Midtown Manhattan: The Pizza at Todd English's Plaza Food Hall
Last week I posted a roundup of pizzerias near NYC tourist spots and completely skipped the Upper East Side. I'm not saying that the Plaza Food Hall is UES, but you're likely going to take a subway that runs near it if you're traveling to or from Museum Mile, or wherever you're going up there. And you'll probably end up somewhere near Central Park South if you take your guests ice skating or to gawk at Steve Jobs's giant glass Apple cube at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store.
So, yeah, that brings me to a neglected recommendation: the pizza at Todd English's Plaza Food Hall.
I overlooked it because it's sort of hidden and doesn't seem to be on the tongues of the New York fooderati. As you likely know, it's down in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, most easily accessed by a door near the hotel's Oak Room on Central Park South.
Inside, of course, it's a high-end food court, and like food courts across the U.S., there's a pizza option.
I've been a number of times since it opened in June 2010, and the "flatbread pizza," small oblong pies, though a bit inconsistent, has been good. Good enough that I always order at least one—along with whatever else I might be in the mood for—whenever I go.
Pizzas are a little bit pricey for what they are but not outrageous and none breaks the $20 barrier, despite some fancy-soundin' ingredients. The menu ranges from the basic (classic Margherita, a pepperoni pie) to the more sophisticated toppings Todd English is known for (like his signature fig and prosciutto pizza, or spit-roasted chicken pie with arugula pesto).
I've had almost every pizza on the menu. And my favorites are the Portabello (with broccoli rabe, roasted garlic, mascarpone, chili flakes, and Parmesan), the Italian Sausage (with provolone, roasted tomato sauce, and a fennel confit), and the Spit Roasted Chicken.
The crust is sometimes wildly puffy at the edges, sometimes only moderately so. Sometimes too blond, sometimes a bit too charred. But it's always salty enough and has always had some decent flavor to it.
(Pro tip: Be sure to eat the pizza quickly. It gets soggy quickly sitting on those wood peels.)
The White Clam pizza I had on a recent visit was good, though nowhere near being in the league of the Motorino's, Franny's, or even newcomer Barboncino's. Some of the clams were a little too large, a little rubbery.
The signature Fig and Prosciutto pie (with gorgonzola and a rosemary crust) is a bit 1980s, but the flavors work well together. It is a rich, rich pie, though. And, thanks to the thinly shaved cured meat draped across it, extremely salty. It's good for a couple slices before palate fatigue sets in. This one is best split with one or two friends.
I don't know if I'd go out of my way for the pizza here, but if you're in the neighborhood and need a fix, this is where I'd send you. Or where I'd recommend taking a visitor.