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NYC: Arturo's Coal Oven Pizza with a Bunch of Type Nerds
Before I draw down the wrath of the formidable type-design community with the headline above, let me just say that I wrote it with love after recognizing in them a certain amount of kinship.
Why am I even talking about letter headz? Because where the worlds of pizza geekery and type obsessives intersect you'll find Nick Sherman.
Anyway, long story short, Mr. Sherman invited me and Girl Slice (who is more learned in the typeways than I) to a pizza-and-type confab at Arturo's Coal Oven Pizza on Houston and Thompson streets in Greenwich Village last week Wednesday.
I was going to say that you don't really read a lot about Arturo's, but then Jason of I Dream of Pizza wrote a post about the place on Monday. Weird how the place must have been in the collective pizza consciousness.
"Although it was enjoyable," Jason wrote, "it isn't quite as good as any of the aforementioned classic spots [Lombardi's, Totonno's, and Di Fara]. No wonder you don't hear much about it."
I'm not going to go all contrarian here and say Jason's wrong. It's pretty much what I've thought about Arturo's whenever I've tried it. For me, my main complaint was that the crust was tough and entirely too chewy. Like, jawache-after-you're-done chewy.
When we sampled a number of pies last week, the crust was better than I remembered, though not quite as good as some of the other coal-oven places in the city. Some of the toughness was gone, but it was not as memorable as I would have liked.
Where Arturo's excels as a pizzeria, I think, is in the neighborhoody vibe that Jason describes in his blog post. It's not celebrated and hyped, so it seems to attract mostly locals. There's a sort of old-school vibe going on, with photos and paintings of Italy and celebrities all over the wall, interspersed with small paintings done by the late Arturo Giunta, the pizzeria's namesake and founder, who died in 2006. When I think of Arturo's, I think "red," "loungey." The lighting is low, the walls are dark red, and there's a jazz pianist who performs there while you eat. It's a place to go and kill an hour or more lingering over drinks and pizza with friends, old or new—as we did on Wednesday. It is good pizza, not "great," served in a welcoming atmosphere.
Speaking of new friends, it was here that I recognized that kinship with the type nerds. As I shot the upskirt photo, I feared they'd all think I was nuts. They knew I was from Slice, some of them even knew the site, but I wasn't sure they were prepared for full-on pizza-dorkery.
"Sorry," I said, "I have to document this."
"You're among friends," said John Downer, the visiting sign-painter for whom the dinner was organized. "I think we're all familiar with obsessiveness here."
Yes, I was indeed among similar types.
Arturo's Coal Oven Pizza
106 West Houston Street, New York NY 10012 (at Thompson; map)