When my little cousins, Ammaar and Suhayb, came to the city to visit with friends, Ammaar insisted we have Grandma Pizza on 50th and 9th. “It’s sooo good,” he kept saying of the place another cousin Sana (there are a lot of us) introduced him to–so we obliged. When we got to the intersection, I began looking all around for a sign that says “Grandma Pizza,” to no avail. I looked at Ammaar quizzically. “Are you sure we’re at the right place? All I see is some Uncle Mario’s place.” “Yeah, that’s it!”
Turns out “grandma pizza,” he FINALLY explained later, isn’t a place, it’s a type of pizza. Well, don’t I feel sheepish that my lil cousin had to explain this to a “food blogger” (I use that term very loosely though so whatevs). You live, you learn. Erica Marcus from Slice explains further: “Variations abound, but the basic outlines [of grandma pizza] are as follows: a thin layer of dough is stretched into an oiled, square “Sicilian” pan, topped sparingly with shredded mozzarella, crushed uncooked canned tomatoes, chopped garlic and olive oil, and baked until the top bubbles and the bottom is crisp. [Michele] Scicolone [Manhattan resident, Italian food expert, and co-author of Pizza: Any Way You Slice It] observed that grandma pie sounded a lot like “pizza alla casalinga” (housewife-style pizza), “the kind of pizzas you’d get in Italy if you were invited to someone’s home.”
Anyway, when we walked in, a slightly jumpy waitress seated us (seemed like she was the only waitress in the whole mid-sized pizzeria). “Are these tables OK? Ok bella, I love you.” And disappears. I looked at everyone at the table…”Did she just say she loves us?” Everyone heard the same thing. I’ll take it. Turns out the older waitress would be mumbling a lot of non-decipherable things throughout our meal. But not in an annoying way, it was sorta endearing. Maybe because I was so entertained by her, it was like she was a caricature to me.
We decided on two grandma pizzas: their Caprese (diced Roma tomato with fresh mozzarella and basil) and the Mac and Cheese just for fun. The pizza’s are big, 12 slicers and we had a moment of panic thinking that between the 6 of us, 24 slices would be impossible. But yeah…not after those first bites. The pizzas were delicious and flavorful without all the fussy dressings.
Mac n Cheese pizza
The Mac and Cheese is simply that — pizza topped with noodles. This one was slightly more bland since the noodles are just plain, unseasoned carbs, but add a little bit of salt (yes, salt) and hot pepper and it’s perfection (to me, anyway…what do I know?).
Mac n Cheese pizza
Oh and that waitress, came back carrying a new pitcher of water each time. By the end, we had three or four full pitchers. I kinda enjoyed her spazziness.
Meal: Not quite lunch, not quite dinner at 5pm
Occasion: Cousins and co. visiting NY!
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ** (just your regular pizzeria…maybe a little more space than some in the city)
Would I go back?: Yesss
Restaurant Info: Uncle Mario’s Brick Oven Pizza
739 9th Ave
(between 49th St & 50th St)
New York, NY 10019
Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen
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If there’s one thing you do tonight, I’d suggest checking out Madison Square Eats if you haven’t yet! I realize this might be sort of a disservice to tell you all about this so late in the game, but since there IS one more day to catch it, I figure why not.
Madison Square Eats
Madison Square Eats
I have been passing by it for months but I FINALLY stopped by last week. They have outposts from some of the best restaurants and food carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn all in one place. The tables and canopy of lights give it such a pretty ambiance too.
I wanted a burger from Graffiti but they had run out so I walked down to the Roberta’s Pizza booth and ordered a seasonal personal size pizza with squash, mushroom, thyme, and basil. Delicious!
My friend went to Asiadog for a kimchi and chicken organic hot dogs. I don’t even think I can’t even remember the last time I had a hot dog, but these were so good. Everything is decently priced too. It’s such a quintessential NY experience so if you haven’t gone yet, check it out! It’s open until 9pm and again, tonight’s your LAST chance to catch it so bring your appetite! Located on Broadway, near 24th street :).
Contrary to what you might think, there’s not a lot of pizza places I really love out here. I think my Midwestern roots keep me from loving thin crust as much as I should (although not gonna lie, you will probably never see me refuse a slice). I tried Luzzo’s in the East Village a few months ago with friends, and I actually really enjoyed the thicker crust of the brick over pizza that you find here.
The Bufala: tomato sauce, bufala mozzarella, basil
The size of the pies are not huge, but the slices are thick so don’t let it fool you…two pies easily fed four people with some slices to spare. If you can handle spice, be sure not to forget to use the red pepper oil to dip your slices in.
Red pepper oil -- this thing is brilliant
Restaurant Info: Luzzo’s
211 1st Ave.
(between 12th and 13th)
New York, NY 10003
If you ever need a quick solution for a group dinner, the family style portions of Italian dishes Patsy’s (a chain in NYC) are not only generous but just so delicious. On a recent visit, my friends wanted to order the Penne alla Vodka, but I was rooting for the Pappardelle alla Toscana (pappardelle with sun-dried tomatoes, wild mushrooms, aged parmigiano and pecorino cheese in a creamy sauce). I lost over a game of rock, paper, scissors though and we ordered the penne. I was actually surprised at how tasty the seemingly simple dish was. I normally find some of the Italian restaurants to be more of the same, but here, I think the brick-oven pizzas and pastas are quality, not too expensive, and FILLING. A great combo.
Penne alla vodka, $33
Spinach ravioli, $33
Restaurant Info: Patsy’s Pizzeria
67 University Place,
btw 10th and 11th St.
New York, NY 10003
I actually found out about the quaint Roman-style trattoria Emporio in Nolita through my friend Archana’s blog at LettuceVeg.com. She took much better pictures than I did with my camera too, but I’m glad I went on her recommendation because everything we had was delicious. Plus, I was obsessed with the candle-lit back room where we had our little girls night. The middle of the space has communal tables. Though, if you want more privacy, the booths along the sides have curtains you can pull on either side so you block out the distractions.
Ricotta Ravioli, $16
Squid Ink Fettuccine, $17
We thought we ordered a more special pizza, but alas...it was pretty plain.
My favorite was the ricotta ravioli with tomato and baby zucchini. It was so fresh and delicious. The Squid Ink Fettuccine was a little too seafood-ish for me!
Afterwards, unfortunately, we had an underwhelming dessert experience at Balaboosta. We originally had planned to go to Village Tart, one of my favorite dessert spots downtown but it was closed for some reason (and PS, I just found out yesterday that it’s closed down for good…stab in the heart). So we decided to head over to Balaboosta which wasn’t too far away. It was my first time there and it’s a really cute Mediterranean restaurant. The special of the day was a some pistachio dessert with chocolate and whip cream and all sorts of goodness, but when we sat down, we were told they just ran out.
We instead ordered chocolate mousse and another bread pudding dessert. Both looked a lot better than it tasted:
Chocolate mousse dessert
But honestly, the rest of the menu sounded good, so I’m not writing it off just yet. I’ll definitely go back for another meal — just not for the dessert this time. Best part was when we ordered our mint tea…which wasn’t really mint tea. It was instead, hot water poured on top of mint leaves. Which basically tasted like hot mint water.
Our $5 mint water
Eh. Can’t win em all.
Restaurant Info: Emporio
231 Mott St. (near Prince)
New York, NY 10012
214 W. Mulberry St.
near Spring St.
New York, NY 10012