Checking out the pizza at Restaurant Navona

restaurant navona albany exterior

More pizza touring, this time at the recently opened Restaurant Navona. It's the place that took over the Midtown Tea and Tap Room space on New Scotland Ave in Albany's Helderberg neighborhood.

The kitchen now has a wood-fired oven and it's turning out some interesting pies. And we get the impression chef/co-owner Mike Niccoli is serious about their pizza game. (A tip of the hat to Steve N. for mentioning the pizza at Navona.)

So, the Tournament of Pizza crew stopped in to taste a handful of pies...

The crew

Albany Jane of Albany Eats.

Daniel B of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

Deanna Fox, food and agriculture writer, AOA contributor (website, Twitter, or Instagram).

Jon from Jon in Albany.

Cheese Puddle

restaurant navona pizza cheese puddle

Menu description: Mozzarella, provolone, roasted garlic and ricotta, olive oil and salt.

Crust: One taster described the crust as "charred, poofy, wonderful." Another complimented some "nice flavor," but thought there was a little too much char around the outside of the bottom. Another praised the crisp outside and tender inside (while also detecting a little bit of doughiness).

Sauce: There wasn't really sauce on this pizza. But tasters noted the strong flavor of garlic with the oil.

Toppings: A taster commented that the "cheese had a beautiful almost brie flavor." Another noted it was a thick layer of cheese, with another calling it "comforting." One taster thought the flavor of the cheese got a bit lost in the garlic.

Overall taste: "Really good." "Delicious." "Reminds me of a cheesy garlic knot. In a good way." "Nice. Simple, creamy, while leaning on the sweet and savory."

Would you order this again?
Albany Jane: "Yes. Who doesn't love something that is called Cheese PUDDLE that lives up to its name. "
Daniel B: "Loved it. Cheesy, smoky bread is never a bad thing. It's a decadent treat."
Deanna: "Oh yes."
Jon: "Not sure I'd seek it out, but I wouldn't turn it down."

Pizza Navona

restaurant navona pizza navona

Menu description: Tomato, olive oil, housemade mozzarella, basil.

Crust: Again, some positive comments from tasters. Though after eating the crust on this pizza, one taster thought it could use maybe a little more salt. And a few thought this particular crust wasn't evenly done -- one thought it didn't have enough crunch. Two tasters noted a little bit of a gum line -- that doughy layer on the top side of the crust just under the sauce -- while also being a bit too charred on the bottom.

Sauce: Tasters described it as "bright," "fresh crushed tomatoes." Commented one taster: "Unadulterated tomatoes left to do exactly what tomatoes are supposed to do."

Toppings: Tasters called the cheese "classic" (if maybe some uneven distribution) and a few complimented the basil.

Overall taste: Tasters liked the overall pie, but seemed to find it just a little lacking. One taster seem to sum up the thoughts by calling it a "nice option."

Would you order this again?
Albany Jane: "Maybe. It's OK, but doesn't really jump out at me."
Daniel B: "Nope. Well, maybe in the summer. But it needs more brightness and pop. Maybe some sea salt and a drizzle of good oil."
Deanna: "I would recommend it."
Jon: "Yes. I bet this pie is better in a month with some more oven experience."

Valentina

restaurant navona pizza valentina

Menu description: Pecorino bianco, ham and egg and black pepper.

Crust: One taster loved the crust bubbles. And another complimented the "leopard spotting" from the char.

Sauce: This pizza didn't really have sauce, though the runny egg sort of the served that role. As one taster said: "Who can say no to egg yolk?"

Toppings: The tasters really seemed to enjoy this combination of egg and "lovely shaved" ham. One said they liked it enough "to steal it and try it at home." The only criticism was that the tasters weren't total fans of the not-set egg white -- and a few commented they'd like to see the egg cooked onto/into the pizza.

Overall taste: "Breakfast pizza." "It's a winner if you don't mind a little runny white." "Tastes like breakfast!" "Excellent."

Would you order this again?
Albany Jane: "Not really -- it's OK, but the egg execution is a little clunky."
Daniel B: "Really liked it ... great flavor combination. A winner."
Deanna: "Yes... this is good 'fancy wine' pizza."
Jon: "YES."

Fire Roasted Eggplant

restaurant navona pizza eggplant

Menu description: Tomato jam, roasted fennel, R&G goat cheese and house harissa.

Crust: The tasters had similar comments for this crust as with the other pies. A consistent comment was a love of the char, which tasters thought added a need dimension to the flavor of the crust.

Sauce: Said one taster: "So many sauces. What's sauce and what's a topping? It's all delicious and melds into this satisfying, warm pizza."

Toppings: Multiple tasters complimented the harissa -- "The harissa is AWESOME," said one and another taster thought the salt from the sauce added a saltiness lacking in the crust. If there was a drawback to the harissa, one taster thought it overpowered the fennel and eggplant. And another thought the fennel could have used a bit more time.

Overall taste: One described it was "very different, bright, warm."

Would you order this again?
Albany Jane: "Absolutely! Tons of flavor. Great for a chilly winter day/night."
Daniel B: "Probably not. I like big and bold flavors, but the fennel texture wasn't doing it for me."
Deanna: "I would order this again! I would review this for an 'Eat This' column, too."
Jon: "Probably not. [But] overall: I really like what's happening here. Good pizza with the potential to get better, and a chef that cares. Dough could use a little salt and time, maybe some starter."
____

Thanks to Albany Jane, Daniel, Deanna, and Jon for coming along and offering their thoughts!

Earlier on AOA: Checking out Blaze Pizza

Find It

Restaurant Navona
289 New Scotland Ave
Albany, NY 12208

Comments

None of those pizzas look like they have anywhere near enough toppings or coverings on them. Individual slices look like they are close to 50% crust. If you split that pizza with the egg 8 ways, it looks like only 1 slice would get any egg yolk, and some barely even have any white at all.

@powerume, not that this is a criticism of your observation, but since they are going after Italian inspired pizzas, these more or less hit the nail on the head. Little cheese, limited sauce, lots of crust accompanied by some toppings. The trick is that the dough has to be excellent and well cooked in the wood-oven, since its the star. If it isn't, than you just have a boring pizza with little to jazz it up. Might not be your traditional "Italian-American" pizza, but we have a ton of those establishments lying around.

Powerume, you are 100% right. They don't look Neapolitan; they look bad. Typical faux-fancy upstate NY pizza. Pizza dough needs to be thin, thin, thin, and charred in more places than just the crust. It's like they turned up the burner really high without cooking the whole pie through. Plus they have either overloaded the pizza with toppings (making it mushy and gooey) or don't have enough covering the pizza.

Love the crust, but agree it can use more topping. These comments are all over the place. You'd think we were looking at completely different pizzas.

@Burnt My Fingers - Same pizzas, just very different judges.

Deanna finds the good in things, she liked them all.
Jon is a purist and goes for the classics.
Albany Jane went for big bold flavors.
Daniel B. has a fat tooth. Egg yolk? Molten cheese? Bring it on.

For the record, I reject that pizza dough has to be ridiculously thin. Great pizza comes in all shapes and sizes. But so does lousy pizza. You've got to take the pizza that's in front of you on its own terms.

This was good pizza. It needs a little work. But Mike is clearly committed, and I think we all agree, that it's just going to get better and better. The thing that's most important is that he really cares about what he's doing. I hope he keeps it up.

Now get in there and order a cheese puddle, because despite the name, it was the one pie that got four thumbs up.

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