The Early Word--Farinella, Pizza from a Neapolitan Rapper

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Given the fetishization of pizza and pizzaiolos--Keste's uber-authentic wood-burning oven, Dom DeMarco's windowsill herbs, et al--I'm surprised that downtown's new pizza spot, Farinella, hasn't gotten more attention. It's run by a real, live Neapolitan! A real, live Neapolitan rapper, to be precise, named Alberto Polo Cretara. Check out his YouTube user page, and you'll find his group's music videos, an interview with an Italian television station about Farinella, as well as the information that the school he attended is called "University of the Street." You know that one, right? But besides the University of the Street, Cretara actually trained at Roman pizza spot Forno Campo di Fiori, and he's now fabricating Roman-style pies.

It turns out that Cretara makes some good pizza, and one really, really good eggplant panini. We stopped by for lunch today, and Cretara wasn't around, but two extremely striking, extremely Italian women were behind the counter. There are about a dozen pizzas available--mushroom, zucchini, cotto-arugula, procuitto--made in large oblongs and sliced crossways to serve. We tried the margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella and the Sicilian, a simple, tomato sauced, eggplant slice. The crust, while fine, needs work--it was tough, and under-seasoned. But the tomato sauce was vibrantly tomatoey and sweet, and the sautéed eggplant on the Sicilian was delicious.

What was stellar, though, was the eggplant panini. The purple chunks of eggplant were stewed down to silk, and was enriched with smoked mozzarella; it's on homemade bread made from the pizza dough, and drips olive oil. I wouldn't travel for this sandwich, but if I worked anywhere in the vicinity, I'd have it for lunch at least once a week.

Farinella
90 Worth Street
212-608-3222

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