PizzArte brings the Italia

For Scott’s birthday dinner, we visited PizzArte, a Neapolitan joint located in midtown (good pizza in midtown? I was just as surprised!).

PizzArte is a two-level establishment that functions as both an art gallery AND a restaurant (supposedly you can buy any of the art displayed). The inside has a really cool vibe and both the food and the staff scream authentic Italian, if my memory serves me correctly!

We started with the frittura all’italiana, which was a sampling of potato croquette, rice ball, fried dough with tomato sauce, and zucchini fries. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo before diving into it, but it was a fabulous starter that was delectably filling but light at the same time. We ordered the serving for one ($11) and just split everything in half.

Since we ordered an appetizer first, we chose to get only one pie, which was the Verace ($16): San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. The basil appeared to be cooked with the pie (rather than added on after) and was slightly dulled by this but still left an excellent bite (I should mention I could smell the basil while waiting outside the restaurant – always a good sign to me!).

The mozzarella was thick and creamy, but didn’t have any stringiness to it and therefore came off in chunks when you bit into it. The pie was a bit oily (clearly sprinkled with olive oil, as you can see above), and the sauce was smooth but much sweeter than similar Neapolitan pie sauces I’ve had.

The crust was nicely charred, lending a smokiness to the sauce on top of the sweetness. Despite the style of the pie, the crust remained strong enough to not completely flop under the weight of the sauce & cheese (except in the very center, which is to be expected). It definitely wasn’t as difficult or messy to eat as other Neapolitan pies I’ve had (like Via Tribunali’s); I was impressed with how much structure there was to the crust. The cornicione (new vocab word! it’s the end of the crust) was chewy and puffy.

I’d definitely recommend PizzArte to anyone, especially in the pizza-barren (ahem, GOOD pizza-barren) midtown area. Perfect for a bite if you’re near Times Square, the south end of Central Park, or Rockefeller Center. I didn’t try any of the other dishes, but they also offer meat and pasta options.


69 W 55th Street, New York, NY 10019


Friday in the LES: Via Tribunali & Il Laboratorio del Gelato

This past Friday I had plans to see a concert down at the Bowery Ballroom and found it the perfect opportunity to sample some Lower East Side bites. We started off with pizza (of course) at Via Tribunali, a small chain based in Seattle.

At 6:00pm on a Friday, it was pretty empty – which was good for us, as the tables were quite cramped together. The space is actually fairly small; even the pizza-maker seemed like he had to contort himself just to get pizzas in & out of the oven!

The menus were cute, a single sheet folded into four; and once we ordered some beers (Sixpoint Brewery, yeeesss!) I was all set to consume some delicious pizza. Like many places, I enjoyed being able to watch them actually prepare our pies.

We started with the margherita pie. In what I’ve learned is a traditional Neapolitan move, Via Tribunali does NOT slice their pies before serving them. This is supposed to prevent the crust from soaking up the sauce, but for me it was just inconvenient – the knife I had was not sufficient for cutting it and the crust got all soggy anyway! Though the outside perimeter remained stiff enough to support the toppings, the middle sagged and drooped an unreasonable amount, making it extremely difficult to consume. I could tell they used olive oil on top of the pie, which also made it greasy, and made me a big mess.

That’s not to say it wasn’t delicious – I can tell they use high-quality ingredients. The char was pleasant and the sauce sweet, melding well with the ample amounts of mozzarella cheese. I used most of my flavorful pizza bones to scrape up the remaining sauce. Want evidence that I enjoyed it?

We also ordered the capricciosa, which contains “pomodoro, fresh mozzarella, parmacotto prosciutto, oven-roasted mushrooms, artichokes, olives.” Scott thoroughly enjoyed it, but as someone who doesn’t like mushrooms and olives and who had never before tried prosciutto (I found the ham-my taste of this one overwhelming), I only had a small slice.

Being that I picked off most of the toppings, I probably don’t have much of a right to comment on this one. However, I did very much enjoy the artichokes and can now say I’ve tried prosciutto, so go me!

My original plan was to go to Stellina for gelato, but they’re apparently closed for renovations. Shrug. Luckily, I’ve got an endless list of places to visit stored right on my phone, so we headed for Il Laboratorio del Gelato. I’m not sure how I felt about the sterile feel of it all, and the girl at the counter was inexplicably nasty (as Scott put it, “you basically serve ice cream at a place that looks like a science lab and you get to dress like a surgeon. What could be bad about that?”), but the quality was definitely up to par.

