Funny how things work. Frank Pepe opened its first New York location in Yonkers last November. Last week, Eddie’s of New Hyde Park announced it would soon make its first inroads into Manhattan since they opened in 1941. Now both styles of pizza have met on Bowery and Houston in Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, Keith McNally and Nate Appleman’s much-awaited pizzeria. The kicker? As Eater has well-documented with its first looks at the decor, the place looks like it has been there on the corner forever.
Of course, Neapolitan-style was a New York staple long before Frank Pepe left the confines of New Haven. But Pulino’s combines the crust texture and taste of Pepe with an even thinner pie, one that’s just about two-and-a-half times the thickness of what you’d expect from Eddie’s. Not to say it’s cracker-like — it’s not at all. But it is not a doughy pie. Do not think Kesté, Co., or Motorino. Nor are pizzas as charred as the ones pictured by Zagat. What we have here folks, as was the intention – is an idiosyncratic style of pizza. A standardized amoeba shape, a thin crust, and square cuts.
At breakfast, pies are divided into three categories: “Pizze,” “Pizze + Uova,” and “Pizza Dolce.” Pies are available in large and small sizes. Under ‘Pizze,’ the menu features three pies: the Bianca (extra virgin olive oil and sea salt), the Bianca Tradizionale (mozzarella, pecorino, black pepper, and pork strutto), and the Margherita. The Margherita featured a tart, sweet, unchunky sauce, dressed lightly with cheese — about a 1.5:1 ratio, sauce to cheese. It avoids the problems plaguing many generic slices these days: undersaucing. It is a very good pie.
Even so, the category beneath it, “Pizze + Uova,” declares with understatement what may be the best pizza to arrive in New York in the last year. The Salsiccia consists of eggs, sausage, bacon, mozzarella, and white Cheddar. It seems slightly thicker at first, but that may really only be because of the toppings. Bacon tastes like the best breakfast bacon, small nubs of sausage (as when you split the casings and sizzle break the stuff up in the pan), and very runny eggs. They keep the albumen runny, and even those not normally keen on their eggs this way should shut up and eat — it creates a sauce that combines for delicious flavor. The proportion of egg:pizza:perfect. Two eggs to the large pie. Enough to amply coat the whole thing. Of course, the selfish thing to do is to grab that center crustless piece, and make off like a bandit.
“The Margherita featured a tart, sweet, unchunky sauce, dressed lightly with cheese — about a 1.5:1 ratio, sauce to cheese. It avoids the problems plaguing many generic slices these days: undersaucing. It is a very good pie.”
A nice added touch? The problems of getting the red chili flakes out of the shaker (just unscrew), and chili flavor distribution, have been fixed by the bottle of chili oil you can drizzle as liberally as you like.
As for Pizza Dolce, the Frutta was the server’s recommendation, but the Ottima, a pizza with ricotta, wild blueberry jam, and bacon, is the compelling sweet pie to order. The jam is delightfully thin— it would go great with venison— and it contrasts nicely with the salty bacon, whose grease bubbles are still fresh from the oven.
But sweet pizza wouldn’t be the reorder on subsequent visits. No, no. Dessert room here should be saved for more savory items. Too many good things to try. Good luck getting in.
Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 226-1966
Subway: F, M (2 Ave)
This post was originally published March 15th, 2010, on the now-defunct, James-Beard Award-nominated blog AlwaysHungryNY.com.