Thanks to the peripatetic nature of New York chefs, you never know where you’ll encounter a familiar face—or recipe. Take focaccia Robiola, the undersung double-crusted pizza variant that eats like an ethereal form of a toasted bagel with cream cheese. That distinctive delicacy made its unexpected debut recently in the residential neighborhood of Maspeth, Queens. That’s where Saverio Verde, a pizzaiolo whose career the U.G. has followed with considerable interest since we discovered his wood-fired work at Mezzogiorno in Soho years ago, set up shop in February. Forno Pizzeria e Trattoria is a modest enterprise, a full-service restaurant in the guise of a slice joint. In this venture, Verde has teamed with his nephew—the son of Verde’s brother, Ciro, of Murray Hill’s venerable Da Ciro, who invented the aforementioned focaccia Robiola.
It makes sense that Verde has named his new spot for the brick oven whence come some of the best things we sampled recently: warm and crusty loaves of bread, which he uses for a roster of two-fisted sandwiches; oven-baked veal meatballs in a fresh, chunky tomato sauce; and the thin-crusted pizzas Verde offers in twelve- and sixteen-inch sizes. These range from the classic margherita to the more ornate “Forno,” topped with mushrooms, arugula, prosciutto, and a very assertive Gorgonzola. As befits any proper Queens trattoria, Forno’s menu is furnished with the full retinue of Italian-American standards, from veal francese to chicken Marsala. And, of course, the “small” chicken parm is the size of a Frisbee and comes with a side of penne pomodoro. The namesake oven only fails Verde in one regard: Since it doesn’t generate enough heat to suitably char the top of his focaccia Robiola, the chef whips out a blowtorch to give the thing a mottled, brûléed effect. The pizza police might look askance, but who knows? It might just spark a trend.
Beer and wine are forthcoming.Ideal Meal
“Mofolata” panino or focaccia Robiola.