Restaurant Reviews

That Old Blackened Magic

You know you're getting close to Red Rock Coal Fired Pizza (50 NE First Ave., Boca Raton, 561-361-6655) when, a block or two away, you catch a whiff of burning coals. That scent tells you you're going to sit down to the kind of pizza that has generated a good deal of hot air over the years concerning the authenticity and the deliciousness of any given pie. In debates both emotional and learned, in magazine articles, on web blogs, on sites like and — in short, in any serious pizza circle worth its salt, there arises the question of the crust. And the answer to this burning issue, it seems, is that the crust should be burnt. Blackened. Charred and blistered. Bruciato, my friend. Only a coal- or wood-burning oven is able to generate that kind of heat (around 800 degrees Fahrenheit), along with the mildly smoky flavor that gives a Neapolitan or New York-Neapolitan pizza crust its immutable and eternally hell-bound soul.

At Red Rock Coal Fired Pizza, our pizza Bianco Mollusco, served on an elevated metal tray, was barely burnt at all. But the crust was thin, crisp, and deliciously gritty with cooked semolina. Chewy, fresh-shucked littlenecks on top had been tossed with pepper and parsley and scattered between buttery islands of imported buffalo mozzarella, then the whole thing sprinkled with sliced roasted garlic, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and dusted with Romano cheese. Proportions of all hovered in an ideal balance. This was a damned fine pizza.

Romano cheese, of course, would have any Brooklyn-based purist howling — and clams are actually a New Haven specialty. So we turned our attention to the pizza Salsiccia. Here we had better luck with the charring, including those luscious blackened pockets of air in the rim: This was a billion-dollar crust by any New Yorker´s standard. Bits of smoky, bitter blackening complemented the broccoli rabe and set off sweet, pungent, roasted garlic and sausage. Fresh mozzarella and a tart, lively tomato sauce did the trick. We´d found our New York state of mind.

Red Rock´s excellent signature pizzas are $9.50 for a ten-inch, $19.50 for a 16-inch and include the classic Margherita with tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella; an arugula; a pie with marinated sirloin, caramelized onions, and cheddar; and one with meatballs and ricotta cheese. Or you can ¨inventa la tua pizza,¨ choosing among meatballs, anchovies, Calamata olives, capers, caramelized onions, pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted red pepper, spinach, and a bunch of other stuff. Other than that, a couple of salads, some chicken wings, and a bit of escarole and spinach, plus beer and wine, make up the whole menu. No doubt pizza groupies will keep Red Rock in the black.