We all know Michael White has mastered the art of pasta making. He's the best in the business in that department. But can the Midwestern faux-Italian also own when it comes to dough and sauce? People are freaking out over his new East Village pizzeria, Nicoletta. While our excitement level isn't at the ecstatic highs of others, we're definitely happy Nicoletta is in our lives. It's just not as amazing as we wanted it to be. Sadly, we didn't find White's famed fusilli with octopus and bone marrow in pizza form. What we did find was a menu full of thick, meat heavy, completely unhealthy pies. For those from the Midwest who love a deeper dish style of pizza not commonly found at NYC's fancy Neapolitan pizza joints, you're going to love Nicoletta. White's pizza is like a gourmet style Pizza Hut. The problem is, unlike many of our favorite pizza joints, there isn't a single pie at Nicoletta that has us longing for a return trip. It's missing that special something.
You know that feeling when you wake up in the morning regretting whatever it was you did the night before? That's been us on multiple occasions after meals at Nicoletta. These pies have put a serious hurting on us. While I'm sure we'll return at some point, Motorino and Forcella will remain our East Village go-to's.
One thing that's for certain is that you'll never forget where you are; the Nicoletta branding is inescapable. It's clear that this pizza joint was built for reproduction. From glasses, to napkins to modern-style pop-up pizza stands, it's all covered Nicoletta's name. And while it's a cool looking East Village space, it's one that's easily replicated and can work anywhere from a Las Vegas casino to New Jersey mall. It's quite clear that Nicoletta's flagship is the first of many to come.
On the small plates section of the menu, we really enjoyed the Cetriolo: spicy marinated cucumbers with onions. Just beware, they're pretty damn sharp.The Mozzarella came on skewers with ham, which was awesome. As was the marinated Sicilian Eggplant. We could have easily skipped the fried Shishito Peppers though. They didn't do much for us.
Balls, Michael White style. Not surprisingly, these brick-oven baked Neapolitan meatballs of beef and pork were delicious. Definitely get them on your table.
We enjoy the antipasta at Nicoletta more than the pizza, so make sure to order accordingly. The best item on the menu in our opinion is this confit chicken thigh. It's rare you find a thin, boneless chicken thigh used for a fried chicken dish, but more people might want to try it. The chicken sits on a bed of broccoli rabe and is covered in an amazing Calabrian hot chili vinegar with Primosale cheese.
Being that this was one of the few seafood options on the menu, we were bummed about this cold salad of octopus, mussels, clams and calamari was put in front of us. The salad itself isn't bad, it's just not at the level we've come to expect when "Mare" salad is on one of White's menus. Marea has spoiled us.
This was pushed on us hard by our server as it's one of their signature pies. A unique pizza with a bottom layer of crushed yukon gold potatoes instead of sauce, then topped with cheese, Wisconsin bacon, caramelized onions, and a potent rosemary and crème fraîche. Sadly, we found this pizza to be nearly inedible. It tasted kinda like laundry detergent.
Sure, we like to get our money's worth when it comes to food, but there is so much thick-cut pepperoni and homemade fennel sausage on top of this pizza that you may need to get your stomach pumped once you finish. This pizza is solid - it's just a lot.
Continuing with the whole "it's a lot theme," the Porchetta pie is more of the same. The thick pie features sliced Osteria Morini porchetta, and the contrasting crunch of rosemary salted pork cracklings. We absolutely loved it, but you really only need a single slice of this pizza.
Of all the pies we've tried at Nicoletta, this was our favorite. Definitely order it.
A pizzeria's plain pie speaks volumes, and we just didn't vibe with Nicoletta's at all. There's way too much tomato sauce, not enough mozzarella, and an incredibly thick dough.