Not too long ago, I was naive enough to assume that I could dine at all of Manhattan's fancier/artisanal boutique pizzerias and place them into a nice tidy, ranked list. Yet, a few months of summer neglect has seemingly been coupled with the opening couple of a thousand pizzerias, thus shattering my realistic goals of developing said list and leaving me somewhat on the outskirts of the in-the-know crowd in terms of up and coming pizzerias. In an attempt to replace my finger on the pizza pulse of Manhattan, I recently checked out Micheal White's Nicoletta located within the pizza "murderer's row" that is the East Village.
As a newly opened spot with serious hype and buzz, Nicoletta is pretty crowded on a rainy Thursday night. A friend and I are told we have to wait a few minutes (outside, as there is no real waiting area or bar to hang at) but a table quickly opens up. The quick table turnover is good if you're waiting and, as I found out, bad, if you're eating.
Inside, it is crowded and tight. Two-tops are stacked right next to each other which results in inevitable neighborly conversation and some creative table maneuvering for sitting down/getting up. It's not quite beer garden/picnic table levels of intimacy, but it's close - which isn't uncommon for newer pizzerias necessarily; just reporting the news. The music is also a bit loud, but it's a sharp, modern looking spot, with soaring ceilngs and, oh, these things too:
That's a collapsible slot on the sides of each table in which the rods for the elevated pizza trays are placed - a small, but quite awesome added feature for your pizza experience, I must say. It generously frees up table space for some Pellegrino or a tasty appetizer like salami and olives.
Me and my buddy select two pizzas, the carbonara and the parmigiana. Both pizzas are very, very good, featuring crackling but fresh, soft crusts and mouth watering ingredients. These are unique pies in that they are indeed "artisanal" (an evolving way of describing smaller, finely crafted pies within boutique pizzerias) yet NOT Neapolitan. I couldn't tell for sure, but the ovens, while featuring some faux brick facing, were not brick ovens. You're not eating a charred/chewey pizza like you'd get down the street at Motorino, but rather a more evenly cooked, flakier pie. Both pizzas are tough to stop eating.
Another interesting thing about Nicoletta? There were no plain pies! Yes, that's right, no margheritas or anything like that. That's another unique aspect about the place, and indeed a first for me. But I was very satisfied with my choices and look forward to sampling more. Some high craftsmanship going on here, without a doubt.
One major complaint, however, was the pestering wait staff. I mean, I realize it's a new spot and, truthfully, I appreciate attentive servers, but this was a bit ridiculolus. Every time I looked up, our server was nagging me to see what I wanted, whether I was ready to order, whether I was finished, etc. I understand table turnover is the best way to get the word out about your tasty pies but, seriously, at what cost?
Those needing a bathroom break can escape to the main floor towards a unisex private water closet - a serene little scene of sanitation, space, and sleekness. Props to Nicoletta for the Xlerator, too; the Cadillac of motion sensored hand dryers.
Overall - I was still quite pleased with my experience at Nicoletta. This pizza deserves its initial positive press and should achieve staying power within some of NYC's better pizzerias. Now, if the waitrons would just chill out a bit and let me normally digest my food, I would be a regular customer.