Pasquale Jones was already a tough reservation. The restaurant has no phone number and accepts only a few reservations on the website Resy. Then Beyoncé celebrated there after the MTV Video Music Awards. (And, according to one of the chefs who spoke to us during our meal, she dines there often.) But be persistent. Pasquale Jones is the best thing to happen to Little Italy in a long, long time. New Yorkers (like us) who have avoided Little Italy for years, since two of our favorite places closed down, now have a reason to return.
Pasquale Jones comes from the same team that brought Charlie Bird to Soho – Ryan Hardy, the chef, and Robert Bohr and Grant Reynolds, who focus on wine. The two restaurants’ quirky names merely add to the cachet. (An explanation on the Charlie Bird website sheds little light on where that name came from. The origin of Pasquale Jones also remains a mystery.)
But, what’s in a name? Like Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones is fast building up an audience and becoming a destination, unlike most other restaurants in Little Italy that depend on the walk in tourist trade. You can walk in to Pasquale Jones, too, but a better plan is to book ahead, if you can. Even seats at the bar require a reservation, and those seats are the best in the house. We were lucky enough to nab two, which afforded us a perfect view of the chefs preparing pasta dishes, grilling steaks, and shuffling pizzas out of the wood burning ovens.
Thanks to Bohr and Reynolds, Pasquale Jones has an excellent and extensive wine list. (The restaurant doesn’t serve cocktails.) We began with a glass of rose, Entrefaux Crozes 2013, and a Castell’in Villa Chianti. The rose was the perfect late summer wine, fruity, dry, and refreshing. The chianti was rich and spicy, the best accompaniment for the food we were about to order.
We decided to focus on dishes that came from Pasquale Jones’ wood burning oven. We began with the roasted sweet peppers served with an anchovy and marjoram dressing. The delectable assortment, different colors and sizes, made a beautiful presentation. They were tender and juicy, with a smoky flavor that increased the intensity of the dish.
From our seats at the bar we watched one of the chefs turn out one amazing pasta dish after another. Using tongs he carefully arranged the strands of spaghetti on the plate or added a sprinkling of herbs before the dish was whisked away to be served to a grateful diner. Although tempted, we decided to stick with our original plan to opt for pizza from the wood burning oven.
At Pasquale Jones, there’s a pizza to please everyone. For purists, there’s the Margherita, with tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and basil. Other pizzas include: Norma with eggplant, ‘nduja, and ricotta salata; Burrata with anchovy, oregano, and piennolo tomato; Diavola with spicy Neapolitan salami, provolone piccante, and mint; and Calzone with prosciutto di Parma, caciocavallo cheese, and rapini.
We chose a pizza not often found outside of New Haven, Connecticut, one topped with little neck clams. Pasquale Jones’ topping included lemon and cream, making for a very rich pie. The pizza was certainly delicious, but we found the clams were not briney and didn’t stand out from the other ingredients. The crust was not quite crisp enough for our taste, surprising since it came out of that oven.
Entrees from the wood burning oven include: sea bass served with summer beans and mussels; farm chicken with Moroccan olives and zucchini; and one dish patrons rave about, the pork shank for two with rosemary, fennel, black pepper, and lardo. We chose the fourth choice – the charcoal-grilled dry-aged ribeye for two ($135). In a word – fabulous! From our vantage point, we watched our steak being grilled first then finished off in the oven, so the meat benefitted from a nice sear on the grill and the smoky flavor from being in the oven. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, the steak was very tender, juicy, and flavorful. We would definitely order it again.
Pasquale Jones is a non-tipping restaurant, the “hospitality” included in the total. The restaurant serves one dessert nightly. We decided to skip that course and take advantage of a beautiful night to stroll through Little Italy. We were content knowing that, thanks to Pasquale Jones, we would return soon.
187 Mulberry Street