They’ve got so many flavors to try, and I would have loved to try them all, but their prices are astronomical for such a small size. If they’re to be believed, they do indeed use local and organic ingredients when necessary, and their gelatos and sorbets are produced in small batches to maintain quality.

I chose the carob and strawberry flavors – carob because it was what I sampled and I liked it (later Googling it to find it’s an alternate to chocolate, but without the caffeine); strawberry because I’d previously heard good things about it. The carob was very similar to chocolate but also had a grainy quality to it, and it meshed well with the sweet, creamy strawberry. The texture was smooth and full, just as I remember my favorite gelatos from Italy. I’m always surprised by how satisfied I am by tiny cups of gelato (as opposed to towering bowls of ice cream), and this certainly did the trick.

Via Tribunali, 122 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002;

Il Laboratorio del Gelato, 188 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002;

Why Bleecker Street is Amazing

Visiting this area makes me incredibly upset that I didn’t go to NYU.

It’s a shame that I didn’t want to go to school in a city (I wanted a real campus and all) and that I wasn’t at all interested in NYU when I was 17, because that area is a pizza mecca. Located very close to other pizza meccas, not to mention baked good meccas. You live and you learn, I suppose.

In the space of 2-3 blocks are so many amazing pizzerias you could cry (if you’re the type of person who gets overly emotionally excited about pizza). One of my all-time faves, John’s, is right on Bleecker Street. Across the way are Keste and Pizza Roma; around the corner on Carmine in one direction is Joe’s and in the other is Spunto. There’s also Bleecker Street Pizza, which I have yet to try.

Keste serves authentic Neapolitan pizza under Chef Roberto Caporuscio, who is a delegate of the Associazone Pizzaiuoli Napoletani and therefore works very hard to maintain the standards they believe necessary to carry on the tradition of Italian pizza-making. Keste’s pizza is pizza like I remember it in Florence, Italy. My visit to Keste came before I knew much about pizza, but I can tell you this much – it was delicious.

We ordered the traditional Margherita (second photo) and the Regina Margherita (first photo, necessary since I’m a sucker for buffalo mozzarella). The pies were perfectly charred, a dream of cheese and sauce fusion, tinged with basil. As per most Neapolitan pies, the crust gets soft and sags under the weight of the sauce & cheese, but I actually enjoy the semi-mush that results.

Pizza Roma was my next stop down the block (different day! My binging disguised as a pizza crawl is semi-recent). Their roman-style square slices look appetizing, but as I recall I didn’t really enjoy it much. The crust was actually burnt in areas (and I burned my mouth – that’s my fault, not theirs), there was too much thick sauce in proportion to the cheese. It was really messy – which I normally don’t mind – but I didn’t think it paid off. However, they had some really interesting looking slices up front that I’d go back to try (in a rare twist, you can actually get it by the slice).

Joe’s is THE quintessential New York slice. Crunchy crust, loads of cheese, it’s just straight up delicious. Like John’s, the walls at Joe’s are plastered with photos of celebrity visitors, in case you weren’t convinced enough that you should love it. It’s an *institution* of New York pizza. Go in, grab a slice, fold that bad boy like a real New Yorker, and just go to town on it.

The last place on my little mini tour here is Spunto Thin Crust. When you literally name your restaurant describing your food, you better deliver – and Spunto does. The crust of their Classica pie is without a doubt the thinnest crust I’ve ever had, and it doesn’t bend or sag at all, remaining perfectly crisp. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes (despite my love of tomato sauce, ketchup, etc.) so this wasn’t a big favorite for me, but I still enjoyed it – how can you not with those enormous balls of mozzarella?

There ya go. If you’re ever in this area of town and not eating pizza, you’ve officially sinned.

Keste, 271 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014;

Pizza Roma, 259 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014;

Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014;

Spunto Thin Crust, 65 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014;

Theater District: Merilu & Sullivan St Bakery

While you can argue what district or neighborhood these pizzerias are located in, Scott and I stopped at both Merilu Pizza al Metro and Sullivan Street Bakery today before going to see Magic/Bird on Broadway. Both of these are counter-service with a small seating area.

The first stop was Merilu, which makes their pies long and Roman style. They had about six choices out, but we went with the Margherita. All the menus and reviews I’ve seen advertise many other types of pies, so I guess it depends on the day.

