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Abitino's in Murray Hill

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bubblesbug-20080115.jpgA New Year always brings about the opportunity for renewed optimism and reconciliation. It's a time to set new goals and get your priorities in order. As I was walking down Second Avenue, I decided I had two New Year's resolutions: I wanted to be healthier in 2008, and I wanted to try the remaining pizza joints in Manhattan that I hadn't already hit. I know, I'm kinda setting myself up to fail the first resolution if I am successful with the second. At any rate, it was with that spirit that I decided to grant a temporary Bubble amnesty to the Abitino's on 39th and Second Avenue, despite its recent transgressions.

As many of you know, Abitino's is a chain pizzeria (instinctive suspicion should immediately arise in all of you) that took over the space that the former Joe's pizzeria once inhabited on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine in the West Village. Sure, there is still a Joe's on Carmine Street, but those in the know always felt that their corner joint cranked out the better pies. Since then, I've always held a certain level of disdain for all things Abitino, and there are more of them now than ever before. As I peeped inside this Abitino's window to get a look at its plain slice pie, things looked safe enough for me to continue my mission and head in. I may have been in the mood to grant second chances on New Year's Day, but I certainly am not granting a total reprieve to any NYPie poseurs: you have to earn your stripes in this town (and on this website, for that matter)!

From the looks of their pizzaiolos, these guys had done just that. Their top pie man was a grizzled veteran who just happened to be pulling out a terrific-looking fresh mozz and sausage pie as I stepped up to the order box. Too bad it was going to be delivered, I would've housed a couple of those slices. But no, I was there to do my job, and that was to report objectively to the New York pie public by trying a plain slice. As I gave my order to the second-in-command, I was immediately concerned, as he was certainly either hungover or stoned. It was New Year's, though, so I guess that was pretty much to be expected. However, that behavior can lead to slice indifference, which can only mean one thing—an over-reheat!

Every New Yorker knows what I mean when I say that—the pie man is either too busy or too lazy to take the slice out of the oven after an adequate amount of time and the slice ends up being blazing hot and burnt. That's never a good thing, and I oftentimes make a point of telling the pieman reheating my slice to make it short and sweet. For obvious reasons, though, I knew that this guy wasn't really hearing me no matter what I said. Sometimes you just gotta let it ride, right?

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I actually lucked out—the slice came out really warm, but not too hot—I was good to go. I took my slice and dressed it with a little garlic powder and parm. I checked the upskirt (above)—some nice brown char, a pleasant surprise considering their standard gas oven. You guys all know my mantra for slice greatness: balance. The large amount of cheese had me concerned. It didn't help matters that it looked like the aged mozz was on the greasy side but, again, this joint came correct—the cheese was a little salty but all together quite good. Although, the sauce wasn't made with San Marzanos, they did use a good blend of sweet plum tomatoes, and it didn't really taste like they added a bunch of sugar (another violation of the Bubbles pie code). To top it all off, the crust, although thin, held everything together nicely and had a chewy interior.

Needless to say, I was fairly impressed. Although I can't speak to the quality of other Abitino's, this was a good New York street slice—certainly better than anything you could find at a random Ray's. For you Murray Hillers out there, I'd put it on par with Libretto's. The guys at the 39th and Second Avenue Abitino's had started off 2008 the best way they could, hungover or otherwise—by turning a one-time hater into a repeat customer.

Until next time, Bubbles out!

Abitino's

Address: 733 Second Avenue, New York NY 10016 (39th Street, Murray Hill; map)
Phone: 212-661-1919
Website: abitinospizza.com

More Dispatches from the Bubbster

DJ Bubbles Wishes You a Happy New Year
A Sunday Night Slice Walk
Vezzo, the DJ Bubbles Drive-By
Isabella's Oven, The DJ Bubbles Drive-By
The Best Grandma Slice in New York?
The Syracuse Pizza Manifesto
From the Mailbag: 'The Definitive Top 10 List'

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