First Taste: Don’t (Just) Order Pizza at Flour + Water
Since the lines at Flour + Water showed no signs of abating, I finally just took the plunge and went. Despite F+W's best intentions to publicize the restaurant as not-just-a-pizza joint, early diner reports have focused on the pies because, well, that's what people do. I'm not here to tell you skip the very good pizza (and even if I did, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't listen), but I am here to tell you not to skip the rest of the menu. Because even if it's a uovo pizza you're after, topped with a golden-yolked egg, some of the finest things I tried did not come from the Mugnaini oven. A lovely prawn salad, for example, the three oversized fresh (as in not previously frozen) crustaceans resting on a summer salad of beans (wax and romano) with slivers of red onion and lots of herbs. Understated and light, it could become a summer staple (if only it were, say, $5 cheaper. But we're quibbling now...).
I had high hopes for the pasta, since chef Tom McNaughton worked at a "pasta laboratory" in Bologna and is very proud of his housemade creations. But the one that I tried the night I ate there—a hand-hewn orecchiette sauced with an oxtail ragout—was slightly gummy, the sauce tasting too sharply of uncooked wine. I regretted not ordering the red-sauced fusilli instead (practically everyone else in the restaurant had), and vow to return to sample more fully the offerings.
I let our server talk me into a cod entree and was once again reminded that sometimes trusting the professionals is a good thing—humble, lowly cod was expertly pan-fried and set on a creamy chickpea puree, drizzled with a brightly acidic artichoke vinaigrette and topped with a showering of brittle artichoke chips. This dish seemed the most Italian of the offerings I tried—ordinary ingredients brought to a higher plane, the whole better than the sum of its parts. It's on the merit of this dish that I'd recommend visiting Flour + Water. After all, these days you can get pizza almost anywhere.