Daily Slice: Numero 28, East Village
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
The East Village branch of Numero 28 was packed with revelers: birthday partiers and post-work groups, big families from out of town. The gas-assist wood oven was burning hot, and waiters rushing around with huge pizzas (up to 29 inches long) on wooden peels. We slipped into a table for two and were immediately distracted from our usual mission (one Margherita, please) by an advertised "Pizza of the Month" topped with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan, and porcini mushrooms.
Porcini mushrooms are my favorite: Earthy, fragrant, rich, and woodsy, I can't resist them. I wish that porcini were as trendy as truffle oil (a trend I'm happy to see fade into decades past).
But I shouldn't have been lured by the call of porcini; the pizza didn't live up to my fantasies. The pie arrived promptly (at the same time as our oversalted arugula salad) and the porcini were spongy and nearly flavorless. I've bought frozen porcini that still tasted vividly mushroomy, so I'm not sure how No. 28 managed to leach all the flavor from these.
With the exception of those mushrooms, the pizza wasn't bad. The mozzarella was buttery and rich, though slightly overpowered by shavings of bold Parmesan. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and fresh, but the basil was added before cooking and totally shriveled.
The crust flavor was nice enough, with good chew and char. But there wasn't much rise in the crust, or quite as much puff and lightness as I'd like. In another neighborhood, farther from the masterful crusts at Motorino, Numero 28 might be a contender. But if I find myself back here again, I'll stick with the Margherita.