The crust is thin and crunchy, softened on top by the cheese but solid on the bottom. The cheese is stringy and salty, which contrasts nicely with the sweet sauce.

The crust certainly holds up without sagging. I’m not entirely sure what the grated cheese was as the description only includes mozzarella.

Next up was Sullivan Street Bakery. I tried the zucchini slice while Scott went for the pomodoro. They’ve got a small seating area at the window where the sunshine just poured in on this lovely day!

This slice had so much crunch to it, between the deliciously hearty crust (bread is a big thing at Sullivan Street Bakery, after all) and the crispy cooked zucchini. There’s also gruyere cheese in the mix. There’s clearly plenty of zucchini, and it becomes the star of the pie rather than the cheese.

The inside was porous and light and the bottom of the pie an excellent browned color, reminding me slightly of foccacia.

I found the pomodoro to be slightly less impressive, especially since their slices are served cold – but Scott seemed to enjoy it all the same.

Definitely hit these places up if you’re in the area. They’re far enough west that you can avoid the massive tourist crowds as well – which is always my preference.

Merilu Pizza al Metro, 791 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10019;

Sullivan Street Bakery, 533 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036;

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria Leaves Me Speechless.

It’d been a while since my last pizzadventure with Scott, so I was SUPER excited to head out last night to Mario Batali’s Otto Enoteca Pizzeria. The food was so good, at the time it left me speechless, but hey – the blog is for verbalizing food, so here goes!

This photo isn’t mine, but I felt it necessary to show the vibe of the restaurant. It’s modeled after an Italian train station, though I can personally vouch for the fact that besides the schedule sign up front, it’s MUCH nicer than an Italian train station! We were extremely well-attended to the entire evening – water constantly refilled, wine filled from the carafe when my glass was low, managers checking in. Best of all (for me, at least) – it’s totally casual and unpretentious, despite the extensive and high-class wine list.

We skipped appetizers and went straight to the pizza, which was reasonably priced at $7-15 per pie. We went with the classic Margherita D.O.P. and the Cacio e Pepe (above). According to what I’ve read about Otto, they cook their pizzas on a griddle then broil them, rather than baking them in an oven. Perhaps due to this, their crust is extremely thin and crispy and does not sag with the weight of its toppings. This also means you don’t feel heavy or overwhelmed consuming it, as it’s light and flavorful.

Cacio simply translates to cheese as far as I can tell, and this pie is a mix of mozzarella, pecorino, and parmesan, coated in a thick dusting of coarsely grated black pepper; NO sauce.

Perhaps it was the large amount of cheese, but there also seemed to have been olive oil sprinkled on this pie, which made it extremely greasy. Past the point of just adding a nice sheen, the grease straight up dripped down the pie onto the plate. Apart from the mess, it was still incredibly delicious. After a while, the black pepper became a bit overwhelming, which made the light, sweet Margherita such a welcome accompaniment.

At first glance I was a bit disappointed by the sparse amount of cheese, but the sauce was so intensely flavorful that it was easily forgotten. Sweet and pure and not overly spiced, the sauce stood solidly on its own, complemented by the small basil leaves added post-cooking. The crust was crunchy with the perfect amount of char adding a burnt, toasty taste. I actually found that I enjoyed the cheese in small doses as sort of a special treat rather than taking over the pie.

Now, it would have been a shame to visit Otto without trying their much-revered gelato. We chose the olive oil and milk chocolate chip gelato with tangerine sorbetto. NONE of the flavors disappointed. We were both incredibly shocked by how much we enjoyed the olive oil gelato, which somehow preserved the essential olive oil flavor (drizzed on top with salt as well) while still remaining creamy. The milk chocolate chip, as per Scott, tasted like a “melted chocolate bar,” and its flavor was so perfectly on point for light gelato (as opposed to heavy ice cream). The chips melted in your mouth. The tangerine sorbetto was so refreshingly fruity and sweet. We even tried combining 2 flavors (and even 3 flavors) at once, and they were all spectacular together.

Now get up, and go. But make a reservation first.

OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria

One Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003

“Meh”: New York Pizza Suprema

I work in Midtown Manhattan, and though it’s the tourist mecca, I’ve actually found it’s pretty slim pickings for good food, especially pizza. Most things worth trying are too far to travel during my “lunch hour.” Therefore, I was pretty excited that there were a few places nearby deemed worthy; one being New York Pizza Suprema on 8th Avenue & 31st Street, only blocks away from my office.

