The Gourmet-Pizza Craze
You only have to look at Mario Batali to know he’s a pizza hound in his soul. But until Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, the newest spinoff of the Babbo empire, begins selling pies down on lower Fifth Avenue sometime this month, the newest hot spot for gourmet pizza is Ápizz, recently opened by the brick-oven maestros at Peasant in an elegantly styled redbrick bunker on the Lower East Side. The pizzas here are oblong, with chewy burnt crusts and generous toppings of earthy ingredients like artichokes and handfuls of sweet ground sausage. You can complement them with bubbling bricks of wild-boar lasagna or soft, grapefruit-size meatballs, and if you run out of money eating yourself silly in this cash-only establishment, an ATM has been installed in the basement lounge for your convenience.
You won’t find a private ATM at Celeste, another cash-only spinoff, this time by the proprietors of the fine midtown restaurant Teodora. But in the warm weather, you can devour platters of fresh pasta or fried zucchini blossoms on a rustic wooden porch looking out over the great human pageant that is Amsterdam Avenue. The selection of brick-oven pizzas I sampled here were only okay, so for the real real thing, travel down to Lombardi’s on Spring Street or, if you’re feeling intrepid, to DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn, amid the jumble of laundromats and kosher bakeries along Avenue J. That’s where you’ll find Dominic De Marco, dressed in comfortable shoes and his flour-dusted apron, making thin Neapolitan pies the same way he’s been doing it for more than four decades. This means a wafer-crisp crust that’s soft around the edges and not too wet in the middle, bits of fresh basil (grown in the window), and a lacing of extra-virgin olive oil through the sweet tomato sauce. After the pie comes out of the conspicuously non-wood-burning oven, it gets a ceremonial dusting of Parmesan, administered in slow, deliberate, old-world style by the master himself.