Firenze Pizzeria has pizza preparation down to a science - Albuquerque Journal

Firenze Pizzeria has pizza preparation down to a science

Firenze’s Spinacci Pizza is a Mediterranean-inspired mix of spinach, red peppers, pine nuts and ricotta. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Editor’s note: This story has been revised from its previous edition.

Have oven, will travel.

That might be the motto of Steven Meyer, owner and operator of Firenze Pizzeria in the Northeast Heights. Meyer has schlepped his pizza oven all over the city since launching Firenze as a food truck and mobile catering operation back in 2011. He took the wood-fired workhorse to growers’ markets, weddings and other private events before opening a brick-and-mortar location at Ninth Street and Park Avenue in Downtown next to Java Joe’s.

After a successful run Downtown, Meyer pulled up stakes earlier this year and moved to Bridges on Tramway, the mixed-use development in the Northeast Heights.

The pizzeria occupies a site vacated earlier this year by a short-lived smoothie and bowls place called Refresh.

The domed oven squats behind a brick-faced counter in Firenze’s small, high-ceilinged dining room. Standing on spindly metal legs, with a small, semicircular opening in front from which a fiery glow emanates, it looks like something dreamed up by George Lucas.

Above it hangs a massive hood the size of an SUV’s engine compartment with a couple of ventilation ducts snaking from the top to the ceiling.

The oven’s output includes more than a dozen pizzas ranging from the basic cheese version ($9.95) to the meat-and-veggie-laden Godfather for $14.95. Pies come in one size only, roughly equivalent to a medium-sized pizza at other places.

Pepperoni Pizza on gluten-free crust. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

As evident in the cheese pizza, Meyer has clearly learned a thing or two from all his years at the oven. The pizza, served on checked paper, had a good balance of cheese and sauce. The high heat of the oven left the crust bubbled and leopard-spotted but not burned. It was crisp at the edges, soft in the middle, with a well-cooked, grease-free bottom side.

The Spinacci ($13.95) evokes the Mediterranean with its mix of spinach, pine nuts, goat cheese and roasted red peppers. A splash of garlic oil enhances the effect. Opinions vary on whether spinach should be cooked before putting it on pizza, and also whether it should be put under or over the cheese. At Firenze, the fresh spinach leaves are spread on top of the cheese. The spinach survived the pizza oven without getting scorched. It’s a very good pizza that was even better reheated the next day.

Next to the colorful Spinacci, the New Mexico White ($13.95) looked positively anemic.

Instead of tomato sauce, garlic cream sauce underpins the cheese topped triangles of capocollo ham – “gabagool” if you want to sound like a New York mobster. This pie had some big air bubbles around the rim. Feta and chunks of green chile gave it some tang and spice.

The Pepperoni ($11.95) is served with large slices of pepperoni the size of beer coasters; so large you only get about one piece per slice. Personally, I prefer a lot of smaller pepperoni slices, as it’s easier to get one in every bite.

Of all the Firenze’s pizzas I’ve tried, my favorite is the Salsiccia ($13.95), an appetizing landscape of crumbled sausage, mushrooms and Kalamata olives dotted with dollops of ricotta. Sharp notes of brine from the olives and fainter hint of licorice from the fennel in the sausage, sourced from Keller’s, cut the meatiness of the pie. If I’m nitpicking, the olive distribution was a little uneven.

Firenze’s Picante Pizza ($13.95) is a sweet, salty and spicy mix of capocollo ham, pineapple and sliced jalapeño. Even after cooking, the pineapple remained juicy and helped take the edge of the blazing jalapeños.

All of Firenze’s pizzas are available in gluten-free versions served on perfectly round, perforated crusts. These prefab crusts are a bit dry and gritty and not as good as the house-made gluten-free crusts at places like Paisano’s and Amore Pizza.

Besides pizza, Firenze offers three salads for $7 each. The Gorgonzola Salad, with Gorgonzola crumbled over spring greens with walnuts and dark balsamic vinaigrette dressing, is the best of the lot. Sliced strawberries added a splash of color and took the edge off the powerful cheese. The Creamy Pesto Salad was mostly a pile of greens and croutons with some thin slices of pecorino Romano cheese mixed in. A pungent and garlicky House Creamy Pesto dressing brought it to life.

The Salsiccia Pizza features Keller’s sausage, olives and mushrooms, here on gluten-free crust. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Though our takeout orders were ready and waiting when we showed up 20 minutes after calling, the experiences were not without glitches. On one occasion, I ordered a Pesto Pizza and ended up with the Picante instead. Also, my wife asked for no mushrooms on the Salsiccia and got an ample serving of them. Having staff repeat the order on the phone would help. The place can get busy around dinnertime, especially on weekends, so expect a longer wait times then. As of this writing, Firenze does not have a website and not much of social media presence.

There are no desserts, and drinks are limited to sodas, although House Drink Specials like lavender lemonade are expected in the near future. In the meantime, Boxing Bear and its extensive selection of award-winning beers is just around the corner, as are the myriad treats at the Paleta Bar.

After more than a decade in business, Meyer has pizza preparation down to a science. His Firenze Pizzeria nicely fills out the lineup at Bridges on Tramway.

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