I went around 1pm, so it was crowded for lunch. It’s right by Penn Station and it seems to get a pretty good crowd from there as well (though I’m technically one of them, so I can’t complain… or can I?). After shouting my order through a glass case way taller than my body, I was made to repeat my order multiple times – to the cashier, to the guy taking it out from the oven – which annoys me, but whatever. Their red & white striped outfits were ADORABLE.

I was planning on just getting the renowned upside-down slice (left), but I can’t turn down a margherita slice, so I ordered both. At $3.00 and $3.75 a slice, respectively, they were a bit more than I’d like to pay for two slices, but HEY, IT’S NYC! (A reasoning for charging more that I find to be absolutely bullshit).

I first tackled the upside-down slice, which is essentially a Sicilian slice with sauce on top. Here’s one good reason to favor places that refuse to sell by-the-slice: your pizza will be fresh. If you’re ordering a whole pie, they’re making it for you then. At a place like Pizza Suprema, they have multiple (maybe around 10-15) different pizzas sitting around waiting to be served, and it was obvious that my chosen slice had been there for quite some time.

Though they reheated it, my crust was more than burnt. I’m a lover of char, but this was so hard, not even crisp, that it kind of ruined things for me. I didn’t even want to eat my pizza bones – they were barely edible! I found this on the margherita slice, too – the crust was cooked for far too long that it became overly chewy and even hollow. This could be attributed to their lunchtime rush, I suppose – though it’s not really a reason to abandon quality. They probably left it reheating too long, as well – if you didn’t remind them of what you ordered and to take it out, you would have stood there waiting forever.

HOWEVER, the sauce on both pies was impeccable. If their sign is to believed, they actually use 4 different sauces (at once?). Big chunks of tomato, plenty of seasoning. The cheese and sauce essentially blended together on the upside-down pie, and were it not for the petrified crust it would have been completely enjoyable.

The sauce on the margherita slice was extremely sweet, which for once I have to say I didn’t mind. Crispy, thin crust – much better until I got to the edge (pictured above). It was even good cold – I got a bit stuffed eating so much at once; those bready Sicilian-style pies fill you up!

I did find it a bit over-seasoned and also overcooked so the cheese wasn’t as stringy as it probably should have been. Nevertheless, it was a decent slice, though their plain cheese slices looked the best – perhaps next time. I guess that in the land of dollar slices and tourist trap chains, sometimes the best you can ask for is “good enough.” :(

New York Pizza Suprema

413 8th Avenue,  New York, NY 10001

Hands-On Pizza Time.

Now that everyone is well aware of my obsession with pizza, I get suggestions from people all of the time (which, BTW, I love – so keep them coming). Last week, a friend sent through a deal she found on Daily Candy for a pizza-making class – so of course, I signed up Scott and myself at $75 for 2 people.

The class was located at AOA Bar & Grill down near TriBeCa. I was a little suspicious of the place based on its Yelp reviews (I live by Yelp) – the food got OK reviews; but the service reviews were horrible. The setup was adorable; at 11am with one whiff of the basil we were both more than ready to go.

They gave us aprons and gloves and we got set up at our stations. We got there about 15 minutes early – common courtesy, I think – but we ended up not starting til about 20 minutes after 11. Annoying, but okay.

Soon after we arrived, it became obvious that the pizza class was a ploy to gain customers and improve their reputation – fair enough. It started out fine, with a fun vibe and adequate attention paid to each member of the 30-person class (albeit with a sharp sense of desperation).

We started with a basic pizza dough, which we didn’t actually end up using in the class as it would need time to rise. I did take it home and refrigerate it – which reminds me that I should probably get on with making something of it! They provided us with dough balls that we would use to first make calzones.

The chef teaching the class clearly loves what he does but was also clearly being pressured by his boss – who lingered QUITE a bit – to make it more about us liking the restaurant than learning about pizza. We got off to a good start with the calzones, which we filled with mozzarella, spinach, and, in some cases (though not mine) ham.

They came out pretty well – notice my sweet empanada-style edges – and luckily the people around us were friendly & lovely as we had lots of time to sit and talk while everyone’s calzones went in the oven. Next, we started on the pizza. We all got dough balls, buckets of pre-made sauce, cubed or sliced mozzarella, and basil to cut and arrange as we chose.

