New York City stands ready to welcome like a visiting dignitary any new pizza that arrives in town: Roman pinsas and Detroit deep-dish pizzas were greeted in this way, and I have reported on other unique pies that included Cocco Pazzeria’s focaccia robiola, Kimika’s pizzette fritte, and the stuffed-crust pizza Romana at La Villa. There’s also the limone pie at Frenchman’s Dough in the Tin Building — showing us what might have happened if the French had invented pizza.
Inevitably, exciting new pizzas appear periodically, and the latest is found at Da Radda. This two-month-old restaurant specializes in Argentina’s Italian cooking. I’d visited Buenos Aires a decade ago and marveled at its pizzas; the humbler neighborhood places were everywhere and sometimes used béchamel rather than cheese. But the country’s earliest pizzeria was found in the hardscrabble port neighborhood of La Boca — from which the famous soccer team Boca Juniors hails. These pies are distinctly different than New York Neapolitan-style and their debut there may have predated our own at Lombardi’s.
A shortened version of the origin story goes like this: Immigrant Don Agustin Banchero arrived in Buenos Aires from Italy in 1893. He founded Banchero in 1932, which is still open (with a location in Miami). The pizzas there reflect Banchero’s origins in Genoa, rather than Naples. There are plain tomato pies with anchovies arranged on top like rays of sunshine, cheesy pies mired with thick slices of red plum tomato, and, perhaps most interesting of all, the fugazza. These are basically dough rounds topped with sliced onions and cheese, with so much of the former it might be dubbed an onion pie.
According to journalist Waverly Root in Foods of Italy (1971), this flatbread is native to La Spezia, 100 kilometers south of Genoa; Banchero adapted the fugazza as a Genoese might do, adding some Neapolitan elements. He also created larger, boat-like pies filled not only with onions and cheese, but also with extra ingredients that included tomatoes, olives, ham, and tuna, known as fugazzetas and hearty enough to serve a crowd.
Here in New York, fugazza is available on East 7th Street, just off Tompkins Square, at Da Radda. The founder is Sergio Radavero, whose father started operating a restaurant of the same name in Buenos Aires in 1970. Radavero earlier brought his father’s restaurant to Santiago, Chile, where he now owns three locations.
His fugazza ($19) is very much like Banchero’s: a wealth of onions swimming in gooey cheese atop a modestly plain crust, browned here and there. The mellow simplicity of each bite is delightful, with the salty kick of the cheese nearly overwhelmed by the sweetness of the onions, the flavor of which is concentrated by baking, not by caramelization. This is a pie you’ve got to try. Though the crust is pizza-like, it feels more like focaccia, and one pie easily satisfies two people.
All things Milanesa also play a starring role on the menu. There’s one pie topped with veal Milanesa, and another featuring eggplant, mushrooms, sweet peppers, black olives, and basil. Additional menu sections concentrate on veal Milanesa, including one topped with creamed mushrooms ($23) and another, in emulation of the fugazza, heaped only with onions and cheese. Variations on eggplant Milanesa are also offered.
The Argentine favorite gnocchi is an anchor of the pasta section, and the most interesting topping features tutti pesto ($19), which is a particularly Argentine combo of basil pesto and tomato sauce, roughly mixed together. It’s surprisingly good — you may want to try it at home. Apps include a braised beef bruschetta, pumpkin soup, and a salad of shrimp, avocado, and grapefruit that shows the influence of Chilean cuisine on Da Radda’s menu.
There is at least one amazing dessert – a dulce de leche panna cotta ($9), flavored with South America’s favorite caramel sauce, with more dulce de leche poured thickly over the top.
But by all means, go try the fugazza. Among pizzas in New York City, it is unique and will have you dancing the tango as you exit the restaurant.
Want more pizza? Try NYC’s 29 iconic pizzerias.