Anticipating a famous Pizzaiolo grand opening in NYC is like anticipating flu season. You hear about it in the media long before it arrives. You wonder if you should do something about it this time, because you kinda like this life thing. Then you end up forgetting all about it and doing nothing. I dont recall ever standing in line for pizza, and I dont recall ever taking a flu shot. Perhaps you can get the flu while standing in line in this brutal cold? Not really sure, and not about to take any chances in what seems like the worst flu season in recent memory. My family needs me. I think.
If I could fit a longer title it would have said something like this, “Gino Sorbillo – love at first bite, hate at last”. Ok, that sounded much longer in my head. But it was really a tale of two visits for me at this highly anticipating pizza opening. I should really do a third visit, but my wallet has other ideas in mind these days (Uncle Boons Sister, Madame Vo, Martina, etc etc). More about the wallet thing later. But we are talking about a pizza legend from Napoli opening his third location after Napoli and Milan. NYC is certainly the right place to flaunt this kind of skill. But we are talking about New York Pizza city after all.
If you read this blog longer than a few months or took my East Village tour, you know that New Yorkers live and breath pizza. We have Neapolitan, Roman, NY style pie and slice joints, Detroit, Chicago, Staten Island, State Island bar, grandma, grandpa, and baby pizza at our finger tips. Ok, I made the last one up but you get the idea. New Yorkers are surrounded by pizza, and many of them are really really good. That includes Neapolitans like Keste, Don Antonio, Eataly, and even some obscure places like Brunetti and Pasquale Jones dishing out well crafted awesomeness. Opening a pizza place in NYC, and especially East Village requires some major chaloopas, but we New Yorkers welcome any such thing with open mouths. Perhaps if the place was a little more unique like offer free flu shots with the pizza, New Yorkers would pay more attention
On both visits the place was almost empty. Granted it was on my after touring hour of 3pm, but I still expected bigger crowds considering the hype. The first thing I noticed is how large the pizzas are. At around 13-14 inch they seem to be an inch or two larger than your average city Neapolitan. That makes it even more of a challenge to fold these babies as the Neapolitans are naturally soggy in the middle. We should be lucky that these imports are even cutting them for us. Curious if they cut it for mayor De Blasio who visited both NY and Naples locations.
The first pizza I tried, Margherita with Buffalo mozzarella was outstanding. Ingredients really popping, with a soft, airy crust that was folded almost like a calzone due to the size of the slices. Even though the slices didnt hold their own, the flavors were there. By my second visit I was ready for the Nduja which is becoming one of the more popular pies here. The first few bites were promising but I got bored fairly quickly with this one. The spicy salami spread (Nduja) was alright, but couldnt save the rest of the pie that includes uneven crust with Roman-like crunchiness at times. This time each slice was totally falling apart when you lifted them to the point of (chills) fork and knife consideration. And at almost $30 after tip/tax the cost/flavor ratio really took off for my liking. A few blocks out at Martina, that ratio comes back to earth with individual pies costing a third of this, while still filling.
So while not a strong recommendation, I do encourage you to try this pizza legend and form your own opinion. At the very least, you may get a Ratatouille moment reminiscing about your time in Napoli where you wanted to try the famous Sorbillo pizza, but just couldnt cross the street!