Ducali Pizzeria & Bar, North End, Boston
Ducali Pizzeria & Bar, run by chef Philip Frattaroli, is decorated in blue and yellow after the colors a Parma, Italy, soccer team (that is nicknamed Ducali) is famous for. Phil, whom I met at a polenta dinner at Lucia, went to college in Parma and wanted to bring authentic pizza like he had had then to his North End restaurant. All over Italy, one can find different kinds of pizza, with different toppings and crusts, so to him, authentic pizza is pizza that features locally grown ingredients and pays homage to pizza's humble origins as peasant food. When my friend suggested we do dinner at Ducali some time, I didn't hesitate to get a date on the calendar.
So a couple weeks ago, after work, we met in the cozy restaurant and got a seat by the window, where we could look out on the hustle and bustle of Causeway Street. I started the evening with a glass of Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, and my friend got a Cisco Sankaty Light.
We glanced over the appetizer menu and were both quickly drawn to the carciofi, a broiled artichoke served with homemade garlic aioli. We ordered one to share. The artichoke arrived, cut in wedges, breaded, and crispy. The homemade garlic aioli was a welcome accompaniment, adding bursts of flavor to the crisp artichoke leaves.
Pizza was a more difficult decision (they all sounded so good), and we eventually decided to order two to share. First we tried the patate. Our love for potatoes on pizza goes way back to our post-college days when we would meet in New Haven, Connecticut, and take down slices of mashed potato pizza at Bar. While Ducali's pizza features thin slices of Red Bliss potatoes rather than mashed potatoes, we still appreciated the starchy addition. And like the bacon on our pizza at Bar, we loved the salty notes of the lightly crisped pancetta here. And, of course, you can't go wrong with melted mozzarella on top. But there the similarities ended, and then this pizza took a turn from our familiar favorite, adding more intense elements like pungent gorgonzola and herby rosemary, which elevated the flavor, making for one very tasty pie. And I shouldn't forget to mention that the crust was on the thin side, with a nice chewiness and pull to it.
The second pizza we tried, going for a "lighter" pie, was the rugola. With just a basic layer of crust and mozzarella cheese, this pizza really shines in the topping. Fresh, peppery arugula was lightly piled on top, drizzled with truffle oil, and dotted with shaved Parmesan. The salty, peppery notes, accompanied by the earthy truffle oil, on that same nicely chewy crust, made this pizza a hit with both of us.
We ate what we could, packed the rest up to take home, ordered a second round of drinks, and looked over the dessert menu. The antipasto dolce sounded interesting, and the waitress told us it was chocolate made by Phil's mother. We deliberated between that and the fried dough, and ultimately, the fried dough won.
We enjoyed the hot, sugary pieces of fried dough and both noted that it was such a smart thing to do with leftover pizza dough.
Just before leaving, I made a trip to the restroom, which is down the stairs by the kitchen. Little did I know that Ducali has both an upstairs and downstairs kitchen, and when I was waiting downstairs, I saw chef Phil preparing some pizzas. He said hi and remembered that we had met at the Lucia dinner, and I raved about the pizzas my friend and I had enjoyed.
Back upstairs, as my friend and I were getting ready to leave, our waitress asked us to hold on for one minute. Phil had asked her to pack up some of the antipasto dolce to-go, so we actually got to try both desserts! (Thank you, Phil!) The homemade chocolate had the most interesting texture, something reminiscent of a chocolate bar, a piece of fudge, and a crumbly cookie, and it was studded with nuts and coconut. It's probably a better meal-ending choice than fried dough, after eating tons of pizza, but both desserts are worth trying.
There are a lot of other things on Ducali's menu that I'd like to try, such as the pizza nachos, so I hope to get back there soon to do just that. If you're looking for some delicious, interesting pizzas in a cozy North End spot, I highly recommend checking out Ducali.
Have you tried Ducali yet?
Labels: Restaurant reviews and events