Name a pizza joint “Florence Pizzeria” and public reaction would likely be dubious: “Who the heck is Florence?” “Can someone named Florence possibly have a clue how to make pizza?” Now translate “Florence” to Italian and all of a sudden, “Firenze Pizzeria” has instant credibility. Never mind that most of the pizza in Florence (er, Firenze), Italy is of the Neapolitan variety. The name Firenze is a perfect fit for a pizzeria. Even the name inspires visions of a fire-breathing Italian oven preparing a waifishly thin pizza in just about a minute.
Steven Meyer, owner-operator of Albuquerque’s Firenze Pizzeria knows a thing or two about fire-breathing ovens and waifishly thin pizzas. In 2011, he pioneered portable pizza in the Duke City, toting an Italian-made oven throughout the city. Being booked every weekend for nearly two years for special events, catering and a semi-permanent gig at the Downtown Growers’ Market at Robinson Park facilitated the decision to seek a permanent venue. He found the perfect spot at 900 Park Avenue, S.W., just across Central Avenue to Robinson Park. The two-story edifice Firenze called home for nearly nine years had plenty of character and personality. One of its neighbors was the lair of notorious drug kingpin Tico Salamanca when the two-story building wasn’t occupied by Java Joe’s.
In 2022, Meyer was on the move again, this time virtually all the way across town. Firenze Pizzeria is now located on the Bridges and Tramway. Some of Firenze’s neighbors in the restaurant -centric development include Tako Ten and Thai Street. For west-siders and those of us from Rio Rancho, it’s a long way to go for a pizza, but having enjoyed several pulchritudinous pies from its downtown area predecessor, we knew we’d be served a very good pie. Besides, The Dude was getting his bi-monthly coiffure in the area. He enjoys the Bridges at Tramway because there are several al fresco dining opportunities where passers-by can ogle him and he can flirt with women.
Firenze faces Candelaria in the multi-use complex. Space is hardly commodious, but then you are in close proximity to terrific outdoor seating. Weather-permitting, there’s nothing like a stunning view of the Sandias to amp up your hunger. Behind the counter, you’ll espy a domed oven resembling a Marvel superhero’s helmet. Ventilation ducts clambering to the high ceiling have the unfortunate side-effect of not disbursing the inimitable aroma of baking pizza. Then again, we didn’t see any firewood in the place.
Listed first on the menu are three “classic” pizzas: Classic Margarita (SIC) (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, finished with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil); Classic Cheese (tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella); and Classic Pepperoni (tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and pepperoni. There are more than twenty toppings available with which to adorn your pie. You can even top half of your pizza with different toppings than the other half. The menu lists some fourteen custom pizzas including one called “Veggie” that’s available as Vegan. Green chile is available as a standard topping on several toppings, but you can add it to any pie. Three salads are also available.
Firenze pizzas are individually sized at about ten-inches–-perfect for one. The pizza is thin crust though not exactly Neapolitan style. Despite its thinness, the crust isn’t cracker-like. It’s still got good pliability. A slight cornicione (Italian word for the edge or rim of the pizza) befits the thin crust. The oven imparts a nice brown char, so if you’re inclined to believe char isn’t a flavor, you’d better ask for a light char up front. The dough is made on the premises and is machine stretched for uniformity. Your pizzaioli’s deft handling of ingredients may result in an oblong pizza. Who cares as long as it’s good?
That’s where Firenze excels. Just as at the Park Avenue location, the pizza is top ten in the city worthy. My choice was fittingly named Wild Mushroom (garlic oil, white mushrooms, baby Bella mushrooms, feta, shredded mozzarella, pecorino Romano, ricotta and green chile). Unlike at some pizzerias, you don’t need to mount an expedition to find some of the ingredients on the pizza you order. The generosity of those ingredients belies the thin crust. “Baby bella mushrooms,” by the way share some of the properties of New Mexico’s sacrosanct chile. Just as chile can be red or green depending on its maturity, baby bella mushrooms can be cremini or as portabella depending on when they’re picked. Given my druthers, the green chile would have been more piquant but other than that, the wild mushroom pizza is a good one.
As a “less is more” proponent of pizza purity, my Kim frequently orders cheese pizza (Classic cheese at Firenze). To me that translates to a boring pizza. In all fairness, I stand by that position unless the pizza is just out of the oven. It surprises me to find that hot, fresh cheese pizza can actually be quite good. That’s certainly the case with Firenze’s Classic cheese, a simple (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese) pizza that will please the most nitpicky people. By the way because we didn’t finish the six slice pie, we took about half of it home where my initial prejudice was confirmed. I didn’t like cheese pizza cold.
A gluten-free option is available for all pizzas. It’s just one of the many things to like about this pizzeria. Though I may whine about the distance to Fierenze, at least we don’t have to go to Fierenze, Italy for very good pizza.
12501 Candelaria Road, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 8 April 2023
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Classic Cheese, Wild Mushroom