by Alex DiBlasi and Alexa Altman
Just a stone’s throw between the Plaza Hotel and the Museum of Modern Art, PizzArte is one of the rarest of things in Midtown: a place that serves amazing pizza. Nearly every other pizza place I have gone to that served up something more than the standard, gas-fired oven utility slice was downtown on some quiet tree-lined block in the West Village or hidden from most city-dwellers up on Astoria Boulevard. PizzArte is certainly a welcome addition to the neighborhood!
With the recent addition of Chef Antonio Pisaniello, one of the most sought-after chefs from Naples, Italy, PizzArte has a revamped menu that combines traditional favorites with contemporary classics. Our first dish offered a funky twist of the beloved caprese salad, featuring thinly-sliced heirloom tomatoes (called a “tomato carpaccio” on the menu), finely chopped basil leaves, and a heaping lump of mozzarella di bufala garnished with basil-infused olive oil. Though the ingredients to this cherished dish remained the same, the presentation was different enough to make it a welcome change.
Our second appetizer was a lasagna made with eggplant parmigiana (above), first fried and then baked, giving it a uniquely crispy texture while still tasting like something fresh out of my grandmother’s oven.
It was in our meal’s third act that PizzArte truly won us over, serving up the namesake dish in the Neapolitan style. As I mentioned before in my Pizza Roma review, there are numerous regional preparations for pizza, both in the US and in Italy. What makes Neapolitan pizza special is both in the hand-kneaded dough (and its high specific rules of preparation – right on down to the grade of flour utilized!) and in how it is cooked: baked for a mere 90 seconds against the high heat of a wood-burning oven, with a temperature right around 900 degrees.
Our pizza was topped in the quattro gusto style, meaning “four flavors.” Each quarter of the pizza had different toppings. One was the regular margherita-style slice, another featured a heaping dose of tart parmesan cheese, the next featured speck (a ham cured with both salt and juniper berries), and the last featured one of my favorite combinations: sausage and broccoli rabe. Each slice, with its super-thin dough and pile of toppings, was like a literal slice of Heaven.
I should add that in between dishes, Chef Antonio came out with a special off-menu item that was assembled from a smattering of spare ingredients he had in the kitchen – made up of pan-seared egg white, pureed potato, porcini mushrooms, white truffle oil, and a hard-boiled egg yolk rolled in truffle and potato flakes. It was unbelievable, and as our host Alessandro told us, something Antonio does on occasion: whipping together a quick little dish with some spare ingredients.
For pasta, we had another house specialty, pasta with a pork and veal ragu. The meat is slow-cooked for six hours in a savory and slightly sweet sauce with onions and other spices before being served atop the al dente pasta. It was a wonderful balance of tender meat (we’re talking cut-with-a-fork tender) with al dente pasta, and a delicious cocktail of bold flavors.
For dessert, I enjoyed a tiramisu (which is always a hit) and Alexa had lemon poundncake served with Italian panna cotta. With a side of espresso for me and a cappuccino for her, all washed down with a shot of limoncello (one of my favorite liqueurs), we were satisfied. Thankfully, one of the benefits of Neapolitan pizza is its relative lightness, leaving us full but not ready to pop.
PizzArte’s location gives it a perfect venue as a place to dine before a Broadway show, catching a screening at the Paris Theatre, a venture to MoMA, or just a romantic stroll through Central Park. Be sure to check out the walls, too – the place is decked out with some impressive 3-D wall art, adding a chic vibe to an already cozy spot for some of the best pizza I have had in a long, long time.
69 West 55th Street
Photos by Alexa Altman
Alex DiBlasi and Alexa Altman dined as guests of PizzArte