Luzzo's owner Michele Iuliano seems to be on a tear. Earlier this year he opened Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea, and not more than two weeks ago he launched Da Mikele on Church Street in Tribeca. (And that's all in addition to Little Luzzo's on the Upper East Side, which he opened in 2008.)
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Though it took me a while to come around to the original Iuliano joint, Luzzo's, it serves some very good pizza, and it's beloved by many a New Yorker (especially by expat Italians). Whenever a city favorite produces a spin-off, the question becomes, Is it as good as the original?
Remarkably and somewhat improbably, Da Mikele seems to be bringing it. Like Luzzo's and Ovest, its menu features a generous selection of nonpizza Italian fare, but, hey, this is Slice — what's that stuff, huh?
A pizza lover will be quick to note that the Luzzo empire quadrata-style pizza gets the most ink of any of the pizza selections on the menu, running the full length of the page, whereas "Pizza Napoletana" is relegated to a tiny rectangular "specials" box at the bottom of the quadrata listings — seemingly tacked on as an afterthought.
After ordering a Margherita Neapolitan pizza on my second visit and talking to the manager there, I think I have the answer: Da Mikele uses an electric oven to cook its pizzas.
Ah ha! That also explains why there's not a crew of pizzamakers doing their thing in front of deliberately conspicuous wood-fired oven, as at Ovest or at Luzzo's, which boasts a dual-mouth coal-and-wood-fired monster. And why the quadrata is top-billed, since its style is not dependent as much on a wood-fired oven.
Not that it seems to make a whit of difference, though. Which is why I wrote improbably above. Whatever they're doing with the electric oven at Da Mikele works, because even the Neapolitan pizza is almost indistinguishable from wood-fired pizza.
It's crisp, chewy, has the requisite puffy cornicione, and is blackened enough on the bottom for even the most char-loving of char lovers. Honestly, I would say the Neapolitan Margherita I sampled was a bit too charred the afternoon I tried it, but just barely over the line.
The pizza here was every bit as good as Luzzo's and Ovest. I'm just going to quote from myself in my review of Ovest, as this is exactly what I was thinking as I munched:
I really liked the pizza today at
OvestDa Mikele. Granted, the crust was still a bit on the less flavorful side, but I think in my analysis in the past, I've been too forest-for-the-trees. When taken as a whole, a Margherita pizza at OvestDa Mikele (and Ovest and Luzzo's) is pretty dang good. Salty, saucy, creamy, with a rich hit olive oil goodness for good measure. As long as you're not looking to snack entirely on end-crusts or you're not stripping away the sauce and toppings, you could do far, far worse.
The only difference I did notice was that the top of the pizza looked less browned than most of the Neapolitan pizzas I've seen around the city, but that hardly seemed to affect my enjoyment of the pizza. Here's a comparison shot:
Luzzo's fans, you now have another location to get your fix. And, as of yet, it seems to stack up.
275 Church Street, New York NY 10013 (near White; map)