Heeeere’s where things got bad. Once the lunch crowd started to arrive, we were all but ignored by our instructor, who was apparently the only one there able to make pizzas. He was forced to leave us in the middle of OUR pizza prep to make pizzas for the customers, while our dough dried out and those who had prepped to be put in the oven became soggy with sauce.

Promises of making our own sauce AND making focaccia were soon completely forgotten, as the class ran well over the 2 hours it was scheduled for. It got to the point where we just wanted to make our pizzas and get out; even worse, some people who must have had other plans DID leave before finishing.

The final product, once we actually got to put ours in the oven, was pretty excellent. The crust crisped up nicely; mine was really thin – which is really my own fault for being horrible at rolling out dough. Scott’s prior pizza-making experience shone through in his perfectly puffed crust (not to mention his flawless pizza-tossing) – not fair! I really did enjoy their sauce, though it would have been nice to make my own.

Someone mentioned this was only the fourth time they’d done this class – could have fooled me, as I thought it was the first time. There are a few things they could do to easily improve this class, namely sign up less people (30 is way too many for their space and tiny oven), have a clear agenda of what you’re making and keep it moving, and not interrupt the class to serve other customers (perhaps a second pizza chef?).

A lot of the other couples there (it was indeed mostly couples, or at least pairs of friends) didn’t seem to mind as the bar was open and they were free to do their 30-something socializing, but for younger, hungrier folks like us – we didn’t enjoy the wait! Given some time to work out these kinks, I’d recommend taking the class – or maybe one like it somewhere else.

AOA Bar & Grill

33 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10013

Astoria Pizza Tour

Upon realizing that several of the pizzerias on my list were in Astoria, I decided to organize my own pizza tour! Naturally, I dragged along Scott and made him suffer (joking – pizza never equals suffering) through 4 pizzerias in about 2 hours. I didn’t realize things were quite so close – hence the eventual stomachache – but I did completely fall in love with Astoria.

Our first stop: Sac’s Place!

Above: the coal-burning oven at Sac’s. We got there just about when it opened and they already had a few amazing-looking pizzas out, but we stuck to the basic cheese & sauce. There’s a pizza side where you can order slices, and also a sit-down restaurant area. The entire place was really nice!

This is their cheese slice, but from what I’ve read the “Mama’s Old Fashioned” slice is also amazing – their version of a margherita. Thin, crispy crust; the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese. The cheese is stringy but not excessively so. I was so hungry from waiting to eat all day that I gobbled it up :)

Sweet NYC-style decor at Sac’s.

Our next stop: Rizzo’s Fine Pizza.

Rizzo’s walls are covered with articles praising its food and about the pizza traditions of New York. Unfortunately I didn’t do my research – their most famous slice is the square Sicilian-style, which you can see above on their menu. I’ve never seen Sicilian pies done in that way with the cheese, so of course I must go back. I got their “round” Neapolitan pizza – which, in my opinion, isn’t actually Neapolitan at all. All of Rizzo’s pies have a thin crust, which is flavorful and crunchy – you can even see how easily the crust would break in the picture below.

Though it doesn’t look like much, this slice was packed with flavor. Plus, you get this guy smiling at you from every table!

We were both getting a little full by then. But we must go on!

Third stop: Rosario’s Deli.

Rosario’s is an Italian deli full of authentic, imported Italian goods. It’s got everything I remember from my time spent in Florence plus more. In the back, you can get pizza by the slice only, made with their own freshly-made mozzarella. Their pizza had quite an interesting look to it with the way the cheese cooks, but it’s delicious through-and-through. The orange makes me think they also put olive oil on their pies, but I can’t be sure – it might just be the sauce and cheese blending.

There’s nowhere to sit inside so we took our slices to the streets of Queens! We both agreed this was one of the best NY slices we’d had. I don’t even know what it is – just melts with a very straightforward tomato flavor. My favorite slice of the tour by far, and one I’d definitely return to Astoria for.

You can’t really go wrong with such a great slice from a place full of Italian goods – plus, you can pick up a Kinder bar on your way out.

Our final stop was right across the street: Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery. Like Rosario’s, it’s a whole other business upfront – a bakery, in this case – with slices available towards the back. They do both regular pies and Sicilian, but I’d heard the Sicilian was the one to try – and try we did.

