As I watched the singer-songwriter at the Mercury Lounge wind down his show-ending encore, I realized that I lacked a new pizza destination for an after-show slice experience. Bad planning aside, I was also thinking that by now I may have also exhausted all of my pizza possibilities on the Lower East Side.
So, at the show’s end, I used my over-sized iPhone for old people to explore my area options. My mood had me taking a negative view on anything that looked the least bit out of the ordinary. I wanted nothing fancy, unusual or for that matter, anything other than a good old New York slice. That’s when I found Nonna’s L.E.S. Pizzeria (open until 3am) waiting for me just a few blocks away on Clinton Street.
The streets of the LES seem to get darker and dingier as you approach Delancey Street, and Nonna’s is just a few doors away from this busy thoroughfare. It’s one that when I was a kid my Dad always drove down in route to Long Island via the Williamsburg Bridge. Little did I ever imagine that one day I would be walk those streets; especially in search of pizza!
Amidst several storefronts that were shuttered for the night with their metal doors, Nonna’s hip refurbished façade stood out like a pretty girl at the high school dance. Making my way through their storm-sheltered entrance, I entered the narrow brick-walled interior. My eyes were immediately overtaken by the rows and rows of sheets of multiple varieties of square slices. They were billed as “Magic Squares,” and I was surprised to not see a regular slice in sight!
On the menu board atop the wall behind the counter, a round slice was advertised for $2.25. Playing dumb, I asked for a “slice of cheese”, not knowing whether I’d be getting something square, round or in a cone for that matter. They may have even detected my slight smile when I saw them pull a pretty-looking triangle slice from below the counter to slide into the oven for a reheat.
After a minute, they delivered a slice quite attractive to my eager eyes and tantalizing to my appetite. I took it to a table in the back and quickly found it to be strong, solid and good! It was perfectly constructed and carried a beautiful char on its bottom crust. Served at a most pleasant eating temperature, I quickly made my way through this deliciously-delightful slice.
Nice and light, there was only a slight presence of oil and it went done fast and easy. Had it not been so near my bed time, this would have been a multiple slice experience.
However, in looking for possible blemishes to keep from declaring perfection on this wonderful slice, I pondering the tomato sauce. It was just a tad sweet to my liking and some more standard seasoning might have helped. The crust also was a little dry and flat tasting.
But, the cheese was top rate and the overall execution was so fine that these flaws were minor indeed. This is a tasty slice well worth your time if you are passing by. Maybe not a destination place for an NY slice, but it’s a neighborhood joint I’d be proud to call my own. I guess I do now regret not trying a Magic Square, but that gives me a reason to come back.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ****1/2 Nearer Perfection
Nonna’s LES Pizzeria
105 Clinton Street
(Near the corner of Delancey Street) New York, NY 10002