The benchmark for pizza is the Margherita. During a winter in Italy a number of years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend time working with a pizza chef who I consider the finest I’ve ever met. His Margherita was, and remains to this day, easily the best I’ve ever consumed. With a puffy but firm and chewy crust, a structurally sound but fully-cooked and tender base topped with a sweetly-tart tomato sauce and a bubbling pool of liquid mozzarella, this was the very definition of Margherita.
Coal Pizza Company certainly boasts all the right components for the production of a similarly world-class pizza. These include a coal-fired, 900-degree Italian oven, “00” high-gluten Italian flour, San Marzano tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella. The problem with Coal Pizza Company isn't one of authenticity or ambition; it's more one of execution.
On a recent visit, our Margherita pizza ($12) was a bit of a disaster. The base of the crust was sadly undercooked while the edges, although nicely puffed up and browned, were essentially the consistency of brioche. I had to ask myself exactly how much ”00” flour was being used in the preparation.
The tomato topping consisted of thin slices of unseasoned and out-of-season commercial grade Roma tomatoes. Where was the San Marzano sauce I had read about on the menu? And rather than an enticing and decadent pool of mozzarella, the cheese component was barely discernible, as was the basil. I hope that this was just a lapse, but based upon other dishes we ate the same evening, I’m of the opinion that the lack of flavor and poor execution point to something systemic rather than accidental.
These other dishes would include Spaghetti & Waygu Meatballs ($14). The sheer number of meatballs was generous, but quantity means nothing if said ball of meat is mushy and under-seasoned. We expected more from such high quality ingredients.
An Arugula and Poached Pear Salad ($8) was fresh, nicely peppery and liberally adorned with pleasantly soft goat cheese, pears and caramelized onions. This was probably the star of the evening. A Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($9) arrived cold and, upon being re-fired, arrived lukewarm. The accompanying Foccacia self-destructed into a cloud of flour. Foccacia should be much more robust and able to withstand the rigors of dipping.
Amidst all these shortcomings, however, the beer selection was outstanding, all from Indianapolis breweries.