I didn’t snap any pictures of the store itself, but the front is full of all kinds of Italian cookies, breads, cakes, and even sandwiches. By this point, I was pretty full and starting to feel sick, but I couldn’t stop myself from finishing this slice – that’s how good it was. Without a doubt, the best Sicilian slice I’ve ever had. Airy – not heavy like most Sicilian slices – and crisp. Greasy, sure; but well worth it.

Kudos, Astoria. Though I only visited these 4 places, we passed about a million other promising-looking places. I’ve heard people mention several other favorites in the area, so I guess I’ll just have to return! Feel free to share ’em here if you have them – any in Queens, really; my list is lacking in that borough.

Sac’s Place: 25-41 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11106;

Rizzo’s Fine Pizza: 30-13 Steinway Street, Astoria, NY 11103;

Rosario’s Deli: 22-55 31st Street, Astoria, NY 11105

Rose and Joe’s Italian Bakery: 22-40 31st Street, Astoria, NY 11105

Pizza Tour 2.0: Bronx Edition

This weekend Scott & I went on our second Scott’s Pizza Tour, but this time we did the bus tour – 4.5 hours and 4 stops (the other option is a walking tour; 3 stops). Though the destinations change every time, we knew this one was headed to the Bronx. I’d never really go up there otherwise, so this was the perfect chance!

Like all of Scott’s Tours, we started out at Lombardi’s, the first licensed pizzeria in North America. Though this happened in 1905, I actually learned today that they were closed for a bit and only opened back up in the 90s. Cuuuuurious. I also took notes this time around in my handy SPT journal – so get ready for some detail!

Their pizza cooks in 3 minutes, and has an extremely thin but still chewy AND crunchy crust. The longer the pie cooks in the oven (and 3 minutes is on the longer end for coal-fired ovens), the firmer the crust is. I found that our pie had more sauce and less cheese than usual – I’m a cheese girl all the way, screw sauce if I have to choose one! Lombardi’s uses fresh mozzarella, and the sauce was sweet but slightly tart. Scott and I agreed there was less char than we remembered, but that can also be attributed to the heat of the oven at this particular time. Lombardi’s keeps their oven running at all times, and the temperature changes depending on time of day. I also learned that Lombardi’s doesn’t cook their sauce – a technique I think I might try!

Our second stop was Patsy’s in East Harlem. I’ve heard so many good things about Patsy’s and even though it’s technically in Manhattan, it’s always been too far for me to venture. But alas, not today – not on pizza bus tour day!

One of the best parts of Scott’s tours is that you more of an inside look at how the pizzerias are run. We literally went into the kitchen at half of the places. Above, you can see a dough machine at Patsy’s and the flour they use to make their pizzas. It was super fine; I had last seen “00” rated flour in Italy – so this is legit.

Here’s the oven at Patsy’s – their pizza cooks in 2 minutes and, like Lombardi’s, is coal-burning. The faster bake gives it a softer crust, but it was still crunchy in parts, especially around the edges.

The crust was very charred, and the cheese stringy – Patsy’s uses low-moisture mozzarella instead of fresh. It was more “wet” than Lombardi’s pie because of this, and also because there was a lot more sauce. The sauce was savory and rich.

Alright, so now we’ve moved out of Manhattan and into the Bronx. As soon as Scott mentioned Arthur Avenue, I know what was next: Zero Otto Nove. I’ve been to the one in Manhattan on 21st, but nothing’s like the original! They had such a cool setup – bar and lobby in the front, then a long, narrow hallway to a larger, open courtyard-esque area in the back. The name Zero Otto Nove – which translates to 089 in Italian – signifies the area code of the region of Italy where they’re from: Salerno. I LOVE TRIVIA.

We were seated up above in a separate area and could look down on the pizza-making. Scott and I were tasked with timing the pizza in the oven – our average was around 1 minute, 35 seconds. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? You can barely microwave anything decent in that time. But their oven is wood-burning, and dome-shaped so that it heats faster.

This is Neapolitan-style pizza, JUST like Italy. They put some olive oil on before it goes in the oven; and of course use fresh mozzarella. The wood-burning oven gives an excellent char to the chewy, fluffy crust and their sauce is a bit salty (good thing!). Because it cooked for so little time, the crust was definitely softer – which just makes me eat faster. They top it off with just a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano cheese once it’s out of the oven. I’m obsessed – I may have volunteered to take an extra slice that was left over…

Scott was very diligent in the pizza-timing. We caught on to their technique – put it in the oven for about 40 seconds, take it out to turn it around, back in for a bit. It seems that the tops were finishing first, so they would take them out of the oven for about 10 seconds, then put them back in. So interesting!

