I ate a lot of pizza this week.
First up: Isabella's Oven. This is a pretty new place down on Grand and Essex in the Lower East Side. Ed Levine, foodie extraordinaire, had already written about the place over on Slice NY, and concluded that it had the potential to make it onto Top Ten Lists for New York and the country. The day after I went there, Peter Meehan at the NY TImes gave it a pretty positive review. I can't decide whether you all should wait for the foodie hubbub to die down, or to check it out now, when all eyes are on them.
[Photo swiped from the Slice NY flickr page.]
What I can say is that you should check it out at some point. I'm not sure, based on my Tuesday evening there with RE, that it's top-ten quality quite yet, but I think they're getting there. After starting out with a side of nicely sauteed broccoli rabe, RE and I ordered the large Margherita DOC, which features quality canned stewed tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, and a wee bit of parmesan. (It's a bit pricier than their regular Margherita, which has standard mozzarella.) Our pizza came out slightly ... not quite oven-hot, which was a bit odd. The sauce was pretty nice, though I think the pie could've used more of it. I'm not sure if I could taste the bufala-ness of the fancy mozzarella, but it was quite nice in any event. The crust, though, is what sold me on the whole thing: it is out of this world. It manages to have the crispy-chewy combination that evokes the best Neapolitan joints, but also the light, sometimes wafer-thinness of Roman pizzerias. I agree with Levine's assessment -- that it could use more salt -- but I honestly don't mind so much, given that I haven't had a crust like that since I was in Italy 3 years ago.
I still love Totonno's more. Lots more. But if Isabella's Oven can work out some of its kinks, and consistently produce pizzas with crusts as good as the one I tried, with just a tad more salt and sauce overall, then I seriously think I've got myself a new neighborhood joint. And if any of you go there soon, give me a ring. I'd love to join you. Oh, AND -- they've got a back garden! Outdoor pizza-ing! How could anyone resist?
An entirely different pizza experience: the following night I was at Clandestino, where J, the midweek barkeep, decided to get his usual late-night pie delivery from Rocket Joe's, a pizza place on Delancey and Allen. Rocket Joe's has pretty good drunk pizza -- you know the kind: you don't think about it until it's close to midnight, you're craving a slice, and the random place down the street with the coagulated cheese slices languishing behind the glass counter just won't do. Joe's has a bazillion topping options, and their sauce, while not as subtle as places like Isabella's Oven or Totonno's, has a nice tomato-y sweetness to it. The crust is also nice, with a good chewy crunch.
J prides himself on combining interesting toppings -- his best, by far, has been the cheeseless pie with mini-meatballs and basil -- and Wednesday night was no different: sausage, artichokes, and olives. The nice thing about the whole affair: four Clando regulars, J, and a pie, all clustered down on one end of the bar, chomping away with our beers and whiskeys next to our plates. Good times. It's the sort of thing that makes me love my local that much more.
It also makes it really hard for me to stop my late-nite pizza consumption, which is why, on Thursday night, I found myself craving a slice from Rosario's. And so I headed out and got myself a marinara and a cheese slice and brought it back home, where I greedily chomped away. Seriously, I have a problem.