Posto: Credible, Enjoyable Thin-Crust Pizza
310 Second Avenue, New York NY 10003; map); 212-716-1200; postothincrust.com
Pizza Style: Thin crust
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Very skinny. Almost to a fault, although there is some suppleness in the crust. The pies benefit from toppings but only in moderation. Delivers well
Price: Small pies, $7 to $12; large, $13 to $24
There was a time, several years ago now, when Posto, and its sister restaurants, Gruppo, Spunto, and Vezzo, might have been considered avant-garde, pretentious even. The wafer-thin-crusted pies they serve seemed to be more authentically Italian, more by virtue of their fancy menu names and their over all distinctiveness than anything more tangible, than the average pizzeria. But in reality the pizza they served owed far more to the American pizza vernacular than anything that sprang from Italian shores. Sure they serve some exotic ingredients, such as prosciutto di Parma, but much of the menu reads like that of a national chain, with a meat-lover's pie, a Hawaiian pie, and barbecue chicken pizza.
I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, the pizza they serve is far better than than a chain, although those pies do seem a little antiquated when compared to the Neapolitan and Neapolitan-inspired pizzerias that are proliferating in the city these days. If you are after a puffy airy cornicione and a liquid center, or ingredients of clearly (and proudly) defined provenance, you will be disappointed in the pizza at Posto. If, on the other hand, you want a decent pizza in comfortable surroundings with friendly service, Posto might serve your needs.
Posto's pizza avoids many of the pitfalls of serving ultra-thin crusted pies - the cheese does not get scorched and desiccated, the crust retains some suppleness and the cornichon does not burn to a charred crisp. The crust does exhibit plenty of crispness and crunch but one can fold a slice without it shattering and it does have some chewiness although not a lot of flavor. The sweet sauce and milky cheese make for a pizza that achieves synergy by virtue of the relative mildness, some might argue innocuousness, of the ingredients.
This is not a pizza that is going to knock you over with big, bold flavors and seems designed to be topped, rather than serve as study in pizza minimalism. Indeed, while the plain pie is perfectly fine, especially at $6.50 for a 9" pie, it benefits from some doctoring.
The menu offers a plethora of toppings ranging from the expected pepperoni, sausage, peppers and onions - to the less traditional such as chipotle chicken and hickory smoked bacon and the utterly superfluous - truffle oil and BBQ chicken. Predictably there are also a number of composed pies on offer. Despite offering some tantalizing sounding combinations, loading too much stuff on the vanishingly thin crusts tends to overpower it both structurally and from a flavor standpoint.
Case in point - the Meat Lover's pie comes loaded with pepperoni and both sweet and hot sausage on top of a tomato and cheese base. Now I consider myself a meat lover but I also love pizza and this pie was dominated by the salty spice of the pepperoni spiked with the fennel from the sausage. The cheese? essentially reduced to a glue to keep the topping cemented down. The result was more of a meat sandwich served on crisp bread than a pizza.
Similarly The Big Pineapple (more commonly known as a Hawaiian pizza) lives up to is name with large chunks of pineapple and tomato littering the pie in a manner perhaps more appropriate for bruschetta. The smoked bacon is a big improvement over the flaccid ham or Canadian bacon often used on such pizzas. If you are a fan of this type of pie I think you will like this version.
I should note the kitchens has a curious proclivity to go overboard on the basil - it blankets many of the pies with so much of the shredded herb that it looks like so much confetti. Although the one pie that could benefit from it most - the plain cheese pizza - comes with none at all.
I only live a few blocks away from Posto and as a follow up to my visit I ordered a couple of pies for delivery. They travel well, as I expected they would. The crust retains the same essential texture and shape, unlike a Neapolitan style pizza that will deflate depressingly when placed in the box and left to sit. Aside from the thin layer of cheese firming up a tepid pie is not that much less enjoyable than one that is piping hot from the oven. If you live in a fifth floor walk up in the vicinity of the restaurant I don't think you will be disappointed with delivery.
The Salsiccia Dolce was my favorite pie over all with its sweet Italian sausage and caramelized onions. It was the best proportioned of the bunch in terms of flavors and toppings.
The meatball classic with some spongy rather dull tasting meat balls, sweet red onions and more of that shredded basil was not my favorite pie. The meatball apart from not being very classic were too big for the crust. They would be far better slices into delicate slivers.
Posto offers credible and enjoyable thin crust pies. That they fall behind the boutique and specialty pizzerias that have sprung up in the last few years doesn't matter to the locals that flock there. The experience is as much about spending time with friends over some drinks as much as the pies themselves. There is no obsession with provenance or authenticity here, just a friendly, upscale neighborhood pizzeria serving simple, straightforward food. If you are a normal person with reasonable expectations you will be perfectly happy there. If you are a bit more obsessive about your pizza, and especially if you are into Neapolitan style pies that are all the rage these days, you are probably better off elsewhere.