Taste of New York10/8/2014
It’s becoming a common story that Iowans find endearing. New Yorkers visit here, discover that public schools actually work, that the quality of life is less stressful and that they can buy twice the house for half the money. Then they move families and friends here and open an outstanding restaurant. That story played out for the original owners of The Latin King six decades ago, and more recently for 16 folks at Wasabi Chi and Wasabi Tao and for brothers at Jersey Guys.
The most recent such immigration features Louis and Joy Savelli, their children and several other family members. Louis worked for the New York City Police Department, and after 9-11, taught anti-terrorism seminars and counter-drug training around the country. After spending several weeks each of the last 10 years working at Camp Dodge, he and Joy decided to move the family to West Des Moines and open Taste of New York just west of Jordan Creek Town Center.
This family has serious New York pedigrees. Louis grew up in Bensonhurst, the most Italian of New York neighborhoods, cheering for Gil Hodges, who played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers before managing the “amazing Mets” to the 1969 World Series title. Joy is Hodges’ granddaughter. The restaurant is decorated with New York memories — NYPD plaques and citations, city murals, subway signs from Coney Island, and an “I Love New York T-shirt” to which “but I’d rather live in Iowa” has been added.
I first visited soon after they opened in August. On that visit I enjoyed an excellent eggplant Parmigiano, caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, linguine with clam sauce and marvelous ravioli. Service was slow — not a good thing at a place where people line up to order before sitting down. So I decided to give the place a month to iron out opening wrinkles. Drastic measures were taken to speed things up, eliminating pasta, salads, heroes, Italian entrees and about half their appetizers and desserts.
While this Iowan has a hard time getting his head around the idea of pizza without salad, the changes also made it an even more authentic New York City pizzeria. In my experiences, New York pizza joints often sell nothing more than pizza, calzones and soft drinks. The old style Neapolitan-American pizzerias, many grandfathered in to permit now-banned coal ovens, often only sell whole pies. More modern, gas oven restaurants push pizza by the slice as well as whole pies and other stuff. Taste of New York offers a sampling of several New York styles, both as whole pies and as slices. Though all are made in relatively cool (400 degrees F) gas ovens, Neapolitan and Margherita pies seemed to use less, and higher, moisture cheese than others. Pepperoni, meat and Sicilian pies also layered on more sauce.
All were sensational. Pizza guru George Formaro (Centro, Django, Zombie Burger, Malo, etc.) said these are some of the best pies he’s ever tasted — and he tasted a lot. Crusts were consistently crisp on the edges and pliant in the middle, enabling one to fold them over to eat on the run, a prerequisite of New York style. Pies are New York-sized, which is huge by Des Moines standards. Slices ($3 – $4.50) were cut from 20-inch pies, whole pies ($16.50 – $24) were 18 inches and rectangular (Sicilian) pies were 16 inches by 18 inches. Arancini (deep fried risotto balls), calzones and rolls stuffed with meats, or spinach and cheese rounded out the savories. Italian ices, spumoni and zeppole (doughnuts) served as desserts.
Bottom line — these pies are so good I will probably have to learn to eat pizza without a salad.
Side Dishes: Malo has added made to order tacos, burritos and omelets to their brunch… Alba’s autumn “farm to fork” dinner with Grade A Farms has been moved to Oct. 26. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.Taste of New York 165 S. Jordan Creek Pkwy., 223-8669 Tues. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.