All that goes into chef Erminio Conte’s pizza sauce is fresh plum tomatoes, salt, pepper, olive oil, and oregano. “People add all sorts of things — butter, wine, garlic — but real Italian recipes are simple to the roots, and most have up to five ingredients or so,” explains the Yorktown Heights resident, who is a native of Puglia, Italy. “It’s easy to distort a dish by adding too many ingredients and overthinking it.”
This is the concept behind all the menu items at Piatto, a 65-seat regional Italian restaurant opened in late March by Giancarlo Coco in the space that formerly housed La Villa. Coco owns two other Piatto locations, one in Long Island City and one in Manhattan’s West SoHo.
There are items such as grilled octopus, farro salad, and arancini to start, plus mains of black-ink risotto, panko-breaded chicken Milanese, and house-made lobster ravioli and orecchiette broccoli rabe, but the tender–crusted pizzas from the Belforno oven are the signature orders. The wood-fired oven cooks a pie in 90 seconds in heat that can reach 800°F. The crusts have a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft interior.
The key to a good New York crust?
“The water here has a high concentration of sodium,” says Conte, who lets his dough rest for 36 hours, rendering it easy to work with. The long rest time also helps small air pockets form, which keeps the dough light and can increase the chances for beautiful “crust bubbles.”
Conte has spent 30 years in the restaurant business, including most recently as owner of La Grata in the South Bronx and as a chef at Serafina Restaurant Group. He makes his mozzarella in-house, as well as the almond chocolate cake, apple tart, and tiramisu.
“Simple food is difficult to make,” says Conte. “Simplicity is most important to Italian food, really all Mediterranean cuisines.”
55 E Main St., New Rochelle