Luzzo’s revisted: Ovest Pizzoteca

On a lovely autumn evening we chose to visit Ovest Pizzoteca for dinner. Ovest is owned by the same as Luzzo’s and specialize in “Naples-style dining.”

The space is very industrial-looking which is par for the course, I suppose, as you go further west in Chelsea towards the art galleries, but it was still quite cozy. EXPOSED BRICK, WEE! I was also pretty excited to learn that Ovest has apertivo (essentially an Italian version of happy hour, which means you get to eat tons of food included while you drink), but we obviously came for the pizza.

Their menu gives a choice between 10″ and 12″ pies, but only the 12″ are available for dinner. Fine by me. Our first pie, of course, was the Bufala (pictured above) with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, & basil. The sauce maintained a shocking balance between sweet and salty, in that I felt every bite alternated between which flavor prevailed. I liked it. Like our pie at Luzzo’s, it was covered with ample blobs of creamy mozzarella.

Unlike most other Neopolitan-style pizzas I’ve had, the crust on this one did not become soggy in the center and stood up quite well to the toppings. It was refreshing to taste this kind of pie without feeling I had to shove it in my mouth before it fell apart on my lap. Extra points to Ovest for that, as well as the perfectly smoky char on each slice.

Our second pie was the Arugola (their spelling – grrr), which was topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce, arugula, prosciutto, and basil. There was also what I’m pretty sure is shaved pecorino romano on top. This pie was, hands down, the best non-traditional (meaning not plain/regular/margherita/etc.) pie I’ve ever had. Scott agreed. The salty prosciutto paired with the milky smooth mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and bitter arugula in a way that I felt left every taste bud I have completely satisfied. I absolutely must recreate this at home… or just leave it to them, since they did it so well.

For those who must commute home via Penn Station like me, Ovest is an especially good find since it’s just a quick walk away. Molto bene!

Ovest Pizzoteca, 513 West 27th Street #2  New York, NY;


Time Out New York’s Best New York pizza

Time Out New York has published a list of their top 25 pies in the city. Though I usually go with the classic, traditional pies (be it margherita, “regular,” “plain,” etc.) I do love some specialty ones as well. Check this out for some great suggestions!


Extra extra: more summer pizzadventures!

I promised the remainder of my summer pizzadventures yesterday, and by golly, I’m going to keep that promise.

I had almost forgotten about my lunchtime trip to Lazzara’s in midtown New York. Lazzara’s is probably one of your best bets for legitimate pizza in the midtown area, and by and large, it didn’t disappoint. Their pies are thin and rectangular; pictured above is the margherita in a half-pie size (perfect for one person if you’re usually starving by lunchtime, like me). The place was packed and we sat at the bar; service was pretty quick. Sprinkled with sliced basil and whole tomatoes, it’s a bit messy (and I’m not a fan of whole tomatoes), but apart from that and the slightly burned crust it was a satisfying bite.

Angelina’s Fireshack & Pizzeria in New Hyde Park on Long Island boasts Man vs. Food-esque food challenges and quirk-ily titled dishes. We ordered two pies; the Grandpa, pictured above (mozzarella cheese, onions, seasoned bread crumbs and marinara sauce) and the Desi, pictured below ( baked Tandoori chicken, basmati rice, cilantro and mozzarella cheese). The toppings seem to be the real focus here, and on both pies they really excelled. The Grandpa pie was salty, full of tomato flavor and punctuated by crunchy breadcrumbs.

The Desi was creamy and full of mild, spicy Indian flavors. Between the rice and large chunks of chicken, it’s basically a meal on a pie. It’s heavy and VERY filling –  we both could have easily filled up on one small pie. The toppings really shone and the crust honestly just seemed to get in the way; it was roughly chewy and didn’t add anything to the full variety of flavors offered by the chicken, rice, and cilantro.

This summer I also tried two more slices at Sullivan Street Bakery. Excuse the crappy photo, I snapped this mid-consumption on the street as I stuffed my face like a starving lunatic. Above is the potato slice, which was like eating the most satisfyingly oily, mushy yet crisp hash browns (onions included) you’ve ever had on top of the crispiest, most flavorful bread you’ve ever had. I told myself I’d only eat half but I could. not. stop. The slice is seasoned with the perfect amounts of salt and pepper (and apparently rosemary according to this photo, but as a rosemary-hater I can tell you it wasn’t very detectable).

