Behind the Slice: Addtional Notes on Zero Otto Nove
Behind the Slice is a special "hidden post" that features notes, thoughts, and geekery perhaps too arcane or speculative for my "official" Slice review. —AK
Some additional thoughts that didn't make it into the Zero Otto Nove review...
ZON is incredibly ambitious
The space is HUGE. Tables up front in the window, a large oval bar with plenty of seating for drinkers and potential diners, a back space between the bar and the oven with alcoves shooting off to the sides, and even a medium-size mezzanine. They are clearly expecting business. And, to my mind, they're going to need it, given what rent must cost on such a space in that area of town.
When we visited, at 7:30pm on a Tuesday (second night of operation), ZON was only about a quarter full. I wouldn't read anything into that, as word is not exactly out yet, and because it was not prime dinner hour. Things had started to pick up a bit as we left around 8:45pm.
What I would actually worry about, if I were them, would be the nights when the place is packed. There's only one oven, and it's a fairly standard-size Neapolitan-style wood oven, capable of handling only a handful of pizzas at a time. Granted, pizzas in this type of oven need little cooking time, but still. With a pizzeria of this size, I expected two ovens back there.
ZON is a bit kitschy
If you've been to the original ZON on Arthur Avenue, you'll remember it's styled as sort of a trompe l'oeil Italian streetscape, a narrow "alleyway" leading to the back dining room, where you sit under a painted "sky" in a sort of "courtyard" or public plaza. A similar styling has been carried over to ZON Manhattan, where the larger space is supposed to evoke the feeling you're eating alfresco in a slightly larger thoroughfare -- instead of a narrow pedestrian alleyway, maybe a slightly wider street that would allow two Fiats to squeeze by each other. There are archways, meant to evoke building entrances, that shelter alcove tables. There are streetlamp sconces on the walls. Murals abound. As I said about the original ZON, it's all a bit Casa Bonita, but a bit more classy. I'm not sure how well that kind of styling goes over in Manhattan, but if folks like the pizza and other food there, it likely will not matter.
ZON has some competition in the neighborhood
As discussed in an earlier post/comment session on ZON Manhattan this place faces some competition in the neighborhood via La Pizza Fresca and Eataly's Rossopomodoro. At this point, it's too early to tell how the head-to-head-to-head will shake out for best-wood-fired pizza in the area.
But what I would point out is that the crowds and popularity of the ZON on Arthur Avenue are one thing. That area of the Bronx is underserved for this type of pizza. It may be another thing entirely for the owners to expect the kind of crowds seen there, especially when there are so many similar pizzerias not only in the immediate neighborhood but just a few subway stops away.