New York: La Margherita Brings Decent Slices to the Lower East Side
151 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002 (Map); 212-228-1233
Pizza type: New York
Oven type: Gas
The Skinny: A step up from most slice joints in the area, though the thick crust and cloyingly sweet sauce could use some work.
Price: Plain slice, $2.00, Specialty slices, $3.50
A new slice joint, in the vicinity of our office, getting all the stars on Yelp? Jumping up from my desk and immediately heading over to La Margherita was a no-brainer.
The Lower East Side pizzeria has nearly all the attributes of your classic New York corner joint—the red block letter signage; that glass case, filled with ambiguously-dated pies; black and white framed photos of iconic "Old New York" and Italian-American celebrities. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the florescent-linoleum look replaced by wood paneling and dim, hanging lights.
I ordered a plain slice ($2), their "special" Margherita ($3.50), and a grandma-style slice ($3.50), topped with ricotta and sausage. Then, I made a crucial mistake—I got the slices to go. I figured I could jump into a cab and make it back to the office in just a few minutes, where I could snap some pretty pictures and still enjoy the slices "fresh" from their reheat.
By the time I'd finally hailed a cab and sat impatiently as it waded its way through New York's perpetual rush hour traffic, a few minutes had turned to ten; ten to fifteen. I could feel my window of opportunity slam shut. I probably could've skipped the mad dash upstairs, but denial is a power unto itself.
Ed has always said that one of his litmus tests for great pizza is how well it holds up. Let's just say these slices don't exactly qualify for admission. In the room temperature zone, the crust was way too thick and dense; so stiff it was hard to fold, let alone chew.
The cheese was gummy, the sauce too sweet. My favorite of the bunch was the grandma—probably because the ricotta kept things moist, and the burnt, crispy bottom was a step up from the laborious chew of the regular slices.
But flaws aside, there was still something there that urged me to give La Margherita another shot. I returned a few days later to see how a hot slice would compare.
As suspected, eating these slices fresh out of the oven is an entirely different experience. On my second visit, the crust wasn't noticeably thick, and it actually hit that perfect spot between crackery and chewy. The sauce was still too sweet for my taste, but otherwise the pizza turned out to be a totally respectable New York slice. Nothing to write home about, but definitely good.
If I had to guess, it would make a damn fine drunk slice. Given its immediate proximity to countless bars and clubs, that likely accounts for all those five-star Yelp reviews. I have a feeling La Margherita will be drumming up quite a bit of late-night business—and I'll be at the front of the line. Next time we'll have to give their fresh pies and more creative topping combos a go. Let us know if you've had the pleasure!
About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.