As for the other slice… well, this is all the evidence that remains -an oily bread bag (half was eaten in the middle of a bar – shameless – and the other half immediately as I sat down on the train home). It was the pizza bianca, which if you’re really cutting it down to the simplest terms, is a slice of pizza dough with olive oil and sea salt. No sauce, no cheese; just the most basic elements. It’s as if you were at a restaurant and plucked the most perfect slice of bread from the bread basket, dipped it in olive oil, and sprinkled on some salt. All of these elements are there, in perfect ratios, and only slightly less messy to consume.

Lazzara’s Pizza: 221 West 38th Street, New York, NY;

Angelina’s Fireshack & Pizzeria: 1302 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park, NY; (they appear to have 2 websites – I just picked one)

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

Until next bite! xox

Playing Catch-Up: Summer Pizzadventures

Okay, okay. It’s been embarrassingly long since I’ve last updated. I’ve been so busy working and summer activity-ing and, yes, eating, that I just haven’t had the time. Things are starting to slow down, so I’m going to do a quick review of the delicious pizza eats of my summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t take in-depth notes so I’ll just jot down a few of my strongest memories of each place.

Here goes…

At the beginning of July I took a trip down to Baltimore and Washington D.C. No trip would be complete without some serious eats, so I researched the pizza of these areas and managed to consume it 3 times in a 5 day trip. Not too shabby.

First stop was Pub Dog in Columbia, MD (which also has a location in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore). They pretty much exclusively serve pizza and beer, so you can’t go too wrong. What I ordered here is actually a spinach pizza (Olive Oil, Fresh Mozzarella, Spinach, Mushrooms, Bacon, Fresh Garlic, and topped with Shredded Parmesan). I skipped the mushrooms but as you can see, it largely became a bacon pie. Once I picked off some (or most) of the bacon, it became a pretty enjoyable cheesy and salty accompaniment to my happy hour special (2 beers for $4.50), though the crust wasn’t much to write home about – standard cardboard-y stuff. Good for bar food but it’s not winning any awards.

Next was 2 Amys in Washington, DC, a Neopolitan pizzeria located in the Cleveland Park area. It’s fairly residential, near the zoo and National Cathedral (but don’t try walking in 100+ degree weather like we did). On a Sunday the place was filled with families and small children, but the pizza was phenomenal. We ordered the margherita and abruzzese (Polpettine/meatballs, garlic, parsley, pecorino). Enormous globs of mozzarella covered the margherita, with a sweet sauce reminding me of the good ol’ pies back home in NY (or really, “home” in Italy).

True story: this was my first time having meatballs or anything resembling it. I rather enjoyed it, but leaving it in full balls (albeit small) meant most slices didn’t have a meatball. I remember the cheese on this one making it  salty. But no worries, I had one of their “pizza wines” to wash it all down with! 2Amys is also one of those places that won’t slice the pie for you. While I understand this is traditional and helps the toppings not bleed through as much, I suck at slicing pies and would much prefer that the professionals take care of it with the proper tools!

We ended our trip to DC with a visit to Pizza Paradiso‘s Dupont Circle location. The walls near the restroom are filled with articles singing its praises, and even “Obama has dined [t]here!” (I put this in quotes because I found that nearly every restaurant in DC makes this claim). We placed an order for a margherita and genovese (pesto, potato, parmesan). As per the photo above, the margherita was not typical of most others we’ve seen – the cheese spread thin across the entire crust and chunky tomatoes made for a different, yet still quite delicious, experience.  The crust and pizza bones were a bit dry and tough.

The genovese was… different. I’m a big fan of potatoes but in this scenario they were very heavy and too mushy. The pesto made a nice complement but I think in the future (y’know, if I ever end up several hours south again in DC in this specific neighborhood at this specific joint) that I’d stick with lighter toppings.

