Locali's spring menu honors the quintessential clam apizza
Published 4:09 pm, Wednesday, May 13, 2015
On a semi-crisp April evening, I ventured to Locali in New Canaan to sample chef Mogan Anthony's newest additions to the spring menu, plus his version of the quintessential Connecticut pizza -- the clam apizza.
There were several delicious additions to his small plates. The Granola Crusted Goat Cheese Fritters were delightful. Mogan coated orbs of Hudson Valley goat cheese with granola and then deep-fried them. The cheese balls were nestled in roasted strawberry marmalade and sprinkled with garden herbs. The exterior of the balls was crispy and complemented by the softness of the mildly melted interior. The marmalade was pleasantly sweet and the combination was excellent.
A new modification to the Bruschetta di Bufala included house-made pine nut oil relish, market vegetables (in this version sweet peas) and saba. The burrata was wonderfully creamy and paired nicely with the sweetness of the saba. The pine nut oil added just a touch of pungency and the peas were almost midseason sweet.
I also enjoyed the Asparagus Plancha. The peeled asparagus stalks were perfectly grilled and sat atop whipped mustard, a dollop of honey pine nut praline and were accompanied by a few orange segments. Toasted grains were sprinkled on top. The mustard and citrus were a great spicy-sweet combination with a pop of citrus. The pine nut praline contributed a shot of sweetness. The crunchiness of toasted grains took a little time to get used to ... the crunch added a bit of earthiness to the dish.
It is unusual for me to order a salad in a restaurant, but the Organic Mother's Grain Salad is an exception. A swath of cultured yogurt is joined by a combination of farro, quinoa, buckwheat, chopped hazelnuts and almonds, raisins, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and sliced red onion, all topped with a mound of alfalfa sprouts.
There were enormous flavors and textures in this healthy salad and the yogurt tied it all together.
The Just Dug Crispy Potatoes are a longtime favorite of mine. Since it now includes an herb pesto, smoked tuna flakes, aioli and Parmesan cheese, look for a name change shortly. The crispy fingerling potatoes were creamy and the smoked tuna flakes were reminiscent of crispy pancetta, a perfect combination. The aioli added richness and a little pungency. This continues to be one of my favorite appetizers at Locali.
It's spring and my pizza focus is moving from wintery pepperoni and sausages to the cleaner tasting toppings. What better way to start this venture than with a clam pizza, "Brooklyn style"?
Locali's dough is some of the best around. Then add a good measure of mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced garlic and top with fresh clams (still in their shells), a few lemon wedges and a sprinkling of pecorino. Remove the clams from their shells, squirt a little lemon juice and take a slice. The liquor from the clams remains on the pie and a knife and fork are almost required, but the effort is worth it. And do not forget to dip the edges in the clam broth. The combination of the sweet and briny clams, the mozzarella, dough and garlic make for a spectacular slice.
Locali, 32 Forest St., New Canaan; www.localipizzabar.com; 203-920-1440