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.

PizzArte

69 W 55th Street, New York, NY 10019

http://www.pizzarteny.com/

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; http://www.viatribunali.net

Il Laboratorio del Gelato, 188 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002; http://laboratoriodelgelato.com