Finding something new when it comes to pizza is pretty hard to do, but Vaticano Cucina is making something, if not exactly new, at least new to us here in Edmonton – the Montanara pizza.
Most of you are probably thinking, “What the heck is Montanara?” That is a fair question. In some circles (mostly just the circumference of my waistband) I am considered a pizza scholar, and even I hadn’t heard of it until recently.
A Montanara-style pizza, popular in Naples, is a traditional Neapolitan crust that’s been stretched to shape and briefly deep-fried before being assembled like a regular Neapolitan pizza and finished in the oven. The deep-frying of the crust creates a beautifully crispy crust that has great pebbling evenly distributed around the cornicone, and the dough still maintains that trademark airiness and bubbling associated with traditional Neapolitan pizzas. The big bubbles in the traditional pizzas are made possible thanks to the quick transfer of high heat to the dough in a wood-fired oven, giving you those crispy charred bubbles we all love. Theoretically, the dip in the hot oil should accomplish that same thing, but I noticed the bubbling was more pronounced on the traditional.
The frying did add another dimension to the flavour as well as the texture, which was quite interesting. I found the deep-fried version slightly less chewy than the traditional, but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. I think the Montanara style is worth trying, and since you can make any of their pizzas Montanara-style for only a $2 upcharge, I say go for it at least once and give it a try for yourself.
The toppings here at Vaticano are more interesting than the usual and were more plentiful than I expected. This particular pie, the St. Anthony, was loaded with “all the meats,” and topped with Fior di latte. This pizza was heftier than usual thin pizzas with an abundance of toppings. My only complaint is the chunky style with which the toppings are added. Though it doesn’t make a huge difference to the taste, I’m not a fan of the chopping of deli meats (especially ones not spread very evenly) and prefer my pizza toppings to lay flat (Vaticano says that they are making some of their own meats and cheeses in-house but told us that their house-cured meats are not ready for serving yet). A far greater injustice was the little plastic thimble of grated parmesan “cheese” that hit the table along with our pie. When you have a great, well-made dough, tasty toppings, and some nice Fior di latte on top, why ruin it with that sorry excuse for parmesan? That’s like having an outstanding piece of bread and opting to top it with margarine instead of butter.
We also tried a traditional Neapolitan pie, topped with guanciale, Italian sausage, and a fried egg. The dough here was similarly impressive as the Montanara and should appeal to the pizza traditionalists not yet ready to accept deep-fried pizza as the way of the future.
Vaticano also gives you the option to have your pizza served uncut, which they recommend, or have it cut in the kitchen. They claim leaving it uncut until the moment you want to eat it helps to keep it from getting soggy, but I didn’t find a noticeable difference. Choice of toppings may make more of a difference here.
Given that most of Edmonton’s best pizza options don’t tend to stray too far from the river’s edge in either direction, Vaticano will be a nice option for south-siders not wanting to venture into the higher traffic areas of Old Strathcona or Downtown.
Vaticano Cucina – 10310 45 ave