Here’s the oven at Zero Otto Nove. Thanks to Scott’s fancy tools, we were told that the inside was an average of 848 degrees Fahrenheit – which is actually lower than the temperature of Patsy’s and Lombardi’s, which were over 900.

Our last stop was at Louie & Ernie’s, where we finally got a good helping of traditional, New York-style pizza. The people inside were really confused by our large group, but didn’t hesitate to offer up suggestions and sing L&E’s praises!

Traditional New York-style pizzas like this one are cooked in deck ovens (probably what you’re most used to seeing in pizza joints) around 550 degrees Fahrenheit – therefore they cook for longer and have a crunchier crust. I loved this crust, the edges were basically cracking off it was so crunchy. As you can see, they’ve got some seasoning in there – oregano, black pepper. This was the only pie I had to blot since it was so oily – but what do you expect from a NY slice? It was super cheesy (low moisture!) making the sauce not so present, as it actually ends up blending with the cheese when it cooks. I will say this – it was really consistently cooked, and my fellow tour-mates agreed!

Now… I couldn’t just leave it be after 4.5 slices of pizza.. so when we were dropped back off in SoHo, I had to get a cupcake. I made Scott come with me and swung by Georgetown Cupcake on Mercer Street.

I chose the peanut butter fudge cupcake, and myyyyy god – creamy peanut butter icing, but it doesn’t overwhelm the moist chocolate cake. It did start falling apart a bit, but that was okay – I wanted to eat it more than I wanted it to stay together!

Siiiigh. A long weekend of eating, and I’m still hungry after looking at the pictures.

Victorious! Here’s me, Scott, and Scott (confusing) after the tour, with the stylish pizza tour bus. This man knows everything. Go on one of his tours; it will change your life.

Lombardi’s: 32 Spring Street;

Patsy’s: 2287 1st Avenue (at 118th St);

Zero Otto Nove: 2357 Arthur Avenue, Bronx;

Louie & Ernie’s: 1300 Crosby Avenue, Bronx

Georgetown Cupcake: 111 Mercer Street;

Don Antonio by Starita!

I haven’t updated in SO long! Last week was absolutely insane at work and I didn’t get much of a chance to write once I got home. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat pizza – I’ve got 4 new places (plus 1 oldie) to share with you!

After that crazy, hectic, stressful week, I was really looking forward to some pizza, so we headed to the fairly new Don Antonio by Starita near Times Square. Based on my research, it’s a collaboration between Keste’s Roberto Caporuscio (<3 Keste, but that’s for another post) and his former mentor Antonio Starita – who, as luck has it, was actually in the building on the night we went.

I really loved the whole setup, very sleek. We were seated at the back, right next to the kitchen. They even have a screen where you can watch them making your pizza – you can see it in the back left of this picture.

Our first pie was the Margherita S.T.G. (Guaranteed Typical Specialty). Tomato sauce, mozzarella, some pecorino romano, and basil. I found it a bit oily; but still delicious. At $12 it’s not a bad deal, though I probably could have finished the entire thing myself. Good-quality cheese, but a bit too much char even for my liking – as you can see, the top is burnt in one or two areas.

What I was most excited about was the Montanara pie – dough that is fried, then topped and baked in the oven. The fried dough definitelymade a difference; it was puffy and chewy and extremely flavorful. The pie itself was quite small and once again I found the oil a bit overwhelming. I don’t like dabbing my pizza, but I will if I have to – no one likes greasy fingers.

The only complaint I have about it – and this was an oversight on my part – was the smoked mozzarella. I’m not a fan of smoked mozzarella; I find that the smokiness overwhelms any other flavors that may pop out – even something as blatant as the basil. I basically didn’t read the menu, and I don’t think this is standard on all montanara pies (I’ve yet to try the ones at PizzArte or Forcella). Their menu is quite impressive overall; though I stuck to my standard cheese+tomato+dough, I saw some other rather intriguing pies come out of the oven.

Overall, a very good pre-show dinner at Don Antonio. I was surprised at how crowded it got, and fairly early too – before 6:00pm. In this area of NYC, it’s kind of slim pickings for good pizza, so Don Antonio is definitely worth your time.

Don Antonio by Starita

309 W. 50th St., b/w 8th & 9th Ave