Saturday, March 24, 2007

Jersey Pizza

A Mano
24 Franklin Ave.
(Chestnut St.)
Ridgewood, NJ 07459
(201) 493-2000


The Bergen Record's article on A Mano, a new pizzeria in Ridgewood, NJ, begins, "It took a week for a craftsman from Naples, Italy, to build the brick ovens. Today, it will take a half-hour more to build, light and monitor the fire." And it will take four requests, two waitresses, and a good 35 minutes to get your entire order (including water) if you go in on a Saturday afternoon.

In fairness, the food at A Mano, which opened in January, is quite tasty. The pizzas are "Neopolitan-style," which means dinner plate-sized; topped not with sauce but with plum tomatoes; and modestly sprinkled with fresh mozzarella. The dough--which spends a night and the following morning rising--is cooked in ovens that burn at 1,000 degrees. When I ate there with my family today, we ordered a Pizza Margherita, a Pizza alla Funghi and a house salad. And some water. The quality was great; we left full and sated. But A Mano, which opened two months ago, has a few kinks to work out.

The Margherita came first. We sat there admiring the beautiful steaming pie, inhaling its fiery aroma, and then realized we had no plates. Waitress flagged, the plates arrived. And the pizza was indeed delicious. Mom and Laura, who have spent many a summer evening perfecting homemade grilled pizza, agreed this pizza tasted more like their own version than any restaurant's ever had. The crust was airy; the flavors light and fresh.

It was a lovely first course. Except it was meant to be a second course (and it was only half of that, to boot). The Margherita plate cleared, we checked out the restaurant (see photo, right), noting the smart outfits worn by the waitstaff, who were buzzing around the joint like little Italian signorinas bringing out shoes for Imelda Marcos. They wore neckerchiefs--neckerchiefs!--and the ones we interacted with had what sounded like European accents. It was a little like being at Epcot, except the food was better and there were no screaming kids.

After about 10 minutes the salad arrived, another fresh creation topped with diced fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes; and almost simultaneously, our Pizza alla Funghi, which was just as tasty as the Margherita, with a variety of sliced, sauteed mushrooms. This was all very enjoyable, except we were really thirsty. And then--miracle of all miracles--a bottle of sparkling water came down from the heavens. Alleluia! Oh, wait, we needed glasses.

A Mano is just getting over that two-month hump. We'll give them a few more tries. Their pizza is yummy, and hey, the waitresses wore neckerchiefs. They're dressed up like Super Mario Brothers, and anybody enduring that kind of fashion torture deserves a second chance.--S

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