This summer I also made it down to Totonno’s in Coney Island. It’s quite legendary and I think it’s worth a visit just for that, but the pizza was somewhat disappointing. Most of it was incredible; it reminds me of John’s of Bleecker St (or should, in historical order, John’s remind me of Totonno’s?) in that it’s not your typical cheesy, greasy, NY slice but it’s not a traditional margherita. The major disappointment came in the form of the crust. It was not charred or slightly overcooked; it was BURNT. I love a little bit of black char on my crust, I even sometimes like them crunchily overdone, but this was burnt. I couldn’t swallow my pizza bones and that makes me sad. My parents had come another time before this (earlier this same summer) and they had the same experience. Maybe it’s recent.

You probably shouldn’t eat this, but I also found an adorable Mets pizza stuffed toy. Yuuuuuuum.

Newsday had published an article on some unique pizzerias on Long Island, so I’ve been making my way through those, which led me to Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza in Woodbury, NY. Soon after arriving we realized this is a massive chain (tons of locations in Florida but also across the Mid-Atlantic region). Nevertheless, I’d heard good things so we sat down and ordered a “traditional pie” (above) and the roasted cauliflower pizza (below). Neither me nor my dining companion are avid fans of cauliflower, but it’s gotten some rave reviews. Anthony’s motto is “pizza well done” which I suppose means they’re cool with cooking their crusts until it’s burnt. With that kind of disclaimer, I guess you can’t complain about it. The traditional pie was pretty standard fare; they actually had their own cans of tomatoes (benefit of being a chain?) and the sauce was incredibly sweet. It could have used more basil.

Ah, the lauded cauliflower pie. Description: “roasted cauliflower with olive oil and garlic, romano and mozzarella cheese, topped off with bread crumbs.” The fact that this pie let me, for a few moments, forget it was topped with cauliflower, speaks to its merits. However, it could have used a lot more moisture – the cheese doesn’t really come through and the bread crumbs make it overwhelmingly starchy. And, in the end, if you don’t like cauliflower (which I’ve basically decided I don’t, after this – no fault of Anthony’s), you’re going to taste it, which might ruin it for you as it did for me. Sad face!

Oooh ooh! Before I forget: We made our own pizza! We obsessively made our own dough from Serious Eats’ dough recipe (I maintain it didn’t rise enough; we also should have used the Neopolitan dough recipe but didn’t have the time). Bought fresh mozzarella cheese. Loaded that baby up with basil. It was good, not great; but fair enough for two novices. Part of me thinks it would be better with the proper tools, so a pizza peel, screen, and stone are all on my Christmas list!

Just last weekend we visited Motorino in the East Village. It’s Serious Eats’ (my bible) #1 spot in the East Village, and I’ve heard a lot about it elsewhere, so it was necessary. It’s a really tight spot but they churn out the pies pretty fast. We got a margherita and the stracciatella (burrata-type cheese with olive oil, sea salt, and raw basil). The cheese was smooth and creamy (and ample – I can’t say how sad it makes me when a margherita comes out with only a few tiny blobs of cheese). The sauce was pretty salty yet cloyingly sweet. As per many other former patrons’ complaints, the center of the pie was almost too soft, even for a margherita. To pick up one of the slices I had to fold the inside in, making for a sad-looking slice.

The stracciatella is perhaps one of my favorite pies I’ve had this year. The cheese seemed to be in two forms; one a bit more curd-ly like ricotta and one smoother like melted mozzarella. The crust held up well to these toppings. For a pie that boasts sea salt as an ingredient, it definitely could have used a bit more salt, but the creamy, at-times stringy cheese and leafy raw basil combined with the charred crust was absolute perfection to me.

Not included here are Angelina’s Fireshack in New Hyde Park, NY and Sullivan Street Bakery (which I’ve posted about before, but tried 2 new slices). I just don’t have the pictures with me right now, but they will come soon as they were definitely unique experiences.

Thanks for waiting as I played catch up. I promise I will keep eating pizza and (eventually) posting about it, if you promise to keep reading! xo

Pub Dog: 8865 Stanford Boulevard, Columbia, MD;

2Amys: 3715 Macomb Street Northwest, Washington, DC;

Pizza Paradiso: 2003 P Street NW, Washington, DC;

Totonno’s: 1524 Neptune Ave (between 15th St & 16th St), Brooklyn, NY

Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza: 8063 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury, NY;

Motorino: 349 East 12th Street, New York, NY;

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

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