A few months ago, self-proclaimed “fancy metrosexual” and friend of the Tour, JR from Streets of Stamford brought to our attention this Alan Richman (GQ) article detailing “the 25 best pizzas you’ll ever eat.” Among the pies in the surrounding areas are Pepe’s and Sally’s in New Haven, as well as Iron Chef (and documented blogger hater) Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s newly acquired (and 100+ year old) Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY.
Establishment. Tarry Lodge is as white tablecloth a restaurant as they come, all the way down to the white tablecloths. A unique, rustic labyrinth of eating nooks, finished wood, and water closets, Tarry Lodge balances elegance and comfort with warm decor in its saloon-style bar, tucked away dining rooms, and private party rooms. Our waiters (we had about seven of them) were extremely attentive, personable, and quick, especially considering our meal consisted of little more than free focaccia and water (with innumerable refills) and a few personal pizzas off of an otherwise well-rounded and complete menu. Tarry Lodge offers elegant, modern, mouthwatering twists on classic Italian fare and a seemingly endless wine list in addition to some rather unique pizzas.
Pizza. Richman’s article talks up Tarry Lodge’s sauceless white clam pie (pictured right), so we were eager to try it in addition to their traditional margherita pizza as well as a more modern meatball and jalapeño concoction. Each pie sat atop a light but dense, chewy crust and was absolutely scorched to a crisp in their wonderful wood-burning oven, giving the crust a unique texture, a muted smokiness, and a metric ton of slightly bitter char. The sauce (where applicable) was fresh-tasting and bright, albeit a bit watery and thin for our tastes, both in terms of flavor and texture. Tarry Lodge uses incredibly flavorful, creamy, and delicious cheeses on their pies. That being said, it’s less of a letdown when the thin, personal pie cools and the cheese congeals rather quickly. A letdown, yes, just less of one.The marghertia pie (pictured above) was as expected, highlighting quality staple ingredients and the clean flavors of garlic and basil by allowing them to play off one another and remaining simple but delicious.
Conversely, the meatball and jalapeño (and tomato and fontina) pizza (pictured below) combined two very different flavors in a rather haphazard fashion. While the meatballs were plump, tender, and extremely well-seasoned, the addition of jalapeño peppers detracted from the pie as a whole and overpowered the subtleties of the fresh tomato and fontina cheese.The white clam pie was unlike anything we’ve ever tried (even Pepe’s white clam pie), featuring fresh, salty in-the-shell clams and healthy amounts of garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a buttery, briny explosion of flavor. After removing each tiny, delicious clam from its shell and assembling a slice, the first bite is nothing short of mind-blowing in all of its spicy/clammy/salty/garlicky glory. Unfortunately, once that clam was gone, there was little to the pizza itself and the dry, chewy crust and the numbing jaw soreness that would ensue really drove that point home.
The pizza at Tarry Lodge was not bad by any means, but for all the pageantry surrounding it—a wood-burning oven, world-renowned owners and chefs, a menu without decimal places—we somehow were expecting more.
The bottom line. Tarry Lodge does not make the best pizza we’ve ever had, but it’s far from the worst if you can somehow convince yourself not to order pasta or an entree.