Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pizza Party

Pulino's, Nate Appleman's New York venture, opened a few months ago. It's the only pizza place I know of that has brunch service, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been to collaborator Keith McNally's Balthazar. Appleman used to work at San Francisco's A16, which he abandoned last year when he decided to come east. I've been to Balthazar and Minetta Tavern and I've never felt terribly inclined to give a transcendent review. McNally's restaurants are always busy and fun to eat at, but I've never left one of his spots thinking it was the best meal I'd ever had. Yes, the steak at Minetta Tavern ranks high on my all-time list, but the other food was just adequate.

So I was pretty surprised by how much I liked Pulino's, despite the hype and the hour wait, despite the fact that the restaurant looks vaguely similar to Balthazar inside. Cocktails were fine--I had the house julep--if on the weak-and-miserly side. The menu offered more than just pizza. We started with two crispy pieces of pork belly and a pear mostarda, which I could have ordered again and again. Next came grilled asparagus spears with rhubarb, charred and perfect. Pasta courses are offered in small and large (we chose small) and ours, a large noodle stuffed with lamb ragu, was toothsome and earthy. Nduja sausage isn't for everyone; it's served on the cool side and is the texture of loose pate. But I was happy to spread it on crispy bread. It was studded with red peppers.

The pizzas are thin and crispy and cut into squares so that some slices have no crust. Discard your notions of the Neapolitan pie, or the New York pie, or the Chicago pie, since the Pulino's pie is none of the above. It's wafer-thin and charred and the toppings stay put and don't well up the dough with moisture. We had a meaty combination of meatballs and sausage, though basil leaves provided a vegetal respite from so much protein.

It isn't like me to skip dessert, but skip we did. We didn't need the calories anyway. I'm going to have to go back to Pulino's for brunch (who doesn't want and excuse to eat pizza in the morning?), or, better yet, for their late night menu, which features a burger notably absent from the regular nightly menu. Go now. It's worth the wait.

Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria
282 Bowery
New York, NY 10012