An Internet search brings up more than 20 pizza shops, plus numerous full-service restaurants that serve pizza, in New Rochelle. With all the competition, how’s a pie fiend to decide? One easy method is to follow the whiffs of wood-smoke to La Villa, which opened in the space that formerly housed longtime Chinese restaurant Golden Rod in January 2016. What sets this 75-seat (16 outdoor) restaurant apart from the others is it’s the city’s first to offer wood-fired pizzas (FYI: there is coal-fired Patsy’s nearby).
“Wood ovens produce pies that have crooks and craggs and that are generally more rugged than pies from gas ovens,” says owner Giancarlo Coco. “It’s about achieving a certain character to the crust.”
His Belforno oven is stoked with up to four types of wood—maple, ash, oak, and a bit of cherry.
“Certain woods will pop a lot while others give off too much smoke,” Coco continues. “By mixing the types, you lessen the negatives of any one in particular.”
The rounds take but 90 seconds to cook in heat that can reach 800°F, reinforcing why Coco explains that, “Wood-fired oven pizza cooks quicker than gas-oven pizza, so it needs more attention.”
There are 14 pies on offer, plus a rotating selection of special pizzas. The crusts have a robust crunch, and the sauce is slightly sweet and strikes the correct balance between loose and thick.
There’s a classic Margherita, but also the Campania with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella; the Capri Leone (named for the town in Sicily from where his parents hail) with sausage, peppers, onions, fresh mozzarella, and oregano; and the A La Nonna, a traditional thick crust, garlicky rectangular pie.
Coco will soon bring in a La Monferrina pasta machine to make fettuccine, fusilli, spaghetti, and linguine. Italian heroes, made with bread from nearby Orza Bakery, are also on the menu, as well as plated entrées such as shrimp scampi and chicken marsala. His desserts, including tiramisu and Italian cheesecake, are homemade.
“There was one longtime Golden Rod customer that came in early on after we first opened hoping for dumplings and wondering what happened,” recounts Coco. “But he stayed and enjoyed a pizza.”
55 E Main St, New Rochelle
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