Painted country scenes are on the walls at Coals.
By EMILY DeNITTO
Published: MARCH 21, 2015
Photo by Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
Good pizza has been easy to find in Westchester for years. Beyond the traditional New York-style pizza available on virtually every streetcorner, there is the Neapolitan puffy-crusted version from places like Zero Otto Nove in Armonk, wonderful experiments with toppings like the white clam pie at Frank Pepe’s in Yonkers and numerous interpretations of flatbread pizza across the county.
Most diners have seen it all. But there is a style that had been available in the county at only one location and is now offered in a second spot: grilled pizza. Coals, which started in the Bronx about 10 years ago and opened in Port Chester four years ago, recently expanded to Bronxville. The restaurant’s New England approach, influenced by the popular Al Forno in Providence, R.I., should be sampled by any pizza fan.
Coals starts by making its own dough fresh every day. It is hand pressed into a vaguely rectangular shape, brushed with olive oil, layered with ingredients and then laid over a gas grill like a steak. The result is a superthin crust with the slight bounce and flavor of a traditional pie but also a delicious charring on the bottom. On my visits to the Bronxville location, the pizzas looked as though they could serve several people, though they are sold as individual pies — and it is not hard to devour one on your own.
The Pure Bliss pizza, with fresh mozzarella,
ricotta, tomato, basil pesto and pecorino
The thin dough can’t handle much weight, so the kitchen doesn’t overload its pizzas, but the ingredients are a big part of the appeal. The tomato sauce, which isn’t used on every pie and is used only sparingly, in spots, when it is included, has a terrific flavor — not too sweet, not too spicy and made with delicious San Marzano tomatoes. Cheeses are brought in from Italy, and there are nice touches like the vincotto syrup used on the Must Have (mozzarella, ricotta and Grana Padano) and the spicy olive oil used on the Vegan (hummus, red onion and arugula).
Some of my favorites were the Margherita, made with creamy fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, pecorino Romano and fresh basil, and the Rustic, an earthy combination of Fontinella, fresh mozzarella, Grana Padano, roasted mushrooms, truffle oil and plenty of garlic. Heaven Scent (aged provolone, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce) also has a welcome garlic flavor. And Pure Bliss is just that, made with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino, tomato sauce and basil pesto.
A mixed green salad with Gorgonzola
There were only two pies with meat of the nine offered on the nights I visited. I tried the Smokey Joe, made with fontinella, smoked mozzarella, pecorino, red onion, tomato sauce and lots of sweet coppa. The meat was truly special: not overly salty and with a great balance of fat and lean. But part of the pizzas’ appeal is their lightness, so I wasn’t eager to try the Dean Martin, which includes pepperoni.
Coals also has a terrific burger, made with asiago or Vermont Cheddar, and crispy fries. And the appetizers are definitely worth considering. Salads were fresh, simple and wonderfully dressed. The grilled chicken wings had just the right amount of heat and were crispy but moist. Best of all: the unusual but extraordinary crispy brussels sprouts. These are deep fried and tossed with walnuts, raisins and Grana Padano; the dish was one of the tastes that will take me back to Coals.
There were just three desserts offered during my visits, including a solid cheesecake from S & S Cheesecake in the Bronx. I preferred the Nutella “pizza” and the Nutella-and-mascarpone “fluffernutter.” Folded over and dusted with powdered sugar, they were more like crepes — and a wonderful extension of the restaurant’s theme.
The atmosphere is as quirky and appealing as the food, with a Catskills-meets-Brooklyn vibe from mounted deer antlers and painted country scenes. Sit there long enough and you’ll become aware of the rhythmic sound of the pizza cutter, a guy who wields a huge half moon of a knife that he rocks across the pies as they come out, dividing them into three- or four-bite squares. It’s a kind of siren call — one that should be heeded by all pizza lovers.
131 Parkway Road
THE SPACE: Funky and relaxed, with mounted deer heads and paintings of country scenes. Wheelchair accessible.
THE CROWD: Comes from a wide area, including New York City’s five boroughs, Connecticut and New Jersey. All ages; couples and groups. Servers are friendly and attentive.
THE BAR: The first room one walks into. There are 10 craft beers on tap ($7) and about a dozen beers by the bottle or can ($4.50 to $14), as well as a tight selection of wines ($8 to $12 a glass; $28 to $57 a bottle).
THE BILL: Appetizers, $4 to $11.50; burger and pizzas, $10 to $16. Major credit cards accepted.
WHAT WE LIKED: Crispy brussels sprouts, chicken wings, tomato bisque (special), mixed greens with Gorgonzola, arugula salad with pears, walnuts and Grana Padano. The Margherita, Smokey Joe, Heaven Scent, Rustic and Pure Bliss pizzas; the burger with Vermont Cheddar and fries; Nutella and Nutella-with-mascarpone dessert pizzas.
IF YOU GO: Open Mondays to Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. (to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays); Saturdays, noon to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 8 p.m. No reservations. Metered street parking. Free parking in lot behind restaurant after 6 p.m. and on weekends.
RATINGS: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.