Note from Peter: This is Part Two of Brad's recent personal pizza quest in New York City on Bleecker St in Greenwich Village. Following the lead of guest columnist John Arena's dictum that this was the best pizza neighborhood in the country, Brad had quite an interesting adventure and shares it with us here. If you haven't seen Part One, scroll down the page and begin there -- this new posting picks up from where he left off.
As I walked down Bleecker Street in the light rain, I felt satisfied. I had just had a storybook first pizza at the famous John's Pizzeria. I would love to have sat there longer, perhaps ordering another beer and continuing to eat more pizza. I could have easily turned and walked uptown, dropped under the city streets back into the subway that would take me to my hotel. But, I had a plan. I was heading down Bleecker Street on my mini pizza quest (or as I used to term it, a Pizzeria Crawl).
I walked down the street and looked over as I passed a bustling Keste Pizzeria and almost couldn't believe I was walking right by it! As many of you know, this place has been at the top of my list since I first experienced it. But, I was inspired by John Arena's article and decided that I wanted to seek out something new this night. Not far down the block I came to Pizza Roma. I had forgotten about it being Valentine's Day, but I remembered when I saw Pizzeria Roma. There were hearts on the window, and even a heart shaped pizza on the inside window display. This place feels more like a small neighborhood bistro, or cafe, and this one was celebrating holiday!
I thought I would stop in at this point and just try a slice and keep walking down the street. My plan for the night was to hit John's, Roma and Joe's. I had a hard time cutting my John's trip
short and, let's just say, I wasn't that hungry anymore. But this place had such a warm and inviting atmosphere, though in a different way from John's. John's felt older and more rooted, while Roma felt timeless, like any number of classic neighborhood bistros you may find. It was the kind of place that the minute you walk into it you feel almost at home. I love when a restaurant achieves that feeling which comes from a combination of design and service. It's the atmosphere that you see first and then, as you spend more time, you eventually see the soul of the place which comes from the people, the service, and the food. Everyone who worked here was friendly and welcoming. So, after perusing the pizzas on the counter, I selected a slice of the Sopressata Pizza and, after not much consideration, decided to add a glass of wine with it as I sat at one of the small tables in the front by the counter.
These are Roman style pizzas. I read that they allow their dough to rise for 96 hours (!) which creates a lighter, airier dough. They sit out on the counter and, once you select what you want, they are reheated for you. This is a testament to how diverse pizza is. I often say my favorite pizza is a left over pizza, cold, right out of my fridge, or brought back to life as I reheat it in my oven.
As I sat at my table waiting for the slices to warm up, I noticed a beautiful cappuccino machine behind the counter. I love the design of these machines. They truly are works of art. I asked the waitress how good the cappuccino's were. She looked at me and pointed to another co-worker and said with a big smile, "They are like they are supposed to be! She makes them just like you would find in Italy." This is what we tend to find on our quests. Where artisans gather they don't just do one thing great, they do everything great. I imagine the rest of their food here is also made with the same dedication. I could see by their staff that this place is definitely on the same quest we're on, laying it all out there every day to share it with their customers.
I sipped my wine and ate my pizza as I watched and listened to couples come and go (remember, it was Valentine's Day). The place was alive with that sense of community you get in a small neighborhood! This is a place I would drop into regularly if I was anywhere nearby. You could come for a meal, or a snack, or a cappuccino, where you would find a friendly face and a smile to go with it. And, this is what I observed, people coming in for dinner, or doing what I was doing, just swinging by for a slice.
But I'm not reviewing this place! I'm on a selfish quest here -- I am reviewing my experience, my mini pizza journey down Bleecker Street! So I should get onto the pizza!
My Sopressata pizza was delightful. I think that's a good word. The crust was light and airy as they advertised. Will I remember it like some of the best individual slices of pizza I've ever had? I don't know if I will remember it like that. But, I will remember it in the context of the atmosphere, the darkly lit comfortable cafe style setting, the friendly service, the glass of wine I enjoyed on this Valentine's Day date with myself, the couples streaming in for their reservations, speaking a variety of languages (except English). My server had also added a second slice into the mix on the platter that my pizza was served on, perhaps because she could tell from our conversation that I was there simply to try their pizza. She gave me a few pieces of their Crostino with Prosciutto and Mozzarella. That too was delicious. It was subtle and balanced and hit the spot.
I can't wait to come back on another visit, perhaps in the morning for a Cappuccino -- after all, they make them the way they're supposed to be.
To Be Continued....