Helming the kitchens at restaurants like Osteria Morini, Ai Fiori, and Marea, Michael White is easily one of the best chefs in NYC. So, like many other foodies, I eagerly awaited the opening of his much-anticipated Midwestern-style pizzeria, Nicoletta. His most casual restaurant to date, Nicoletta opened its doors in the East Village on June 15th. The 58-seat box-shaped space with high ceilings has minimal décor, boasting exposed brick walls, metal chairs, and marble-topped tables, each equipped with a built in pizza stand to maximize table space. 38 additional seats will be added outside. But let’s get to the pies…
There are 10 pizzas on the menu, and they’re delicious, no doubt, but given this red-sauce joint has only been open a month, the pies haven’t reached their full potential just yet (usually it takes a restaurant three-six months before they’ve perfected dishes).
The best part is their medium-thick (about ½ inch) crust: perfectly blistered and crisp on the outside while the cloud-like inside is as chewy and fluffy as I've seen pizza crust get. It’s made from a low-hydration dough (57% water) and mixed with durum wheat, then cooked for 10 minutes in a 600-degree wood-burning brick oven. Genius.
My favorite was the Calabrese topped with thick-cut pepperoni, homemade fennel sausage (which is raw when it goes in the oven so it cooks on the pizza), red onions, pomodoro, and mozzarella, which probably gives the biggest nod to White’s Wisconsin roots. The sauce is pleasantly rich and seasoned with dried basil and oregano, the way it’s prepared in the Midwest.
While White uses top notch ingredients for the sauce and toppings like whole-milk Mozzarella from Wisconsin, Berkshire pork sausage, and Nueske’s bacon, the toppings/sauce/cheese ratio on many of the specialty pies still needs a little help. The Tartufata, for example, was smothered in way too many roasted wild mushrooms and not enough mozzarella, crema de tartufo, and prosciutto cotta. Once they balance the ingredients, this will be a killer pie. The same was true for the Porchetta; every inch of the pie was covered in Osteria Morini porchetta, which overwhelmed the flavors of the crushed tomatoes, wild arugula, and rosemary salted pork cracklings. You may also opt to add your own toppings. Pies are 12 inches, range from $17-$21, and can feed two people.
The rest of the menu is comprised of a few antipasti dishes, small bites, and salads. The baked Neapolitan meatballs in pomodoro were divine as were the Suppli (think: risotto balls). Delivery is now available to a small section of the East Village, and the pizzeria is open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Being a huge fan of Michael White and his team, I’m very excited to see how Nicoletta develops over these next few months, and hope that it turns into the top notch pizzeria it has the potential to become.