A few weeks ago, as I sat with my Italian neighbors at their dinner table, surrounded by a plethora of delicious eats, we got on the subject of Italian food in New Orleans. Not only was I curious to see which restaurant they thought was a shining example of traditional Italian fare (they said a Mano, of course), but I was also interested in hearing their thoughts on pizza in New Orleans. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when they mentioned Ancora, Chef Adolfo Garcia’s newest pizzeria on Freret Street near Napoleon Avenue.
Ancora, meaning “more” in Italian, is Chef Garcia’s attempt at bringing the most authentic, Neapolitan-style pizzas to New Orleans. What’s a Neapolitan-style pizza, you ask? Well, to be honest, I had the same question myself. Fortunately, the night I visited Ancora, Chef Garcia was there to give me a bit of a pizza education. He explained to me that a Neapolitan-style pizza is similar to Tuscan-style pizzas in that they are both prepared in wood-burning ovens. The Neapolitan pizza, however, is made with a special flour that causes the dough to cook at an accelerated rate. The dough cooks so fast, in fact, that once it’s placed in the 870 degree oven, it only takes approximately 45 seconds before it’s puffed and golden. Tuscan-style pizzas (which you can find here) take a complete turn in the oven before they’re cooked to perfection, lasting about a minute and a half or longer.
Due to the Neapolitan pizza’s short time in the oven, the toppings have to be minimal or they wouldn’t cook in time. Some San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh basil or oregano is an example of classic preparation. Thin slices of salumi are also pretty traditional, but you certainly won’t find any “meat lover-ish” pies on the menu. Currently, there are six different types of pizza on the menu, and one of those is a daily special that’s prepared with seasonal ingredients.
So how does it taste? The answer is delicious. The pizza dough is fantastic–thin with just the slightest chew to it and the toppings, though minimal, are high quality and bursting with flavor. My personal favorite was the Diavola, which comes with spicy salumi, fior di latte, tomatoes, and chilis. The ricotta appetizer we got was lacking, I thought, and certainly didn’t compare to the amazingness of the ricotta with date and walnut pesto I had here. The restaurant itself is very nice, with wine-bottle hanging lights and a beautiful mosaic-style oven, which acts as the focal point for the entire restaurant. The only atmospheric complaint I had was taken straight to the big man. I told Garcia that I thought it was a little too loud (example: Just the stacking of plates behind the bar echoed into ear-piercing sounds), but he didn’t seem too concerned, claiming that his popular restaurant Rio Mar is also loud and it doesn’t stop people from going. I guess when you’re the proud owner of more than four successful (and culturally authentic) restaurants you know when to skimp and when to splurge. Garcia chooses the food and, hey, I’ve got no problem with that.