Pizza on the Upper West Side is clearly ready for Fratelli la Bufala, the upscale pizza-centric restaurant that recently opened near Glenwood's luxury rental apartment buildings The Grand Tier and The Regent, and which has been packed just about every night since. It's exactly the sort of place the neighborhood craves, a casual but cool-looking spot with an interesting, crowd-pleasing menu that's as comfortable for families as it is for, say, a second date, or a rowdy meal with a pack of friends. Only thing is, is Fratelli la Bufala ready for the Upper West Side? Well… after one visit we'd have to say the answer is: yes and no. But let's backtrack for a minute first.
Fratelli la Buffala: Upper West Side Pizza
Fratelli la Bufala NYC is an Italian pizzeria chain (there are more than 100 locations worldwide, mostly in Italy, and only three in America) that opened its first New York City outpost a couple of weeks ago on a prime Upper West Side corner, the long-time home of Niko's, 76th and Broadway. Fratelli la Bufala, like so many Upper West Side NYC pizza newcomers these days, specializes in those individual-sized pies of the Naples variety. They're charred, chewy and slightly "wet" in the center after a quick blast in the wood-burning oven that dominates the restaurant's entranceway. We sampled a pair of Fratelli la Bufala pizzas, and have to say we were pretty impressed. The Margherita DOP–always a good "baseline" pie–in the tomato-based "Le Rosse" section of the Fratelli la Bufala menu, a simple concoction topped with mozzarella and a couple of fresh basil leaves, was bright and lively, the crust soft and salty, just the way we like it.
Over in cheese-based "Le Bianche" territory, we tried the Irpina pie, covered in mozzarella, bufala cream (delicious, but certainly not adding any "dryness" to the already wet pie), some decent, sweetish ham and a large helping of mostly lackluster mushrooms. Again, this was a solid rendition of the sort of New York City Neapolitan pie that's been popping up all over town. So what's the problem with Fratelli la Bufala NYC? Well, mainly the management. The servers and hostesses and buspersons were all friendly and trying hard, but clearly the front of the house is a little overwhelmed. Tables sit empty (we counted more than a half dozen!) while increasingly impatient diners stand cramped in the too-small waiting area by the oven. And though our pies came quickly and without incident, we watched multiple order-errors unfold around us, and one poor woman had to practically beg for her salad, which she finally received while her young son was just finishing his pizza. Plus the prices are a bit a high–in the high teens and low twenties for each pie–for this sort of thing, and this sort of place. Fratelli la Bufala has the opportunity to become a favorite local spot. Let's hope they can pull it off.
Fratelli la Bufala Details
Fratelli la Bufala is located on the corner of 76th Street and Broadway, and is open on Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday until midnight. For a look at the Fratelli la Bufala menu, please see the post on the My Upper West website, here.