089 pizza on Arthur Avenue

Sunday, February 10th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Last month, HH came across an article declaring Zero Otto Nove in the Bronx the “Best New U.S. Pizzeria.” Intriguing. He had missed out (or “lucked out,” depending on your perspective) on our last quest for the city’s best pizza — a 2+ hour “adventure” that brought us to Midwood, Brooklyn. So this afternoon, we set out for the Belmont section of the Bronx — “New York’s other, better, Little Italy” and an area well known for its quality fish, meats, cheeses, pastas and groceries.

The Bronx location and bus ride’s distance from the subway line keep this neighborhood somewhat insulated from the touristy masses that have all but obliterated the better known Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. Some cursory research will call up a long list of Belmont recommendations along and around main thoroughfare Arthur Avenue: The enclosed Arthur Avenue Retail Market, (which like the Essex Street Market, was created under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1940 to reduce pushcart street-crowding); dueling fish purveyors Randazzo’s and Cosenza’s; Egidio’s or De Lillo’s for Italian pastries; the Calabria Pork Store; fourth generation-owned Biancardi Meats; Italian delicatessen Mike’s Deli; Casa Della Mozzarella, which is known for some of the best fresh-made mozzarella in New York…

Arthur Avenue

The cloudless blue sky belied the swirl of snow that would be unleashed upon us not three hours later.

On Sunday afternoon, many of the shops were shuttered, or winding down business for the day. We made it to Borgatti’s Ravioli & Egg Noodles on 187th Street just before 1PM closing. This family-owned neighborhood fixture is renowned citywide for its fresh pasta; last year the shop scored “an astounding 29” — and the top spot — on Zagat’s list of pasta purveyors. There were some intriguing options: multi-colored, multi-shaped, fresh and dried… We each picked up a box of 100 fresh ravioli for $11.50 — ricotta-stuffed for me, meat and spinach-filled for the boys.

And then to sample this Neapolitan-style pizza we had read so much about. Zero Otto Nove is named for the area code in Salerno, Italy from which owner-chef, Robert Paciullo hails. (Paciullo is also owner-chef of area favorite restaurant Roberto’s, which was number two on Robert Sietsema’s 2004 list of “100 Best Italian Restaurants.”) The space is designed with a front bar and a long, narrow, arched passageway leading to a skylit, muraled, double height dining room, centered around a brick, wood-burning pizza oven.

Zero Otto Nove

Hard to imagine that this was once a McDonald’s. (I asked our hostess.)

The Antipasto Salernitano Caldo: Stuffed peppers, eggplant & zucchini scapece & cauliflower:


The Margherita pizza: San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella & basil:

Margherita pizza

The Patate e Porcini pizza: Fresh mozzarella, sliced potatoes & porcini mushrooms:

Patate e Porcini pizza

Each of the pies was advertised as a personal pizza, but could (and did) feed two, though HH later admitted that could have polished off an entire pie without assistance. Knowing a bit about DK’s pizza-eating abilities, I suspect the same of him.

So our verdict: high quality toppings (I liked the earthiness of the porcini), crust a shade on the soft side, tomato sauce a bit bland…. good pizza, but no, not the best in New York. On the other hand, we didn’t wait two hours for it either — even factoring in round-trip travel time to the Bronx — which probably ranked the overall experience above you-know-where a.k.a., that $4 slice place in Brooklyn. (What’s next: $1.20 plain bagels?)

Arthur Avenue

On our hostess’s recommendation, we stopped by afterwards at Palombo Pastry Shop CafĂ©. Though the cafe itself is a relatively new addition to the neighborhood (open since 2006), as we sat among the locals at a small table with our cappuccinos and small plates of Italian pastries, the overall feel was of the kind of Old World neighborhood spot rapidly disappearing from this increasingly gentrified, sanitized version of the city. I’m reminded of a trenchant observation by Adam Gopnik in a 2007 New Yorker commentary: “New York is safer and richer but less like itself, an old lover who has gone for a face-lift and come out looking like no one in particular. The wrinkles are gone, but so is the face.”

How best to preserve all those wonderful, character-filled wrinkles that make New York, New York?

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There are 5 Comments ... 089 pizza on Arthur Avenue

February 21, 2008

I’m so sad I missed this.

February 22, 2008

Good times. I’d like to return on a Saturday for some food shopping.

February 26, 2008

I’d love to go the next time you plan do some food shopping. Must say the pizza looks good.

J Verrilli
March 1, 2008

It is better than Roberto. If you go there before six, there will be no waiting, and the menu, althogh is not as extensive as Roberto’s, it is excellent.Enjoy

francesco Iannuzzo
December 27, 2008

complimenti e in bocca al lupo da Salerno !!!!!!!!!

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