Restaurants we love: Coals in Port Chester

Billy Etzel, owner of Coals, with a margherita pizza at
the restaurant in Port Chester.
Photo by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News

Written by
Published: October 10, 2013

I consider myself a pizza aficionado. From the floppy fold-over slice to the thick Sicilian bubbling with cheese, from the traditional Neapolitan and the fried-egg-topped artisanal, I’ve eaten it all, often with my kids in tow, and a beer (or wine) at the ready. And though there are many places in Westchester that do pizza right, there’s only one that grills pies to a wafer-thin crackery crust making ordering a second (or a third) almost a mandate.

At Coals of Port Chester, every dish has been thoughtfully prepared. The dough, for example, is made with white flour, whole wheat flour and cornmeal, and placed over a gas grill, giving it a distinct taste that’s full of texture and char. The toppings — a crisp mix of well-paired, super-fresh ingredients — pay tribute to the art (and joy!) of true pizza-making.

The one-page menu is simple — one burger and 10 pizzas, available in one size (no slices), with playful names like the “Smokey Joe,” “Dean Martin,” “Marlon,” “Must Have,” and “Pure Bliss.” There are a few salads (mixed greens, Caesar, arugula), and select appetizers like spicy grilled wings and crispy deep fried Brussels sprouts.

But pizza is the main attraction, and worth driving out of your way for. Each pie is hand-stretched, then served, in all its oblong-shaped glory, on a colorful platter similar to one your Nonna would have stocked in her kitchen (should you have been lucky enough to have such an old-school cook in your family).

Each time I’ve been here I’ve ordered the margherita, which comes with fresh mozzarella, tomato, pecorino and basil; it’s a classic that needs to be sampled at least once. My ever-adventurous husband, on the other hand, tries something new each time. Once, it was the “Dean Martin,” topped with fontinella, mozzarella, tomato, pepperoni, and pecorino; another time he went for the “Smokey Joe,” a smorgasbord of fontinella, smoked mozzarella, tomato, pecorino, sweet coppa and red onion. On our most recent visit, we both agreed the “Rustic,” which boasts fontinella, fresh mozzarella, roasted mushrooms, truffle oil, grana padano and garlic, had to be on our must-order list.