Pulino’s NYC Bar and Pizzeria: Keith McNally Has Another Winner
Balthazar, Pastis, Schiller's, Morandi, Minetta Tavern. Odean. Cafe Luxemborg. Lucky Strike. Pravda. Over the past 30 years, Keith McNally has seduced and delighted and flat-out wowed this tough-to-please town again and again (and again), deftly blending spectacle and style with solid-to-outstanding food to build an empire that reads like a New York City restaurant hall of fame.
And now add Pulino's NYC Bar and Pizzeria, just opened on the corner of East Houston and Bowery, with San Francisco''s great Nate Appleman manning the ovens, to the list of big McNally winners. Pulino's is everything you expect in a Keith McNally joint, from room's antiqued look and feel (maybe he copied Schiller's a bit too much here–especially downstairs in the restrooms–but, heck, it's a design worth repeating), to the good-looking, thrilled-to-be-here crowd, to a reasonably-priced menu that weaves in and out of both comfort and intrigue. We went to Pulino's NYC twice during opening week, sat at the bar (even as early as 6:00, this is a tough table here) and wolfed a couple of three-course, pizza-based meals. The result: a huge six-for-six for Appleman and his kitchen.
First the Pulino's NYC pizza, which we ordered both times, and are smitten. Appleman's crust is chewy and crisp in all the right places, the crucial sauce-to-cheese, salt-to-sweet ratios well handled, the fresh toppings generously piled, the whole thing cooked to a perfect char. We loved the Salame Piccante pie, covered with spicy housemade pepperoni, briny olives, and a hit of oregano. The Funghi pie was almost as good, though perhaps a bit watery, and maybe needing a few more mushrooms. Based on a pair of pies, Pulino's NYC pizza doesn't dethrone Motorino for best in town, but it does enter the Top 5.
We also tried two dishes from the antipasti part of things. A quartet of House Cured Sardines, the swimmers soft and tasting of the sea, is served with crunchy picked carrots and radishes, with a smart sprinkling of caraway to add depth. This really hit the spot. Also very good at Pulino's NYC was the Ciccoli Froll, a hefty pair of deep-fried pork belly slices served with a sweet-and-sour pear mustard dipping sauce.
Eat a starter and a pie at Pulino's NYCand you will be plenty full… but PLEASE do not skip dessert. McNally's Sticky Toffee Pudding at Schiller's has long been one of our favorite sweet treats in town, and he matches the magic here with a marvelous Panna Cotta, which somehow manages to be simultaneously light and dense, the burnt honey below and crispy sesame-filled cookie above inspired additions. A beautiful thing, this dish. And a close second at Pulino's NYC is the Chocolate Mousse Semifreddo, thick and incredibly rich, with crispy rice, caramelized milk, and a layer of lemon on the bottom cutting the sweetness in each bite, just exactly at that moment when you want it most.
Pulino's NYC Bar and Pizzeria Details
Pulino's NYC Bar and Pizzeria is located on the corner of East Houston and Bowery, and is open all day every day, for breakfast (yes, we hear the breakfast pizzas are excellent), brunch, mini-lunch, lunch, late lunch, dinner and late-night supper. For more information about what time each meal begins and ends, please see the Pulino's website.