The backstory: Fried pizza is storming NYC, with versions of the previously unheard-of pie showing up at the Manhattan and Brooklyn locations of Forcella, PizzArte and soon-to-open Don Antonio (from Keste's Roberto Caporuscio). It may seem like some newfangled gimmick in line with KFC's Double Down, but fried pizza's roots go back to Naples, where ovenless families improvised by making pies, called montanara, in stove-top pans. Giulio Adriani came across a deep-fried pizza ripieno (calzone) during a visit to Italy and began experimenting with the hot-oil concoctions, eventually adding them to the menu in July, one month after he opened his first Forcella location.
The specs: From his time working in Italy, Adriani knew that his regular dough, intended for high-temperature baking, absorbs too much oil in the deep fryer. For his montanara, he fortifies the dough with more Caputo 00 flour and lets it rise for 48 hours, double the normal fermenting time, so that the bonds among the proteins are stronger and develop a protective barrier against the oil. Discs of the dough are dropped in bubbling 375-degree oil for 30--40 seconds,covered with toppings and finished in the wood-burning hearth at an incinerating 900--1,000 degrees for another half minute. The process for calzones is slightly simpler: The stuffed half-moons of dough spend just 90 seconds in the deep fryer, no oven time required.
The result: The golden-fried crusts—speckled with tiny air bubbles, chewy and slightly sweet—are reminiscent of country-fair funnel cakes, without a trace of grease. Crowned with a light sauce of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, gooey house-made mozzarella and a sprinkling of salty Parmigiano-Reggiano, the pizzas are damn good, as are the calzones. Cut into the ripieno classico, and smoked mozzarella and creamy ricotta laced with tomato sauce and meaty bits of sopressata ooze from the crispy, airy shell. 334 Bowery between Bond and E 3rd Sts (212-466-3300) • 485 Lorimer St between Grand and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-8820)