My search for the best pizza in New York continues….

SAN MATTEO PIZZA AND ESPRESSO BAR, 1739 Second Avenue (at East 90th Street), Upper East SideI’ve been to some of the most authentically Italian pizzerias in the city. Yet none of them ever rivaled the feeling I had at a tiny restaurant on the Upper East Side.

San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar is a strange little spot. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it will completely transport you to Italy.

A Slice of Italy

When we arrived shortly after opening, the owner greeted us with menus and a jovial “Prego”. I felt bad placing our order because it meant tearing the chefs away from the riveting Italian soccer game on the television. Loud conversations between the staff in the mother tongue and walls lined with bottles of Chianti almost convinced me I was no longer on the Upper East Side, but instead somewhere much more exotic.

I’m not even sure we exchanged words in English with anybody. We just sat watching the guys watch the game and waited for our pizza.

Panuozzo at SAN MATTEO PIZZA AND ESPRESSO BAR

Before our margherita arrived, we sampled their signature dish, panuozzo. I had never encountered this before in New York. It’s somewhere between a pizza, a calzone, and a panini. Ours was stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, and blistered peppers. It was tasty, but I actually found it slightly dry.

Margherita Pizza at SAN MATTEO PIZZA AND ESPRESSO BAR

The pizza was cooked in a wood oven and came out nicely charred on the edges. I loved the texture of the crust – it was both thin and pillowy. Only a wood oven can do that. But the tomato sauce was a little watery and bland. And I wanted some more basil on the pie to brighten up the flavors.

While this spot might be the most immersive Italian pizzeria in the city, I’ve found others where the pizza tastes better. Perhaps we came at an off night. Maybe because the guys were so focused on the game, the pizza was a little bit off. But with a little espresso and tiramisu to top you off, who really cares? After all, it’s just so exciting to be lounging at a café in Italy. Wait a minute….

Is San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar the best pizza in NY? 7 out of 10 just for the experience of forgetting what country you’re in. The pizza itself is good enough for a neighborhood spot, but there are better Italian flavors elsewhere in the city.

SAN MATTEO PIZZA AND ESPRESSO BAR
1739 Second Avenue (at East 90th Street),
Upper East Side
(212) 426-6943
bunkervietnamese.com
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Category: Pizza

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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