It’s a staple in Naples, where pizza began, and all the rage in certain trendy Manhattan restaurants where New = Best. So where should LA’s foodies flock to try the Next Big Thing?
Try Eagle Rock’s own Capri.
The Capri Italian Restaurant’s Chef James Dunn first read about the flash-fried pizza trend in Pizza Today, an industry magazine. La Montanara, as it’s known in Italy, was born in Naples. Pizza chefs would bring home their unsold dough and their wives, lacking pizza ovens, would quick-fry the dough, top it, and give it to their children as a snack.
Chef Dunn had never had the dish and had no way to try it since the only U.S. restaurants that serve flash-fried pizza are in New York City and San Francisco. So the self-taught chef, who credits co-owners Jim and Jeff—the Thiel twins—with giving him a lot of leeway to try new dishes, set out to replicate La Montanara based on the description in the magazine.
The result? Molto delizioso!
Dunn cooks regular pizza dough on both sides in a cast iron skillet in a small amount of hot olive oil, which causes the dough to bubble up. The sauce, the cheese and any meat or vegetable toppings are layered on to the hot surface, then popped into the pizza oven for a few minutes and topped with fresh, slivered basil. The result is unlike any pizza you’ve ever tasted.
Don't mistake La Montanara for a deep-fried belly bomb from the County Fair. The crust is rich without being oily or greasy. As Chef Dunn learned, the oven finishing is a crucial step because the frying oil—Dunn estimates about 95 percent—evaporates in the intense heat. The puffy, slightly chewy crust, blistered on the bottom, actually tastes lighter than regular pizza.
With ordinary pizza, the sauce seeps into the dough before it’s baked. With flash-fried pizza, the sauce is ladled on to a cooked surface and pools in the valleys created by the bubbles. There it mixes with the smidgen of remaining oil to create a juicy second layer of sauce. The surface pockets also do something special to the cheese, which almost has the consistency of a spread.
By a stroke of luck, Dunn received knowledgeable feedback soon after La Montanara debuted. “A man came in who had just gone to Naples with his dad,” recounts Dunn. “He’d had [flash-fried pizza] over there and he said mine was outstanding and really, really close to what he’d had.”
It’s hard to imagine how La Montanara could be improved.
The Capri has had quite a ride in the last couple of years. In May 2011, The Capri got an extreme makeover when twins Jeff and Jim appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Jim says they probably would have closed if they hadn’t gone on the show and revamped their menu.
In March 2012, Patch readers voted Capri the Best Pizza in Eagle Rock.
Now they’ve introduced the flash-fried pizza trend to Southern California and currently remain the only restaurant serving it.
Pretty good for a restaurant that almost closed its doors two years ago.
What’s next for the Capri? Chef Dunn is working on a super-secret-for-now flash-fried dessert that sounds goose-bump good. And on Nov. 17, the Capri is holding a Kitchen Showdown between Chef Dunn and his Sous Chef Darian Jourdan. The public is invited.
You’ll want to keep an eye on Eagle Rock Patch for future details. Because you never know what the Capri will get up to next.
THE DETAILS: La Montanara flavors are Cheese, Mushroom, Pepperoni, a traditional Margherita, and Sausage and Peppers. La Montanara is only available in the 12” size (8 slices) and costs $10 - $11.
The Thiels are running a La Montanara special through Oct. 31. Try a Cheese or Pepperoni Flash-Fried Pizza for FREE if you buy one entrée or pizza.