Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.
Supermarkets tend to overwhelm me – especially the massive specialty stores that seem to specialize in, well, everything. When I first walked into the subterranean Whole Foods that fills the basement of the Time Warner Building, I had to call my mother and ask her what I should do. For the record, she didn’t have an answer but provided motherly support as usual.
So anybody who has been to Mario Batali’s new theme park Eataly can only imagine how intimidated I am by this Italian mega store. In addition to groceries galore and lots of oddly placed museum-like signs, there are no fewer than seven “restaurants”, not counting an espresso bar, gelateria, and pastry counter. Where to begin?
I’ve been here before but aside from some quick grocery shopping one night, I’ve been mostly frightened away by the massive crowds, consumer frenzy, and decision making issues. Leave it to Time Out to force me to try the food here and overcome my fears. Thank you, TONY!
The list item at Eataly was the San Marzano Pizza, which is served at one of the rear restaurants. It’s called Le Pizza and La Pasta (or Rossopomodoro, which is an Italian chain restaurant). When we sat down, we were given one menu with the pizzas on one side and pastas on the other. But it took a while for us to sit down. In fact, we almost gave up.
We arrived late on a busy Saturday afternoon, hoping we’d be able to get a table after the lunch rush. The hostess (there are hostesses at each of the “restaurants”) told us it would be about a 45 minute wait. We were starving and hoping to complete a list item, so we stepped over to the seafood counter and regrouped wondering what we should do. We made the decision to go somewhere else, but I thought we should check one more time with the hostess before we left. Granted it had only been about 10 minutes, but I thought you never know.
Well when I gave her my name again she told me a table was finally ready. It was very strange because it was a gross over-estimation! My guess is that they give you a longer wait time so you are forced to walk around the market and buy things. Little did they realize the only thing that would have happened with us is we would have left.
But we got lucky and told our Italian waiter (who was flirting with the table next to us in the mother tongue) we wanted to share a shaved winter salad (even though spring had technically arrived) and the San Marzano pizza, although I might have picked something a little more complex. Yet this is what was on TONY’s list and when I did my pizza search, these were the pizzas I used to judge other pies by.
The salad was very nice – fresh, crisp, and light. The pizza I’m afraid was a bit of a let down. There have been so many authentically Italian, Neapolitan-style pies served in this city over the last few years that it is no longer a revelation. And you have got to be on the very top of your game to stand out. And the pie I tasted here can’t compete with the likes of Kesté and Luzzo’s.
The dough was crisp, with a consistent char on the bottom, yet the crust didn’t have that doughy, pillowy quality I’ve come to love. I found it rather dry. The rest of the pizza was far from dry, in fact it was a bit wet as the toppings slid right off each slice. I realized this is a fork and knife pizza.
The tomato sauce was too acidic for me and was missing any sort of sweetness. The basil seemed more for show rather than for flavor. And the cheese, while buttery and rich, sort of had the consistency of chewing gum. I thought maybe my American palette got the best of me. But the aforementioned Italian ladies at the next table asked us what we thought. When we told them truthfully, they agreed with us making a face at the pizza.
It was far from bad, but if I’m looking for authentic Italian pies that taste amazing I’d go some place with less of a crowd, without a fake wait time, and a relaxing atmosphere. This place just makes me nuts. And I didn’t even begin to look at the gelato flavors. I’d have been there all day!
Would Eataly’s Rossopomodoro’s San Marzano Pizza make my Top 100 of the year? Is Eataly’s Rossopomodoro the best pizza in NY? Aside from the crowd issues, the pizza had some major issues in my mind and great Italian pies can be had at many other locations throughout the city. 6 out of 10.
200 Fifth Avenue (between West 23rd and West 24th Street)