Update (1/28/2009): Isabella's Oven Closed Until Further Notice
Ladies and gents, the always opinionated DJ Bubbles has checked in once again. Because I never know when he's going to strike, I'd been unofficially calling his stunning dispatches "drive-bys." Now I'm formalizing it. Here's the DJ Bubbles Drive-By on Isabella's Oven. It's a must-read, so do click through the jump. Adam
For whatever reason, I decided against it and, instead, made my way downtown. I first hit up L'asso (also for the second time in a week) and decided that'd be the last time I'd frequent this establishment for some time to come. Talk about a pretender. It's great to have a big brick oven in the middle of your open kitchen, but if you are going to top your Margherita slices with a sauce that bad and a crust that tastes like burnt toast, donate it to a pie man who isn't going to let oregano (oregano!) overpower every bite you take. I needed relief, my friends. I decided that I should give Isabella's (and Ted Levine, for that matter) one more try before I lit it up on Slice for the whole world to read (or maybe just us diehard pieheads).
As I alluded to before, Luigi & Co. simply knocked my socks off with something as simple as Isabella's regular Margherita. Fresh mozz that, although it didn't have the tart or tang of bufala, had all the creamy and buttery goodness you could ask for coming from cow's milk and provided the perfect contrast to that primo sauce that I spoke of beforeonly this time there was more of it.
What got me, though, was the crustI've never had better in all my days as a pizzameister (it's going on 29 years, folks), and it simply melted in my mouth. When people say pizza melts in your mouth, they're usually wrong, because that means that it has to have an agreeable crust. You need a crust that you don't have to struggle with, or bite into too hard, a crust that you don't have to chew too many times before it can be comfortably swallowed. Most important, you need a crust that you would never think of setting aside on the pan after you've eaten the "body" of the slice. I know, I'm getting hot, too, just thinking about it! And because I like to do my homework, I went out the next night to compare this masterpiece with one of my more reliable bellweathers, Nick's, and I came away feeling vindicated. Nick's is no slouch, but it's no Isabella's, either. The Isabella's of this past Saturday, that is. I guess one of the lessons we can take away from my ongoing adventures in Slicedom is that we should never expect our favorite pizzaioli to be perfect all of the time but, when they are, it can be that rare transcendental experience.
Address: 365 Grand Street, New York NY 10002 (near Essex Street; map)
Isabella's Oven, One Great Pizza on a Saturday Night [Slice]
Isabella's Oven photo set [Slice's Flickr photo archives]
More Dispatches from the Bubbster
DJ Bubbles Wishes You a Happy New Year
A Sunday Night Slice Walk
Vezzo, the DJ Bubbles Drive-By
The Best Grandma Slice in New York?
The Syracuse Pizza Manifesto
From the Mailbag: 'The Definitive Top 10 List'
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