Piccolo Forno’s “Focaccina Cruda”
Preface to this post: I’d like to apologize for the nearly month-long gap between PittWich posts! That little thing called life caught up with me; being a senior in high school carries baggage in the forms of classes, college applications, and social life. Work piled upon work, plans piled upon plans, and all of a sudden it was the end of October and I hadn’t posted anything since the beginning of the month. So… my bad!
So: Piccolo Forno. It’s this relatively new (opened in 2005), super trendy Tuscan Italian restaurant in Lawrenceville that’s known for it’s pizzas and pastas (as all quality Italian restaurants should be.) My parents had been here over the summer while I was roughing it in the woods, and when I came back they couldn’t stop raving about the place and everything that they had. Needless to say, I was itching to try it myself, but I didn’t expect to stumble upon one of the most experimental, borderline-not-a-sandwich sandwiches I’ve ever had… and also one of the best.
I ordered the “Focaccina Cruda”, listed under their Pizzas heading, which is a “flat stuffed pizza with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula and fresh tomato.” As you can see in the picture above, the Focaccina comes looking essentially like a classic pizza: round, sliced into six triangle-shaped wedges. However, in creating a “stuffed pizza”, the folks at Piccolo Forno established what I believe to qualify as a sandwich: an assortment of delicious ingredients in between two separate pieces of flatbread. Yeah, it’s a sandwich.
And a damn good one at that. The flatbread and fresh mozzarella are the two warm components of the Focaccina, prepared in Piccolo’s signature wood-fire over and respectively toasted/melted to perfection: the flatbread has a fantastic crunch to it on the outside, but there’s just enough volume to have a little chew on the inside as well, the way a good sandwich (or pizza!) should always be. And the mozzarella melts and melds with the flatbread, creating a cheesy-doughy combination that gives the sandwich a very distinct pizza feel.
Then come the cold ingredient: The prosciutto is the clear star. That saltiness and chewiness provided by the meat is delicious, and the way that all of the flavor is provided in such a thinly sliced meat is mind-boggling: it feels like you’re eating nothing because of how light the prosciutto is. That all-around lightness is really a theme in the Focaccina, and the fresh tomato and arugula drive it home as well. The tomato actually provides the bulk of the filler, combining its acidity and juicy flavors with the bite of the arugula to provide a really sharp contrast with the warm and comforting salty/savory tastes of the cheesy flatbread and salty prosciutto. Essentially, I’ve come to view this sandwich as a fancy schmancy Italian version of a BLT: you’ve got the prosciutto acting as the bacon, the arugula stepping in for lettuce, and the tomato stars as the tomato!
Really, when I ordered the Foccacina Cruda, I figured I’d be getting a traditional stuffed pizza, but I’m honestly glad that I didn’t. This ‘wich opened my mind to a whole new world of sandwiches, and reminded me that you can always find ‘wiches in the most peculiar and unexpected ways. That’s what makes them so great.