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Pulino's: Nate Appleman Out; Pizza Different But Still Good

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Serious Eats New York editor Carey Jones shows us the new, airier end crust of a Pulino's pizza. [Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Early yesterday the weblog Feast reported yesterday that Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria has revamped its crust. Really? We trucked it on down there to check things out.

Then late yesterday Eater reported that Nate Appleman had left the pizzeria. "It was a mutual split," the blog quoted Appleman as saying.

So how is the new pizza? Long story short: It actually is new (we had a hard time telling from the photo on Feast), and it's still good. The all-over crispness that marked Appleman's "Bowery-style" pizza is gone, replaced by a crisp-chewiness more in line with a New York–style or Neapolitan-American-style pizza. After the jump, a before-and-after.

Here's what we took out for a test drive:

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The Cavolo Nero (black cabbage, mozzarella, pecorino, garlic, salame picante, and Calabrian chile oil) and the Polpettine (beef meatballs, tomato, mozzarella, grana padano, pickled chiles, and basil).

Great toppings on both of these. Juicy meatballs and, oh, those pickled chiles. But that black cabbage matched with salame picante? Yes, please! I think there's real Top This potential in this one. But really, you already know all about the great toppings here, right? (You don't? What's wrong with you? Here and here: Read up, homeslice.) The top-notch toppings song remains the same.

So let's get to the new crust:

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The new crust.

There's some puffiness at the rim of the pizza that wasn't really there before. Sure, there was some rise but not much. As Appleman described his "Bowery-style" pizza before the restaurant opened:

"It's thin and crisp, but not chewy. It's not like a cracker, but it almost shatters when you bite into it. But it's not tough like a cracker."

And to his credit, he pretty much hit that initial mark. The crust was almost uniformly crisp throughout, with a lot of charring and shattery bits.

As Nick Solares said in his April 2010 review, "The result is probably the highest expression of bar pizza."

We really liked the "Bowery-style"/haute-bar-style pizza, but we're also digging the new crust at Pulino's, too.

To illustrate the difference, let's do a before-and-after:

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Same pizza, the Polpettine, before and after. [Photographs: Nick Solares, Adam Kuban]

Before is on the left, from Nick's review. After is on the right, from lunchtime yesterday.

The new crust is still crisp, but not uniformly, as it was before. There's now some pliancy to it. Like an ideal New York/American-Neapolitan pizza, it's satisfyingly chewy. But not chewy to the point where it's giving your jaw a workout. Even after letting it sit and cool, it remains supple without becoming tough. I mean, look, you can even fold this thing:

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That's quite different from a bar-style pizza, which goes for that crisper (almost crunchy) base.

We really liked the pizza at Pulino's before, but this new pizza is good, too. It's sad to see a more unique pizza style disappear from the landscape after only a few months, but we have hopes that Appleman will surface somewhere else with his pizza.

Oh, and, last: Gone is the tavern cut (pizzas sliced into a grid) and in are the triangular slices most New Yorkers are used to. Guess that makes sense if you've moved away from the bar-style pie in general.

Oh, wait, last last, here's the upskirt for you:

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Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

282 Bowery, New York NY 10012 (at Houston; map)
917-289-9357; pulinosny.com

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