We are going all Italian this week here at JAETAF. Did you know that was our acronym, by the way? Jay-taff. Use it on the streets. See what happens.
This past Saturday we decided to do some heavy hitting in the Italian department. First up, some coal oven pizza at a NYC institution, Lombardi's (incidentally, the only NYC pizzeria besides Grimaldi's in DUMBO to operate a coal oven), followed by the Fiat Gallery in Soho with a GQ sponsored event where itty-bitty cars would be complemented by tiny shots of Lavazza espresso.
But first to fuel up on Margherita pies!
Lombardi's is a pretty large place. There are multiple rooms and even a basement room (where John and I sat). From the start, the sheer size of the place concerned us. We had doubts whether a place that needed to churn out that many pies in such volume could maintain a high quality, brick oven product. And volume needed to be produced because even though it was fairly early on a Saturday evening, the place was packed and we had to wait for a table. So we staked out seats at the bar and sipped Sixpoint beer in anticipation. Sidenote - should an Italian brick oven pizzeria offer Sangria? Moving on...
We order a split pie: half Margherita to maintain standards of comparison, and half decorated with Lombardi's house made pork and beef meatballs. Our 18" pie has a few standout characteristics that put us on guard:
1. The crust is rather flat and evenly baked. No puffy Neapolitan cornicone here. And no coal-fired char marks, save for one large bubble.
2. The pie is stiff, lacking that floppy quality that makes a well functioning brick oven pie chewy and delightfully unwieldy.
However, there are some redeeming qualities: The basil is liberally applied, and the sauce has a simple, tangy, pure tomato taste of which we both approve. John could have used a bit more, however. Additionally, the cheese provides a noticeable salty, milky flavor.
As often happens, the meatballs steal the show. Moist, flavorful and bite-sized, like meat popcorn, they are a perfect pizza accessory.
The lavatory was pretty standard issue. It seemed more like a closet with plumbing. But everything was clean. Bonus accessories included Windex (?) and a motion-sensored paper towel dispenser. The mirror was mesmerizing as well...
John and I were largely underwhelmed by Lombardi's pie. Between the two coal oven contenders, we both agree that Grimaldi's is considerably better. You may not – Yahoo doesn't. You can read their opinion here.
Overall Experience: Vanilla Sky - The Average Restaurant
On with the show! We ambled several blocks to the Fiat Gallery on Wooster Street. We had been promised (via Urban Daddy) the possibility of test driving Fiats, and we both had Italian Job-esque dreams of hurtling through the streets of Soho in a perfectly polished red rollerskate.
Our test driving dreams were squashed, but we did get to sit in the show room models and make convincing vrooooom-vrooooom noises. That helped a bit.
All joking aside, the exhibit was pretty fun. The evening's events were sponsored by GQ and we got to wander around artistically-rendered Fiat hoods, sample Lavazza espresso, sip Peroni's, and get our photos taken!
John looks quite at home, no?
More events will be running until May 1st. You can check out the full list here.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 4:28AM