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My new favorite pizzeria
I was expecting it to look cool, but not this cool is a thought I had while pulling up to the very-new Lower East Side pizzeria. Its entrance is inverted from the sidewalk, which creates more room for people to hang around outside of the tall glass doors. A few nights ago, the rapper Action Bronson was doing just that. Like myself, he was waiting for a table, and he was there for the pizza.
Clean, stylish, and futuristic are a few words that come to mind. Black, circular tiles are spread about to complement the white, square ones that decorate the Neapolitan oven. Warm wood tables are sanded smooth. Pale, emerald green seats top the chairs. The kitchen is laid out in two parts: a glass-walled, open-aired pizza station at the back of the room and a small counter next to the bar where a set of chefs whip up small plates. The place as a whole feels like a lab. After all, pizza is just as much a craft as it is a science, and the guy who makes it here is somewhat of a legend. I won't go into his story because if you're even a little bit well-versed in the lexicon of chefs and restaurants, you already know it.
The energy is convivial yet serious. The service is relaxed and knowledgeable. And the wine is flowing—because pizza goes with wine, especially chilled, juicy wine.
We ordered prosciutto, but they didn't have it; instead, they were offering soppressata, a worthy replacement. It came just-sliced, sprinkled with olive oil and it looked pretty so I snapped a picture and put it on my Instagram story. A friend of mine who works for an excellent butcher shop in Sunset Park replied saying, "I made that," which caused me to enjoy it even more.
Then the pizza came and it was miraculous. Full stop.
Engaging in a dispute over the best pizza is meaningless fun, and as a New Yorker, I feel completely entitled to it. Heartrates climb, voices raise. People become unreasonable, and others are just wrong. I've been playing this game for a while, but today, in place of techniques like the eye roll and the swift shutdown, I'm going to try to assert myself responsibly. Here goes.
I do love a good New York slice; that's it's own distinct thing. I grew up eating Joe's because it was across the street from my school and I lived in its delivery zone. There are Staten Island-style thin-crust pies; there are coal-fired brick oven pies; there are Sicilian slices like the one topped with crispy, grease-filled pepperonis at Prince Street, which is of course delicious. There has always been lots of pizza in this city. And yet at this moment in time, it seems that the options are especially limitless; that innovation around dough, mozzarella, and sauce is at an all-time high. You can't really—or you shouldn't really—compare one kind of pizza to another. But you can have a favorite style.
With that said, I am firmly in the Neapolitan camp. I'm not a traditionalist by any means, but I am most excited to eat pies made in or inspired by this vein. Some of you know how I feel about Ops in Bushwick (strongly, in the positive). It all comes down to the dough.
I love dough that's soft and pillowy, charred but not crispy, tender, with stretch and bite. Here, the dough is closer to the marvelous pita at Miznon than it is to the crust of a Joe's slice. Simple, high-quality toppings contribute to the cause, but it's the heavenly carbohydrate creation that steals the show. When a pie lands on your table you don't ask for chili flakes or oil or grated Parmesan cheese, because it needs nothing; it is perfect. So much so that after sharing two pies between four, and having been asked about our feelings on dessert, a friend of mine suggested, "another pie, first?" The consensus was unanimous; we opted for a Bianca.
We still had dessert. And if you come, you should, too. Don't miss the tiramisu or the house-made gelato. (Gelato is superior to ice cream, after all. But we'll leave that for another time.)
Okay, so give it to me. I'm ready for the rebuttal. I won't agree, but I'm all ears—except if you're arguing for Lucali.
Una Pizza Napoletana
175 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002