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

I wouldn’t necessarily think that a pizza review is the place to address the discussion of no tipping in New York City restaurants. But Marta is no ordinary pizza place. It’s one of Danny Meyer’s casual fine dining restaurants (I know that sounds oxymoronic but that’s where we are) and that means the servers are no longer accepting tips. The gratuity is included in the price.

The main reason for this is that it’s much less confusing for the diner to have to figure out the math of 20%. And more importantly, it helps even the paying field and pay the kitchen staff a better liveable wage.

I’m not going to get too far into this, but only speak on my first experience dining at a no-tip establishment. And one from the hospitality king Danny Meyer no less.

This was my second visit to Marta to try Chef Nick Anderer’s roman-style pizza. The spacious restaurant is inside the Redbury Hotel and feels closer to Meyer’s museum restaurants in the sense that it is wide open and a bit sterile.

Both times I visited I sat at the counter and was able to watch the pizza being made. On my most recent visit, I sat and watched for about 20 minutes before I realized nothing was happening. There were no pizzas in the oven and I still didn’t have my food.

When I asked the waiter he gave a lackluster apology and I watched him go talk to the chef who immediately started work on my pizza. What happened?

The only explanation I got was that it was a confusing time since it was in between the lunch and dinner shift. And this should matter to me, a hungry customer?

He offered to get me a complimentary drink but it was lunch time and I am not Don Draper. After that, when I got my pizza it was pretty much forgotten about and not mentioned again by the waiter.

It was dealt with much differently than in the old days of Danny Meyer’s hospitality-forward establishments. More about that later.

But first the pizza. I really liked the Funghi pizza which was loaded with all sorts of woodsy and earthy mushrooms. The toppings which were also dotted with fontina and mozzarella cheese were mouthwateringly good and the crisp charred crust was a wonderful satisfying base.

I think it could have used a bit more sauce, but the mushrooms were complex and just phenomenal.

It was a much better pie than the one I tried on my first visit. Back then I choose the Amatriciana (which is no longer on their menu. The name refers to a spicy pasta sauce with tomatoes, guanciale (pork cheek), and pecorino cheese. While again the ingredients were good, I felt like this was composed more like a pasta than a pizza. In this case it was quite saucy and rich and I kept thinking how great it would be to have some penne to soak up all the flavors. The thin crackery crust in this case couldn’t stand up to the spicy funky flavors.

Considering the chef is known for his pastas at the great Maialino, it makes sense that this is an issue.

In previous visits to Danny Meyer restaurants, I left feeling like a guest and if something goes wrong, the staff fixes it to such a degree that I forget about all the mistakes. Not this time.

And I have a gut feeling it has a lot to do with the fact that this staff is now getting paid regardless of their performance or emapthy and so (at least in this case) there was no incentive to fix the problems. Needless to say I was very disappointed. But at least the pizza (especially the funghi) was pretty good.

Is Marta the best pizza in NY? There are more pizzas to try here but the two I sampled balanced each other out for a 7 out of 10. Both have great chef-driven Italian ingredients and a perfectly crisp dough. But they are sometimes a bit too ambitious. And the changing hospitality is a bit of a downer.

MARTA
29 East 29th Street (between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue South),
In the Redbury Hotel
(212) 651-3800
martamanhattan.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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