The Manhattan Motorino: Is It as Good as the Brooklyn Location?

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A pizza from the East Village Motorino. [Photograph: Philip Given]

Motorino Manhattan opened last week Monday. I went on opening day to see how's tricks. Things seemed pretty under control there, and the pizza seemed up to snuff vis-à-vis the original Brooklyn location (that is to say excellent), so there didn't seem to be much to blog about. Plus--and this is probably the real reason--I didn't get any great photos. Shit light at 8:30 p.m., you know?

But when FoS Philip Given emailed me these pix, I had to share them with you. And, hell, why not share my observations, too?

First, if you went last week and found that there was no wine or beer, that's remedied now. The liquor license transfer from Una Pizza Napoletana to Motorino was just being finalized, but it came through over the weekend. So you can enjoy a sip with your slices.

When I went on opening night, a table was surprisingly easy to get. I walked right in and took one of the 17 or so two-top tables--with about five more still open. Maybe, like me, people already knew what to expect so didn't rush the place. Still, while I sat there, the joint did fill up.

The Renovation

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Eater's photo album of the renovated interior gives a good idea of what the place looks like now, though you'll have to imagine it under nighttime lighting, as Manhattorino opens at 5 p.m. [Photograph: Eater]

The new décor makes the place feel cozier yet roomier (You can take a peep at a nice photo album on Eaters). The stripes on the wall are meant to direct your eye toward the windows, owner Mathieu Palombino told me. But more than that, Palombino removed whatever that little stand was at the entrance of the former Una Pizza Napoletana that held menus and postcards and such. This opens up some space to the left of the door, so if you're entering, you're not immediately crowded in by the stand to your left and the tables in front of you.

It's been noted that Palombino covered the oven in black tiles, replacing Anthony Mangieri's white tiles. Says a certain friend of Slice, "There's sure some psychology going on there."

The Pizza

[Photograph: Philip Given]

I had a spicy sopressata pie. The things I noticed were that the lip of the pizza seemed much more puffy than at the Brooklyn location and that the pie overall seemed more charred. And while the lip, or cornicione, was puffy and done well, the interior of the pie was a little droopier than those that the Brooklyn location typically puts out.

Famed L.A. baker and Mozza pizza-maker Nancy Silverton recently assessed the Manhattorino pies and had a similar observation:

"It's a really, really well-executed dough. You can tell it's light by the bubbles. And the toppings are terrific. But I think their oven is a little hot. I'd cook it a little lower for a little longer; less quick char, more cooked through with better lasting qualities."

Palombino, who was there on opening night, told me that he and his pizza-makers were, of course, getting used to the new-to-them oven but that "this one is much more forgiving than the Brooklyn one." He said the Brooklyn oven had a very short window in which pies were cooked perfectly. "Leave them in just a bit too long [at Motorino Brooklyn], and you've ruined it. Here, it's easier."

Menu

As I tweeted from that meal, "Sweet relief: Most expensive pie on the menu is $17." This is a five-dollar decrease from Una Pizza's four-pie menu, which were all priced at $22 a pop. Plus, there's a wider range of pies: the marinara, the Margherita, the spicy sopressata, the brussels sprouts and speck pie, and more.

And salads and appetizers. And desserts. When Mangieri had the space, he infamously refused to serve anything but pizza and beverages.

The apps I tried were delicious--roasted mortadella, heirloom tomato salad, broccoli rabe, octopus conserva (but I'm always a bit puzzled by bread as an app at a pizzeria). Still, I'm a bit worried about Palombino's move into serving pre- and post-pizza items in this space. Strictly out of selfishness--if you give people apps and dessert options, they're going to be hogging the limited number of tables there that much longer.

Miscellanea

  • How nice to be able to pay by plastic. I hated having to run to the nearest Chase to get cash when it was Una Pizza
  • What is it about this space? The haters are already out: "You can get a better pizza in any slice shop in the City"
Motorino Manhattan

349 East 12th Street, New York NY 10003 (near First Avenue; map)

motorinopizza.com

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