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Motorino: It’s All About the Crust

Recently, Sam Sifton boldly stated that Motorino serves the ‘city’s best pizza.’ In a city where the history of pizza parlors could take up volumes and the pride in pizza-making runs deep, the moniker of ‘city’s best pizza’ means something. In short, Sifton was right. Motorino’s pizza is up to the hype, worth the wait, and down-right mind (mouth) – blowing.

The diminutive shopfront on E. 12th St. in the East Village is easily missed in off hours, yet readily identifiable during peak due to the hordes of fans waiting outside (yes, even in bitterly cold winds). The small space accommodates no more than 12-15 tables, and the narrow frantic kitchen is open and visible to interested diners. Stark aluminum tables and chairs and rustic kitchen accoutrements dominate the sparse clean decor. Here, it is clear, the focus is on the food.

The menu is short: 6 antipasti options, 7 pizzas, 1 pizza special, and 1 dessert. Don’t be fooled though, heart and soul are poured into this delicious while limited selections. The food is simple, yet executed perfectly, with finesse and appreciated talent. For starters, my adventurous pizza-for-brunch dining companion, Zoe, and I split the Scarmozi Cheese Crostini (with garlic, anchovies, and pecorino) and the Roasted Beet Salad with Ricotta. The cheese crostini was a gooey fantasy of melted cheese, crispy doughy bread, and big bites of garlic. In essence, you just can’t go wrong with such perfectly matched flavors and textures. The beet salad was refreshing (as beets always are) with fresh and luscious cubes of juicy beets and short strips of chilled ricotta – a welcome palate-cleanser before the large doughy pizzas.

While only 8 pizzas were available, choosing just two was immensely difficult. Ultimately, we decided on the classic Margherita (a staple impossible to pass up) and the Cremini and Spicy Sausage. As we soon discovered though, the toppings were quickly rendered irrelevant, as Motorino’s pizza is really all about the crust. Chef Mathieu Palombino’s crust is inarguably heaven-sent; it is impossible to convey accurately the magic of his fluffy, soft, crispy, doughy, flavorful crust; however, just know, this crust lives up to all the hubbub and praise.

The Margherita pizza was savory and juicy, runny with olive oil and fresh tomato juices. Bold flavors and prime fresh ingredients make this a front-runner for best Margherita out there right now. The Cremini and Spicy Sausage had surprisingly mellow and languid flavor notes. A white pie, the Cremini had soft smoky cheese with large tangy garlic nubs, earthy mushroom flakes, and crispy bits of mild Italian sausage (no, not spicy). While the flavors are not nearly as big or pronounced as those in the Margherita, the Cremini has an endlessly eatable appeal for those in for a pizza-eating long haul.

No matter how you look at it, Motorino truly shines in the pizza-sphere. The pies are things of beauty with an gold-medal worthy* addictive crust. This power player*on the pizza scene is a must-try for pizza connoisseurs, foodies, and those just curious about all the press coverage Motorino has sustained recently. Not to mention, the crafty beer selection and wines by the bottle make this a lovely (read: more refined) spot for a pizza and beer date.

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