If you haven’t been to Locali yet, go now. Immediately.
With a good percentage of New Canaanites headed back from vacation in the next week or so, expect an influx of diners lining up to sample the latest offerings from one of the smallest, yet most popular dining destinations in town.
Locali has room for a little over 50 patrons, with half of those seats located on their outdoor patio at the corner of Locust Avenue and Forest Street, at the foot of Restaurant Row. The small size coupled with unprecedented popularity can lead to some pretty long waits for a table—a wait that is well worth it.
Locali bills itself as a “pizza bar,” but in reality it’s so much more than that. While the pizzas are indeed delicious, the offerings on the ever-changing menu transcend the category altogether.
“If something works, we keep it,” General Manager Ruben Ochoa, Jr. told NewCanaanite.com. Ochoa has been with Locali since it opened in November of 2013. “If something doesn’t do as well, we try to switch it around and see what people like. If they respond well, we keep it on the menu.”
And if an ingredient is out of season, Locali executive chef Mogan Anthony is not afraid to remove even the most popular item from the lineup. Case in point—the amazing Brussels sprouts, a glaring, yet understandable omission from the menu.
“That’s a seasonal item, and it’s not at it’s best right now,” Ochoa said. “If we don’t think it’s fresh, we won’t buy it.”
Kind of like the Yankees resting Jeter. Begrudgingly … I get it.
One menu staple that has seen a couple of incarnations is the Umami Meatball ($11 for two/18 for four), a delectable combination of a chicken meatball topped with whipped cheese curd, resting in a pool of rich, flavorful marinara sauce. Originally a blend of pork, veal and beef the recently updated use of poultry works perfectly.
Another great “small plate” option is the Edamame Milano ($7), topped with pecorino romano cheese and toasted bread crumbs. Blistered Shishito Peppers ($6) are also a hit, as the accompanying aioli provided a nice contrast to the sometimes-spicy peppers. And the Calamari ($11), dusted with a dose of spicy/sweet kimchi salt is always a winner.
Salads are also a popular choice at Locali, and the current menu boasts 5 different options from which to choose. My favorite is the beet salad ($12), currently served with arugula, romaine, goat cheese, dried cranberries and pistachios.
Locali’s handmade pastas never fail to disappoint. Their Pappardelle Bolognese ($21) is one of the best versions I’ve ever had, tantalizingly leaving one wishing they had more than two choices on the menu.
Which brings us back to the pizza.
Locali’s reputation for churning out terrific pies is more than justified. From the basic Margherita ($13) to more-adventurous options like the “Snake Oil” ($15) – a dazzling combination of capicola, homemade mozzarella, reggiano, garlic, sriracha, honey and scallions – there is sure to be something for everyone on the menu. An astonishingly consistent chewy, charred and flavorful crust provides the perfect finishing notes on every pizza emerging from “Giovanni”—the gorgeous wood-burning oven that gives each pie it’s unique flavor.
Like the pastas, we wish there were more desserts on the menu. That said, Locali’s Salty Caramel Pie might render any other choices useless. The rich texture and wonderful complexity of flavors make this a must-try…even if you have to shoehorn it down.
Locali also boasts an impressive wine and beer list, with several rare labels and microbrews on the docket.
All in all, Locali is proof positive that good things come in small packages. And, according to Ochoa, it will get smaller once fall takes over and the patio closes (again—get there soon).
“The first week of October, maybe the second depending on the weather,” Ochoa said. “The patio is part of the restaurant, so as much as we can use it, we will.”
And if you’re not fortunate enough to grab a seat at Locali (they do take day-of reservations), takeout works just fine. One tip for reheating the pies and countering any negative effects of travel, use a nonstick frying pan (don’t use oil—the oil in the pizza will take care of itself) to low-medium heat and let it cook until the cheese starts to bubble, about six minutes.
Have you tried Locali? Share your experience with fellow New Canaanites by posting a rating and review for the restaurant’s listing in the NewCanaanite.com business directory.