Let me start off this narrative with this…..
I am the farthest thing from a pizza snob. I like good pizza and don’t care if its deep dish, thin crust, pan style or Sicilian style…if its good, I’m down. And while I tend to avoid $1 pizza places like they’re the plague, if I were absolutely starving and had only a few quarters on me… I’d go.
Pizza is pizza, it’s pretty difficult to mess up but in that same vein it’s hard to make a truly outstanding pizza. Nicoletta makes a truly outstanding pizza.
Nicoletta’s owner, Michael White, is a rare breed. He’s very well-known but not a “celebrity chef,” (where you ditch the kitchen for fame and glory) and he’s conquered the gamut of culinary themes with his amazing restaurants Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini, and now Nicoletta in NYC (he also has a few restaurants in NJ and one in Hong Kong). I’ve had the absolute pleasure of dining at all four of his restaurants in the city and Nicoletta is my hands down favorite. Got some cash to blow and wanna impress? Go to Marea or Ai Fiori. Jonesing for some soul food from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy? Go to Osteria Morini. And if you want some good pizza, unlike anything else available in NYC, then go to Nicoletta.
(whole stuffed squid al forno, soppressata zuccchini ripieni, origanata, bread crumbs)
Nicoletta’s opening saw a mad rush of pizza lovers and Michael White fans storming the doors. I waited a few weeks and hit up the spot with my friend Laney on an early weeknight. A few minute wait, and a walk around the block and we were in. The place is surprisingly small (maybe twenty tables?) and reeks of garlic (in an “oh heaven i have found you” kind of way). The menu is straightforward and simple…. small bites (which come out as fast you order them so if you need some time on the menu but want something to nibble on…get these), starters, salads, and pizza. As for drinks, their wine list is pretty extensive and very well priced but come here and get the beer. In addition to two of my personal favorites (Sixpoint and Brooklyn Brewery), they pour two of Chef/Owner Michael White’s own “brand.” He may live in NYC but he’s a Wisconsin boy through and through and brings home to the city with a partnership with Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. They have two options: “Birra Morini” which is a pilsner, and “Morini Bianco” which is a german style wheat beer. Pair the Birra Morini with a slice of pizza and for a few seconds and it seems like nothing else exists in the world but these two gloriously paired items.
(mozzarella, crema di tartufo, prosciutto cotto, roasted wild mushrooms)
Nicoletta has a variety of items on the menu but it’s their pizza that is the real winner and the reason I’ll be coming back again and again. Choose from ten different specialty pizzas like Parmigiana (with ricotta and fried eggplant), Fior di Zucca (zucchini blossoms and grated summer squash), and Patatona (crushed yukon gold potatoes and bacon) that could feed two-three people at most (2 of us ate the entire pie and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves for even one second). The minute the menu landed in my lap I zeroed in on the Tartufata pizza and so did Laney. With a pitcher of beer to wash it all down, we went to town on the Tartufata (a white pie with mozzarella, creme di tartufo, prosciutto cotto and roasted wild mushrooms).
Call me crazy but I have very fond childhood and college memories of the gloriousness of the pan pizza crust at Pizza Hut. The minute I bit into Nicoletta’s crust I went straight back to the days of too much drinking in college when my life would be single-handedly saved by just a bite of the oil-laden and fluffy crust. Well Nicoletta serves up the gourmet version of the famed pan pizza at Pizza Hut!!!!!! And while Laney and I devoured our slices I couldn’t stop thinking about how you cannot find any pizza like this in NYC.
Maybe we can dub this pizza “Wisconsin-Style,” the crust is thick and doughy and perfectly cooked. Thick enough to hold all of the toppings, it’s not so thick that you have a mouthful of dough and just a little bit of sauce and toppings.
Oh and forget red pepper flakes…. ask for a side of their homemade chili oil- it’s revelatory on a pizza. Can he bottle this stuff and sell for mass consumption? I would put that on ice cream it’s so good.
Nicoletta is the newest addition to Chef White’s stellar roster of restaurants and my personal favorite (Marea is a close second but I don’t have the Benjamins for that place). If you wanna try something a bit different from a standard NYC slice than high tail it to the East Village for a pie at Nicoletta.
160 2nd Avenue (at 10th Street)