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SRO

In preschool, a teacher found me irritating because I told her that I thought the class wasn't being run efficiently. There were too many rules, and they didn't make sense. It's not that I was an anarchist child, I just found that the rigid regulations at nap time did more harm than good.

This is the problem with SRO, a new pizza "speakeasy" on the Bowery. There are too many rules and they don't make sense.

SRO occupies the very small space that was previously Forcella's takeout counter - when Forcella had a fire last year, the main space reopened as a tapas restaurant called Espoleta, while the side space became SRO, a "speakeasy" serving a $38 "pizza tasting menu." Yes, a "pizza tasting menu." In a "speakeasy."

The needless rules begin as soon you try to make reservation, and the website advertises a "password" for entry, but all you really need to do is book through their online system and give your name at the host's stand for Espoleta. Assuming your table is ready (on one visit, it wasn't for 20 minutes), the host knocks on the door and flips a switch, turning on a little red light, which alerts the SRO people that you've arrived. After this series of steps, you're let into the little room that holds SRO, which stands for "single room occupancy" - a reference to the Bowery's history of tenement style housing with single room apartments. The little room is pretty cozy and charming, though it does get absurdly hot, which is what happens when you stick a 1000-degree pizza oven in a very small room.

When you've accomplished the feat of sitting down, you're presented with the only menu available - a $38 prix fixe situation that gets you a choice of an appetizer, one individual pizza, a dessert, and a glass of wine. If you add that up - say it's a $10 glass of wine, a $12 appetizer, a $15 pizza, a $10 dessert - it's an OK deal, I guess, but it's also not when you consider you don't actually want that Nutella pizza for dessert at all, or someone doesn't want that glass of wine.

Rules might be more allowable if the pizzas and appetizers were truly outstanding, but they're just not at all. The fried Montanara that made Forcella famous is still there, and the margherita pizza is solid enough, but the appetizers and specials run the gamut from OK to not good at all.

If you're the kind of person who perks up at the idea of a "speakeasy," SRO might be your thing. Perhaps you also would have liked my preschool class. But there are too many other excellent pizza spots in the area - Motorino, Rubirosa, even Lil' Frankies - where the pizza is better and the doctrine is less stringent.

Food Rundown

Charcuterie And Cheese Plate

One of the appetizer options, it comes with grocery store sample-sized cuts of cheese and a lone slice of chorizo and mortadella. ¯\(ツ)

Roasted Eggplant

A sliced half eggplant. Not bad, but not half as good as the one at Lil' Frankies a few blocks away.

Margherita Pizza

Probably your best bet when it comes to the pizza course. A solid enough margherita pie.

Montanara

The flash-fried Montanara pizza - essentially a margherita with a base of fried dough - was big news at Forcella a few years back. It's not our thing, but respect for those who are into it.

SRO Pizza

A white pie with caramelized onions, a not entirely warm slab of not entirely flavorful cheese, and slices of not entirely pleasant looking merguez sausage. This made us not want to eat pizza for at least a day.

Other Special Pizzas

The rest of the pizzas seem to rotate nightly, and we did have some decent ones on our first visit that were later removed. Stick to the tomato sauce-based options.

Nutella Pizza

Nutella with almond slivers between slices of pizza dough with slivers of almond. A pretty good dessert, but you're probably full by this point.

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