Think, for a moment, of the worst pizza you’ve had in your life. Mine was at a convenience store in Iceland. I’m pretty sure that the tomato sauce was actually ketchup, topped with whole sticks of string cheese. It was disgusting, and I also finished it, which was in part connected to having drunk several Smirnoff Ices, which was a very popular beverage in Iceland 10 years ago.
Now think of the best pizza you’ve had in your life. Mine was at a place by the water in Naples, Italy. Did the perfect weather, the views of the Mediterranean, and general sense of being in the pizza capital of the world add a certain something? Definitely. But this pizza was also just really, really amazing. The tomatoes and mozzarella tasted like they had been carried over to the restaurant about five minutes prior, and melded together in a way I have not experienced before or since. I’m not sharing this tale of food in a foreign country to suddenly go all Travel Channel on you. I’m sharing it because it’s relevant, as this very same pizza place, Gino Sorbillo, now has a location in New York, on Bowery and 2nd Street.
Is the pizza on Bowery as good as it was in Naples? Of course not. But it’s still some of the better Neapolitan pizza in NYC. If you’ve tried Paulie Gee’s, Roberta’s, Motorino, Kesté, and so on, and generally thought they were all great, then we think you’ll find that Sorbillo can fairly join those ranks, pizza-wise. The ingredients are fresh and of the highest quality, and as in Italy, they all meld together to make that ideal tomato and cheese soup in the middle. It should also be noted that pies here are softer in the center than most other NYC Neapolitan pizzas, and really need to be eaten with a fork and knife. We know it’s against the New York rules, but just go with it here.
Those pizzas come in a dozen or so varieties, mostly of the traditional-ish nature - expect toppings like anchovies or prosciutto, not brussels sprouts or cherries or spicy honey. There’s a menu of pastas and salads and meatballs as well, which are good but also pretty similar to what you’ll find in every other East Village Italian restaurant. You’re here for pizza.
The idea that you’re really just here for the pizza is further reflected in the restaurant’s perfectly nice but not-particularly-awesome-feeling interior. It’s a big, clean space with brick walls, a bar, some assorted Italian affects, and a huge, definitely unnecessary mural that says Gino Sorbillo, in case you forgot what restaurant you’re in. It would be ideal for an affordable dinner with your team from work or a casual midweek dinner or something along those lines, but it’s not as charming as our favorite Brooklyn pizza spots, or some of our other favorite East Village Italian restaurants.
Now think back to that worst pizza memory. Zone out any distractions, and really focus on how plasticky that cheese was, how soggy that crust was, and how bland that tomato sauce was. Is there a point to this mental exercise? No. We just wanted to torture you a little. What you do need to know is that Sorbillo’s pizza will be a lot closer to the best you’ve ever had than to the worst.
All pizza aficionados know that the first time around, you get the margherita. We’d recommend springing the extra two dollars for the bufala mozzarella version, which has a slightly tangier taste and slightly improved texture that elevate the whole pizza.
If you’re looking to break out of the margherita box, try this one. It’s spicy and red onion-y, so also don’t try this if you don’t like those things.
Filled with a bunch of ricotta, mozzarella, and tomatoes, this thing is amazing. If you’re with a group, definitely get it.
It’s all about the pizzas here, but that’s not to say the pastas aren’t good. This gnocchi basically has the texture of mac and cheese.