Angelo's Pizza, Midtown
We were in Midtown in the 50s taking in the last day of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. But I also wanted to take in some pizza while I was there. Where to go?
With the Modern on 53rd and a hoard of mediocre good-enough-for-lunch slices surrounding it, I thought I was sunk. And then I remembered Angelo's Pizza, a coal-oven place on 57th Street, between Sixth and Seventh. And as I've never really done much about the place on Slice, I figured it was time for a revisit.
I'd been a number of times when I worked on 42nd and had even had a Slice Pizza Club outing there at one point. I'd never been that impressed with it. But last night's pie was good, if not great.
Angelo's is one of the rare coal-oven places in the city and one of only two in the Midtown proper (the other being the John's Times Square branch on West 44th). As such, you have a decent idea of what you're getting into—a pie with a good char on the crust, a minimalist sauce, and fresh mozzarella, all in good balance.
Except the balance is a little off at Angelo's, weighted more in favor of the crust. It's an extremely light, airy crust that, as "Girl Slice" noted, is notably puffy. The large amount of oven spring on the pie here yields a thicker-than-usual New York–Neapolitan pizza. And that extra breadishness is most noticeable in bites that don't get much cheese coverage. Now is a good time to note that typical New York–Neapolitan pies aren't blanketed entirely in cheese; instead, the dollops of fresh mozz are scattered about here and there, melting just enough that each bite you take has some cheese but not a flood of it. The point is that you also taste the sauce and the bread. Our pieman at Angelo's last night took perhaps too light a hand with the sauce and cheese; as you can see from the photo above, there's quite a lot of puffy, naked crust there.
That would have been acceptable if the crust were delicious on its own, but this dough could use a little extra sumpin' sumpin'—some more salt or some more time fermenting, for a yeastier flavor.
And that's always been my complaint about Angelo's. When I first started going there, the entire affair was uniformly bland. But the overall pie seems to have improved at some point. Now, there's some zip to the sauce; I believe I tasted oregano, and definitely got a subtle hit of red pepper. But the crust itself still lacks flavor.
The crust texture is good. It comes out a uniformly deep golden-brown, and on the crisp-chewy spread it's more crisp, as you can imagine by the looks of it, though not overly crisp to the point of breaking as you maneuver it into the "fold hold"; instead, it cracks a bit but its hull integrity pretty much holds fast. And the char on the bottom, well, here's the upskirt (right).
The cheese is excellent. Creamy and melty, it strings away from the slice in long strands as you bite, no doubt kept at the optimum taffy-pull state by the fact that it lies under the sauce.
I'm now reminded of a text-conversation I had with a friend via cellular telephone. He was in Midtown, around Rockefeller Center, and needed a pizza recommendation within a short walk—no subway or taxi rides further out. I hesitatingly sent him to Angelo's. I would now send him to Angelo's without hesitation—but only under the same circumstances. It's good for the 'hood, but there are outlying pies I'd rather scrap with.
117 West 57th Street, New York NY 10019 (near Sixth Ave.; map)
Additional Location: 1043 Second Avenue, New York NY 10022 (map)
Payment: Cash or cards
Notes: Has a large room that can accommodate events