231 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013 (map); 212-966-1234; Emporio.com
Pizza type: Roman-style
Oven type: Wood-fired brick
The Skinny: Beautiful thin-crust pies are topped with the very best ingredients at this inviting neighborhood restaurant. Watch out for some excessive charring, though.
Price: 12-inch pizzas, $16-18
Shock, dismay, shame...let's just say it was quite the humbling moment when I realized we had yet to review—let alone try— the pies at Emporio. Not only is the modest, inviting restaurant located mere blocks from Serious Eats HQ, but we really, really like the place. On our last official visit, a couple of years back, we may not have given too much thought to the slivers of complimentary pizza served at their daily happy hour. But the two Roman-style pies I encountered at a recent meal proved revelatory—if not on a city-wide scale, certainly on a how-did-I-not-know-this-was-in-my-neighborhood one.
There's something genuinely considerate that seems to emanate from Emporio on all fronts— from the staff and décor to the menu and, of course, the pizzas themselves.
Staple ingredients are mostly DOP*, with more perishable toppings and the likes sourced locally when possible. The Emporio Margherita ($18) features shining layers of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella di bufala, and translucent folds of prosciutto di Parma. The toppings had an effortless balance and restraint to them—no simple task, considering how easy it is for prosciutto to overwhelm the hushed milkiness of mozzarella or the subtle seasoning of sauce with waves of saltiness.
*Denominazione di Origine Protteta, which essentially means certified Italian.
It was a pleasure to find such an incredibly thin crust able to support relatively heavy toppings without sacrificing texture. The pies cook for two or three minutes, at about 800ºF. Delicate and crackly, the base was woven with a latticework of softly smoky char. Emporio's brick oven, fired with a dried hickory imported from upstate New York, definitely imparts a distinctive flavor to the dough.
Our end crust had a good rise to it, with a pillowed, chewy interior. With generous browning and a nice salt content, there were no pizza bone graveyards to be found at our table. The only real problem was the eruption of bubbles here and there across the surface of both pies; after a few acrid encounters, I found myself eating around them. As you can see from the photos, that meant missing out on some decent chunks of pie.
Our Tuscan Kale and Sausage ($16), topped with fior di latte, pecorino, and hot pepper, was another beauty. The tender shreds of kale were generously portioned and surprisingly sweet and well-seasoned. The sausage, though juicy and rich, fell a bit on the greasy side for my taste. Nor did I get much of a hit of heat from peppers. That said, while I often find that white pies fade away from inadequate salt or acidity, this one managed to hold its ground. I'd definitely have it again, if for no other reason than to more thoroughly investigate those crisped curls of Tuscan kale.
Sitting beside a French window, a gentle breeze at my back, I found myself thoroughly charmed. It's the kind of pizza that echoes springtime—light, airy, vibrantly fresh, a touch crisp. It even holds up quite nicely at room temperature. And best of all, I was able to devour a generous portion without the slightest hint of food coma.
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.