Last weekend I had the privilege of dining at Ducali in the North End along with some fellow bloggers and cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon. I was particularly excited to meet Crescent, who I have been a fan of for years. I received one of her earlier books, Passionate Vegetarian, from my mom about ten years ago. During lunch, Crescent answered all sorts of questions about beans, her favorite recipes, the writing process and more. She is an excellent storyteller with a warm personality. Her newest book includes dozens of creative bean recipes inspired by a wide variety of cuisines: Black Bean Fauxjoada, a meatless version of the Brazilian feijoada; Tamale Pie; Maya’s Magic Black Beans with Eggplant and Royal Rice; and desserts like Sesame Seed Chickpea Flour Cookies, and Red Bean Ice Cream. The book also includes a guide to dozens of varieties of beans and directions for cooking and use. It is an excellent resource for bean fans and skeptics alike.
The setting for this pleasant afternoon was Ducali, a pizza restaurant and bar in the North End just across from the Charlestown Bridge. We started out with an appetizer of Carciofi– Broiled Artichoke served with homemade garlic aioli.
Photo courtesy of Bianca
Caprino e bacca– Baby spinach with goat cheese and dried cranberries. This salad came with a towering pile of fresh spinach and a modest sprinkling of cheese and cranberries. I’m not sure if there was any dressing. While I do love a plate of unadulterated greens, in lieu of dressing, the toppings need to be a little more robust. I was far more impressed with the pizzas than our appetizers.
Spinaci– Fresh mozzarella, garlic and spinach, topped with black pepper and Romano cheese. The fresh (not frozen) spinach was the focus of this pie. A thick layer of it lay on top of the crust. The mozzarella and romano were applied somewhat sparingly which I enjoyed. The salty romano and the sweetness of the spinach made for a nice pairing. Out of three we tasted, the crust on this pie was the best , thin with a nice chew. White pies often come piled high with cheese to make up for the lack of sauce. With this pie, the spinach added the perfect amount of moisture, allowing for a pleasantly minimal amount of cheese.
Photo courtesy of Bianca
Rugola– Mozzarella topped with arugula, drizzled with truffle oil and topped with shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano. Again, I was delighted at the plentiful pile of bright green atop this pie. The mozzarella and thin crust formed a chewy base for the crisp truffle-accented arugula. The parmesan added a wonderful richness though the pieces were a touch thick, they would more aptly be described as parmesan chunks.
Melanzane e zucchini– Grilled eggplant, mushroom, zucchini and mozzarella topped with fresh goat cheese. I expected to like this one a lot but it fell short. The eggplant was dry and chewy and I did not enjoy the seasoning on the zucchini. Thankfully, the other two pies more than made up for this.
I was not familiar with Ducali prior to this lunch and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the pizza. A nice thin crust with flavorful cheeses and toppings. I’d recommend going for lunch as sunlight floods the restaurant during the day and offers a view of the waterfront and Charlestown in the distance. It so happened that our pizza selections ended up being all white pies. I’m curious to return again and see how the red pies stack up.
289 Causeway St.