My Calabrian grandmother made the best pizza. The crust was perfect—crusty on the outside and soft and yeasty on the inside. She grew her own tomatoes and herbs so that the topping was always fresh and flavorful. Salads, because of her garden, included several types of lettuce, always crisp with never a rusty leaf. She was also adept at using leftovers. That small helping of eggplant would find its way into a toasted sandwich the next day.
My grandmother would have loved Golosi, described as a “paninoteca, pizzeria, and gelateria,” bringing Calabrian-inspired food to the Upper East Side. There’s another reason my grandmother would have loved Golosi—this busy restaurant is spotless! From the tables to the countertops, to the display cases to the floors, everything is spic and span and gleaming. In the evening, candles on the tables add a nice touch. The wait staff is friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable. If you are grabbing a snack before a movie, your food will arrive promptly and hot. But if you want to relax and linger, well, that’s OK, too. Your coffee cup will be refreshed without having to ask.
We visited Golosi on two occasions to be able to sample as many dishes as possible. (Golosi means “greedy” or “gluttony,” and we found it too easy to overindulge with so many fabulous foods to choose from). Walking to the back of the narrow restaurant, we stopped to admire the various sandwiches and desserts in the display case. At the very rear of the restaurant laid out on countertops there are long, rectangular pizzas, many with additional toppings. Our server explained that these are sold by the inch, the traditional way of selling pizza in many Italian cities.
We decided to sit upstairs which allowed us a marvelous vantage point, admiring the restaurant’s design by Roy Nakum. Besides watching Maurizio Leggio prepare food behind the counter, we could view the Vespa perched above the entryway and debate how the owners—Pino and Lucia Manica—managed to place it there.
Our server came to welcome us and we ordered drinks, a Coke (with an Italian label!) and a glass of Merlot Villa Argento for $6, a bargain. For starters, we decided to share a caesars salad and a pizza margherita. We couldn’t resist adding an order of penne alla vodka.
These three dishes are all mainstays on Italian menus, whether you are dining at the corner pizzeria or a popular spot in Little Italy. Yet, so many places fail to get these simple dishes right. Golosi does.
Let’s start with the caesars salad. The lettuce was crisp and even my grandmother wouldn’t have been able to find a brown spot. The dressing had a hint of anchovies, an ingredient often left out leading to a bland, tasteless salad. The crotons were obviously homemade, not the stale, hard squares often added as an afterthought. And there were generous thin slices of parmigiana reggiano on top.
The pizza arrived hot, sitting on a wooden board. Since we knew we had pasta coming, we decided to eat only two pieces each, saving the rest to bring home. So much for good intentions! (We felt like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love when she couldn’t stop consuming pizza in Naples). Rarely will you find pizza this good, particularly on the Upper East Side. The crust was crisp, the sauce sweet, and the cheese fresh, melted mozzarella.
We ordered the penne as a test. A ubiquitous entry on so many Italian menus, penne alla vodka has become an embarrassment to Italians everywhere. The pasta is often overcooked, the sauce watery, and the dish either over or under salted. Golosi’s version may help reestablish this wonderful pasta dish to its former status. Once again, we vowed just to try a few bites. Once again, we failed. This dish was not only good, it was glorious.
Maurizio kept our treat going, serving us an assortment of gelati—amaretto, vanilla, strawberry, coffee, stracciatella, vanilla with chocolate chips. Mario Franchi makes this Italian-style ice cream fresh each day on premises. Like the best gelato, Mario’s creations are creamy and bursting with flavor. Try his strawberry gelato and you will never go back to ice cream.
We tried to stay away. We really did. But two days later, we found ourselves sitting upstairs once again. We ordered the Mediterranean salad—fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and lots of olives. And we had to try one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the guastedra, a traditional Calabrian sandwich that my grandmother frequently made, using leftover Italian bread and whatever was available—grilled vegetables, cheese, tomatoes. Golosi’s version resembles a panini, with rustic Italian bread perfectly toasted and filled with various ingredients. We chose eggplant and provolone cheese, a wonderful combination.
We still had a few gelati flavors we hadn’t tried—coconut, chocolate, and pistachio. Even knowing we were facing an arctic blast when leaving the restaurant, we couldn’t resist. We warmed up with hot, strong coffee and tea.
Golosi has two locations, although we are told the one on Park Avenue has a more limited menu, focusing on pizza and gelati. You don’t want to miss that penne alla vodka. So come uptown. With movie theaters located in the sixties on Second Avenue, Golosi is the perfect place to eat before or after the film.
We plan to become regulars. So many films to see, so many dishes to try.
1304 Second Avenue, between 68th and 69th Streets
125 Park Avenue and 42nd Street