When I get pizza, I want it to be made by people who know what they’re doing. I guess that’s obvious, but how many times have you gone into a generic NY pizza joint and the pizza is being cooked by Mexican line cooks or Bengali entrepreneurs? Nothing against those guys, but do you think they’ve really been to Italy (or even Arthur Avenue in the Bronx) to study the art of pizza making? I doubt it.
And pizza is from Naples and in case you haven’t heard, Naples is in Italy. So it’s refreshing and calming when I walk into a pizzeria and the employees sound more like Roberto Benigni than Gael Garcia Bernal. And that’s what happened when I walked into Luzzo’s in the East Village.
I was pleased to see and hear that everybody from the servers to the hostess all spoke Italiano. Between the thick accents and the rustic, old world atmosphere, I had that rare experience where I felt transported to the country of gelato, chianti, and, well, you know, pizza.
So expectations were high to taste authentic and fresh Neapolitan pizza. The menu was a bit more extensive than I had expected. In addition to the large selections of la pizza, there were le insalate, le paste, le panini, and le red wine.
I ordered the Napoletana, which was basically a margherita with the addition of anchovies. The service was a little cold, but attentive. And it really didn’t take too long until my 12 inch arrived. But while I waited, I had plenty to look out with all the interesting Italian memorabilia on the wall.
The pie arrived and it was quite beautiful. The tomato sauce was bright red and almost glowed. The orbs of mozzarella di bufala looked like gorgeous fluffy marshmallows. And the garnish of fresh basil in the middle seemed to put everything in balance. This was the most good-looking of all the pies I’ve tried so far.
But how did it taste? I’m pleased to say that it tasted pretty good. For me, those beautiful cheese bulbs were the highlight. They were so fresh and flavorful. They alone were worth the rather steep price tag of $18 (for a 12-inch pie). I chose anchovies, so I blame nobody myself, but the saltiness from those little fishies was a bit overwhelming.
The sauce was as bright and lively in my mouth as it was on the plate, with a slight sweet tanginess. The crust didn’t have a whole lot of flavor but it was soft and tender and perfectly cooked. As visually pleasing as it was, I wish the basil had been spread out a bit more evenly. But all the ingredients were fresh and delicious. And I was pleased that this was the lightest of all the pizzas I’ve tried thus far.
I was amazed that I couldn’t stop eating it – even with all that anchovy saltiness. But I had to restrain myself (and walk home to burn some calories) since I had sampled another pizza earlier in the day. Good thing for doggie bags or pizza boxes or whatever.
The pizzaioli here is Michele Iuliano who I believe was walking around and re-filling water (is that possible?). He is the only pizzaioli who uses a combo wood-and-coal oven. True Neapolitan pizzas are only cooked in wood oven pizzas, but regardless of what the rules are, Michele makes a really good pizza. And he’s truly Italian. You have to at least give him that!
Is Luzzo’s the best pizza in New York? Well, it’s definitely a well-made light Neapolitan style pizza in a rustic comfortable setting and that’s why it gets an 8 out of 10.