Eaten, Barely Blogged: Panda Fries & Argentine Pizza
You may be familiar with disco fries (gravy and mozzarella) a.k.a. New York poutine, or even Irish nachos (corned beef, bacon, cheese, onions) but panda fries are an anomaly that have been taunting me on Due Fratelli’s online menu for nearly a year whenever I get the wrong-headed urge to order neighborhood pizza (I swear the prosciutto is mangled country ham). Why panda? I still don’t know; there’s nothing particularly Chinese or black-and-white about them. The combination of vodka sauce and mozzarella is uniquely Italian-American (and I want to say Northeastern since I’d never encountered it prior to living in NYC, though I don’t think that’s true) and is a perfectly delicious tangy and creamy addition to fried potatoes, though not a common delicacy. In fact, I can only see two other pizza places serving panda fries: Grandma Rose’s in Williamsburg and Granos in Astoria. Maybe there’s a connection? I was slightly embarrassed to order them but am now emboldened.
Argentine pizza seems to come and go around this part of Queens, and sometimes it’s not obvious from the outside that a pizzeria is slinging fugazzetta and empanadas in addition to pepperoni and garlic knots. What makes a pizza Argentine? My brief encounter in Buenos Aries has led me to believe that it’s a thick, bready crust but not quite deep dish, a molten blanket of mozzarella, a fondness for whole green olives and roasted red peppers, and the occasional addition of faina, a chickpea pancake that gets draped over the pizza like a triangular carb cap.
Pizza La Boca opened a few months ago, right in the strip where competing Uruguayan bakeries La Nueva and La Gran Uruguaya reign and sell lasagna-like slices too. I would’ve assumed it was run by South Americans if I hadn’t decided to pick up a pizza ordered online (total nightmare in Jackson Heights fyi–restaurants on Seamless and Eat24 don’t know how to use the services, send delivery automatically, and instruct you to just call, which defeats the purpose of living in 2015 and never having to use cash or interact with humans again) and discovered the staff was South Asian. Eventually, the fugazzetta (onion and more onion) I ordered emerged from the oven, a strange rendition I discovered once home. Yes, there was a shit-ton of cheese and onions sprinkled with dried oregano, but the addition of tomato sauce (just a little) isn’t traditional and the sliced onions appeared to be added at the end rather than getting the necessary char to sweeten them up and tone them down. And yet, it still served its purpose as Sunday hangover stomach-padding.