Opening a pizzeria in the heart of Manhattan these days requires some major Bombolone. From the West Village location of da Michele alone one can walk to a variety of pizzerias that are ranked with the best of them… Brunetti, Ribalta, Song’ E Napule, John’s of Bleecker Street, just to name a few. These few are mostly of the Neapolitan kind, the result of the new wave of Italian immigrants. Unlike their Sicilian and Neapolitan predecessors who worked with limited ingredients back in the day, the new wave has access to not only ingredients, but the proper pizza oven.
But all the ingredients in the world wont put you on the map if you are missing the main one, a capable Pizzaiolo. Thats always been the main difference between eating in NYC and Rome or Naples, for the most part. We are getting there, if not there already. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is the brainchild of Francesco Zimone and Michele Rubini who are expending on the legacy of the original staple in Naples (since 1870). After two visits, needless to say, these two got pizza down to a science, mainly thanks to the all important Pizzaiolos they brought with them.
During my conversation with Michele after my first meal, I learned that these guys are no stranger to the ultra competitive NY pizza scene. More importantly perhaps they are well aware of what it takes to run a successful pizzerie in Naples, in accordance with Verace Pizza Napoletana Association which Michele Rubini is certified with. The Naples location is also famous for being featured in Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love. It has received so many accolades over the years, it has no more room on its door. Shame you wont see a “Ziggy Approved” sticker anytime soon.
Simply put, this is as good as pizza gets in NYC. The pies are larger than the typical Neapolitan found all over the city. I wrongly assumed they increase the size to please Americans, but Michele told me thats the size in Naples as well. The base is soft, light and perfectly charred. And the ingredients gel together beautifully. There’s a double cheese option for some reason, but not worth the risk of losing a perfectly balanced Fior Di Latte, Pecorino, tomato sauce combo.
Its important to keep it simple with the delicate Neapolitans, and always go with the Margherita, but I cant help but get the Diavola every time I see it. Here its superb, and the spicy salami is actually spicy. The Pesto is the only white one I tried, and its not too shabby either. Two pies can easily feed a hungry three, but not quite 4, unless you order other items. Its a fairly full menu for a pizza joint, and it will get fuller with burgers, fish and steak soon. The multi-room space is fairly spacious, with a long bar, and a third room downstairs that isnt quite ready. Its the most ambitious pizzeria that ever opened in NYC. So far so delicious.
L’antica Pizzeria da Michele
81 Greenwich Ave (West Village)