“There’s no better feeling than a box of pizza on your lap.” -Kevin James
We like to believe that humans are advanced in every respect to animals but I am hard pressed to find anyone that does not act like Pavlov’s Dog when they walk past a place selling pizza. Whether you like it hot or cold, first thing in the morning or late at night, thick or thin there is nothing quite like a slice of pizza. The familiar taste of dough, red sauce, cheese, and a variety of toppings bring back so many fond memories; memories extending from childhood where someone cut a slice in half or memories of eating a whole pie during those late-night college years. Pizza has a special place in our hearts as a well-known comfort foods. With the American aversion to consuming carbs mid-week, pizza may have taken a hit on popularity but recently it is making not only a culinary comeback but culinary breakthroughs, and it has chefs all over the country getting on the bandwagon.
In honor of National Pizza Month, October, I have put together a list of five new places across the country and one international location that should be on your must-try list.
Martina, NYC: 198 E 11th St. New York, NY
Chef Nick Anderer of Marta and Mailino, part Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, attempts to bring delicious Italian flavors combined with the casual and cozy vibe of Rome’s side street, hidden eateries to the bustling Lower East Side with the recent opening of Martina. The main attraction of the casual eatery is the 10 inch thin crusts pizzas (a typical pizza is 16 inches). Romans typically eat late and indulge in a small pizza after a large afternoon meal. Martina brings that Roman behavior to NY. The menu consists of eight pizza combinations with extra toppings available including four cheeses, olives, fried eggs, and a spicy salami imported from Tuscany. Other items on the menu include chicken meatballs, salads, croquettes, gelato, and Affogato (a mix of espresso and vanilla soft serve gelato in the cup). All items are ordered at the counter and pizza tends to take 10 minutes. Diners are given a buzzer and walk back up to the counter when their pizza is ready. Some people are calling the new fast casual restaurant, pizza’s response to Shake Shack. https://www.martinapizzeria.com/
Bonci, Chicago: 161 N Sangamon St. Chicago, IL
Italy. Anthony Bourdain. Chicago. Pizza. Need I say more?! Rumor has it, Bourdain (my hero) visited a Bonci location in Italy and loved it so much he helped to bring the concept back to the United States. He chose Chicago, knowing it was a pizza town, and the locals could not be happier. The fast casual eatery is located in the West Loop and opened up in August. Typical of how things work in Italy, ordering is done by hand gesture. After waiting anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes on line (again, typical Italy) a customer receives a number and waits to be called on (not typical of Italy because this is semi-organized). Customers then use their hands or fingers to show how large of a slice they want (very Italian) from the chosen slices on display. The staff member, using scissors, cuts the gestured sized, weighs the cut pizza, gives the customer the receipts, and ecco. The pizza is delicious and served hot. The only thing to be conscious of, this is credit cards only (definitely not typically Italian!). Bonci USA has plans for a second Chicago location, and have the rights to open Bonci across the world. https://bonciusa.com/
North Italia, Santa Monica: 1442 2nd St. Santa Monica, CA
Pizza, Pasta, and Pinot on the pier, you had me at hello. Sam Fox, the True Food Kitchen owner, opened his newest location, North Italia, in Santa Monica and it is nothing short of a huge hit. The owners pride themselves on making all of the food from scratch using the best ingredients possible. The inside is quite lovely, warm, and inviting with a beautiful bar that looks out onto the Promenade. The open kitchen lies alongside the back so you can watch the chefs work their magic and salivate before your meal arrives at the table. Not your typical east coast or mid-west pizza establishment where you order from a counter and eat your pizza trying not to burn the roof of your mouth while balancing the flimsy paper plate; this is slightly more refined. There is outdoor seating, real plates and red wine list. Besides pizza, some of the menu highlights include their famous meatball sandwich, short rib radiator and burrata tortellini.
A Mano, San Francisco: 450 Hayes St. San Francisco, CA
From restaurateur Adriano Paganini, we are presented with, A Mano, translated to “by hand”. A Mano is delightful Italian restaurant with a California cuisine influence that includes flavors that change with the season. While the emphasis is on homemade (by hand) pasta here, they do have four different types of pizza made (by hand), the most popular being the traditional Margherita pizza. Other pizzas toppings: summer squash, zucchini blossom, stracciatella, Vidalia onion, and lemon. Definitely not your traditional types of pizza but very California to change flavors with the seasons. Besides their pizzas, the tagliatelle with pesto, haricot verts, fingerling potatoes and pine nuts is an absolute must try. http://amanosf.com/
Giordano’s, Detroit: 1224 Randolph St. Detroit, MI
Detroit is the number three city in the US for pizza behind NY and Chicago. With that being said, it’s no wonder why the Chicago staple, Giordano’s, just opened its newest location there in September. This is Giordano’s second location in Michigan with the first in Holland, MI. Coming from the NY area, a Chicago style deep dish pizza breaks all the rules and leaves traditionalists and Italians scratching their heads. Unlike your traditional pizza where the dough is flattened, sauce is applied and then it is covered with cheese and toppings, the Chicago style pizza has the toppings baked into dough and the top is covered with a red sauce. Each pizza takes about 35-45 minutes to bake and is absolutely delicious. Giordano’s does not break totally from tradition, they also serve other varieties of pizzas including crispy extra thin crust, as well as pastas, sandwiches, and salads. If you’ve never been to a Giordano’s, make it part of your mid-west experience! www.giordanos.com
Jean-Georges at the Connaught, London: Carlos Place, Mayfair, London
After Chef Daniel Humm closed the #1 restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park, to renovate and opened a pop-up restaurant to serve grilled and BBQ ‘summer’ foods, it was inevitable for pizza to end up in the sights and on the plates of the world’s best. When Michelin-Rated chefs get involved in a food staple such as pizza, the consumer is destined to benefit. Asked why the kitchen had decided to put pizza on the menu the Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten said, “it keeps it real” adding “I wanted to bring the best of what we do in New York. I call it ‘the best of’.” Sourcing from the best of British ingredients, the overall menu reflects the farm to table, fresh from the market approach which has been long pioneered by Jean-Georges. Londoners have been going crazy over the fontina cheese and black truffle pizza, with its two day fermented dough baked to a blistered crust in an Italian Pavesi pizza oven; delicious hot cheese and waves of truffle. It’s so good it’s enough to make you ignore the £29 ($34) price tag. Furthermore, the venue looks spectacular with floor to ceiling walls, featuring stained glass panels in shades of red, orange and yellow to represent the passing of the day, from sunrise to sunset. It’s beautifully romantic with pale grey cushioned seats and sofas placed convivially around pebble shaped black marble tables. This is exactly how pizza should be enjoyed at a Michelin level. http://www.the-connaught.co.uk/mayfair-restaurants/jean-georges/
Whether you are standing at a counter at 2:30am in Chicago or NYC trying to balance a plate, with napkins, cell phone and drink in hand or dining in a Michelin rated restaurant, pizza is always a good choice and it will never disappoint.