Monday, January 11, 2010

Way South of Houston Street

One of the newer pizzerias that gets talked about a lot in the press lately is Salvatore of Soho. Look as hard as you'd like in that fancy neighborhood downtown among boutique clothing stores and high end restaurants. But you won't find this pizzeria on Prince or Spring Street or anywhere in the general vicinity of the area formally known as South of Houston Street. Because this pizzeria is not where it's supposed to be. It's not in Soho at all, but rather in the middle of suburban Staten Island.

The pizzaiolo, Salvatore Ganci (at least half of the name is correct) trained and worked at both Lombardi's and Ben's Pizza. So finally, we come to it. Those pizzerias are both in the Manhattan neighborhood of Soho.

Sal installed a custom-built coal/gas oven to make classic New York style pizza in his old-fashioned pizzeria. Now wait a minute. I thought coal ovens were illegal in this city unless you were grandfathered in. Turns out the reason they're illegal is because of the black pollution released from the flume. Well, Sal's oven uses a rotating floor and somehow prevents the coals from being released, making the oven hotter and the air cleaner.

We walked through the parking lot (I have a hard time getting used to parking lots in New York City) and made our way inside the pizzeria. It was so cute with lots of '50's nostalgia and kitschy decor - old rock and roll looped on the sound system and the waitresses wore very short skirts that resembled poodle skirts. I felt like I was at one of those theme restaurants on vacation. Well, I was on an island for the day after all.

The pizza arrived after taking more time than I had anticipated and they looked beautiful. They were incredibly crispy and charred (the menu warned that they would be cooked well-done). My fingers even turned black from holding a slice. I looked like a construction worker or something. Well, my hands did at least. I still looked like a bearded wimp who could lift no more than a loaded potato skin.

But I was lifting pizza today and this looked and smelled like classic New York pizza. And the taste exceeded my expectations. The Neapolitan was close to perfection. It was reminiscent of Lombardi's pie, but with a bit more cheese. It had so much flavor - tangy and slightly sweet tomato sauce, rich buttery mozzarella, a very generous sprinkling of fresh basil. And let's not forget that smokey char from the crust.

We also ordered their clam pie, which is a favorite of mine from Lombardi's. I don't think Sal's was quite as good, but it was very close. It needed a little more cheese for me, but the plump clams and garlicky sauce tasted like a great pasta dish. And when you throw in their perfectly charred crust, it doesn't get much better.

In addition to great old-fashioned New York style pizza, Salvatore of Soho also offers some unusual options (like a fried calamari and hot pepper pie) and traditional Italian dishes. It's clear they know what they're doing and have learned from the best. Would I say it's worth the trek out to Staten Island? Probably. But you can get pizza this good in Brooklyn and Manhattan - at Lombardi's in Soho, no less. Now if Salvatore of Soho opened a location in Soho, then we might have a real pizza war.

Is Salvatore of Soho the best pizza in NY? They make really delicious pizza with an amazing char and fresh ingredients in a comfortable, family-friendly environment. It's everything you could want from NY style pizza. If you're in Staten Island, I'd say go. I give them a 9 out of 10.

1 comment:

  1. So glad that you gave this place a 9 out of 10. I think it's a little better than Lombardi's!