Authentic Neapolitan Pizza on the LES?

We love New York-style pizza, but after returning from three weeks in Italy we really miss the ultra thin-crust personal pizzas we ate almost daily (with a liter of vino bianco frizzante) for lunch. So we decided to seek out a pizza as good as those we’d had abroad. Many places claim to sell Napolitano-style pies, but in our experience few of these pizzerias actually stretch their dough as thin or bake it as hot as in Italy, and the resulting pizza, while very good, lacks the crispy, blistered and slightly blackened color and taste we enjoyed so much.

A little online research into the subject of authentic Italian-style pizzas in NYC yielded several results but the one that caught our eye was the recently-opened Isabella’s Oven at 365 Grand Street on the Lower East Side. What attracted us to Isabella’s was not so much the number of people raving that it had the best pizza they’d eaten in New York, but it was more the fact that the pizza-maker actually hails from Napoli, and the photographs of their pizzas strongly resembled the wood-fired oven pizzas of Italy.

We began our meal with a pear and gorgonzola (pare e gorgonzola) salad of mesclun and arugula with oil and balsamic vinegar, which while good was kind of pricey at a shade under $10. Isabella’s was BYO for several weeks after it opened but now they serve a decent selection of bottled beers though, unfortunately, no wine. We should note that their bread was pretty good and chewy too, coming as it did with a nice, fruity olive oil, and no butter.

Next came our pizzas. On the menu there are probably 10-15 different pizzas that come in two sizes — mini and regular — with reasonably authentic topping parings. We had taken our time deciding what to go for — weighing up the opportunity to sample the house tomato sauce and the standard of the mozzarella used, against the addition of anchovies, truffle oil and speck (smoked prosciutto). In the end we ordered the quattro stagioni with ham, mushrooms, anchovies and tomato, and the tartufata, a white pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms (white, not porcini) and white truffle oil.

These personal, or mini, pizzas arrived and aside from the fact that the waiter initially brought us the quattro formaggio before we sent it back, we were very impressed. The crust was crispy and reasonably thin and delicious, but could have been better if left in the oven a little longer to blister and for the toppings to cook a bit more. [See image] That said, they were a good substitute for us who were craving a real Italian pizza.

We’ll be definitely be back, and next time we’ll probably try a regular-sized pizza and cut back on the toppings, but in the meantime the search for real, Italian-style pizza in NYC goes on. Next stop is Lucali’s on Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

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