more-than-half portion home with the intention of only eating it if there was a zombie-apocalypse-induced famine.
As I have mentioned above, I acutally ended up eating the pizza carne cold in a moment of hunger induced weakness. It tasted ok; it tasted much better cold than hot. Along with the sweet pomodoro, there was gran pandano that was no longer extremely mealy, and there were four cured meats that showed me their cold-stiffened textures for the first time…Oh, and just so we’re clear, an ‘ok’ pizza is not a pizza that I would voluntarily eat if I didn’t have to.
Along with the meat-based pizzas, my wife and I also ordered some calamari fritti.
My first bite of the calamari tasted pretty good. It was crispy on the outside, not too chewy on the inside, and it was fully salted. My second bite revealed the extreme greasiness that came hand-in-hand with the crispiness; the calamari forced upon me an ammonia-like flavour which was an indictment of its un-freshness; it reminded me that eating two fully-salted pieces of calamari in a row was way too much salt and way too hypertension-triggering. The calamari didn’t do it for me; neither did it do anything for my wife (or my son).
Last but not least (it was actually the first dish to arrive), worthy of a mention but probably not worthy of much more, is the pasta with meatballs that my son ordered.
The pasta was simply cooked with butter, and the butter flavours were plentiful in the dish. The pasta noodles themselves were way too overcooked and way too easy to bite through. The meatballs were kinda dry and kinda bland. They became lost in the heavily flavoured butter sauce. The pasta did its job in killing my son’s appetite, but that was all it did. I could tell that my son was not able to ‘feel’ the tastiness of the dish at all.
I’ll make the conclusion short and sweet. The food was less-than-mediocre. I will not visit the restaurant again – not unless they rethink their menu, hire someone who knows about food to really improve the quality of their food, and retrain their staff to faithfully follow the process of creating neapolitan pizzas.