It takes someone with a lot of self-confidence to open a pizza restaurant not far from the legendary Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, but Mike Bancale, a restauranteur from Naples, Italy believes his new restaurant, Salsa (40 Clifford Pl). will succeed. Of course, it is easy to believe in your pizza making skills when you have grown up in the city that invented pizza and already own a popular Brooklyn pizzeria.
Bancale, not yet thirty-two years old, arrived in the states ten years ago with almost no money, but full of passion, energy, and ambition. Four years ago he opened his first restaurant, Bravi Ragazzi BK in Bed-Stuy, where his tasty Neapolitan style pies quickly attracted a loyal clientele. He said that southern Italians have a burning passion for food and take great pride in serving excellent dishes.
Bancale radiates both pride and passion as he discusses making the perfect pie with great enthusiasm and animation. Already by age fourteen, he knew that he wanted to work in restaurants and though Bancale worked as a server in elegant restaurants both here in America and in Europe, he dreamed of serving authentic Neapolitan fare.
Bancale says that the poor quality of many pizzerias in New York inspired him to open his own place and he fervently believes that quality can never be compromised.
For Bancale, quality begins with the right oven. He pointed with pride to an imported wood burning oven, hand made in Naples by the Medaglia family who have made world renowned pizza ovens for more than 200 years. The oven, which can reach temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, is a must for great pizza and it cooks pies in a flash. His insistence on quality extends to his choice of ingredients, including the legendary San Marzano tomatoes and other fresh ingredients.
He showed me how his dough slowly rises during a two-part, 8–12-hour fermentation process that allows the carbohydrates and gluten to be broken down, making the pizza easy to digest. To achieve just the right texture, Bancale avoids using too much yeast.
Bancale did more than just talk about pizza making. He pushed the raw dough into the Forni Medalgia oven and a minute later a sizzling, tempting pie emerged.
The first few mouthwatering bites confirmed that his pie had a perfect crust and flawless balance of tastes. Eating his delicious Margherita pizza, for a moment I felt transported back to Italy. Salsa will also offer other a variety of Neapolitan street food, a first for the area.
Salsa has a great vibe, and its friendly owner exudes a genuine warmth and love for cooking. It is hard to believe that the small, cute space was not long ago a grimy tool and die factory. Even before his opening locals were dropping by, intrigued by the décor, the wood burning oven and the enticing aroma of the pizza.
Salsa is located at 40 Clifford Place and is on Instagram at salsa.pizzeria. The restaurant will have a soft opening on Friday, June 11th. Salsa will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.