I’ve heard good things about Apizz on the Lower East Side, pretty much since I started paying attention to restaurants in New York. And, as I discovered this weekend, all the buzz is for good reason. The sister restaurant to ricotta-lovers’ favorite Peasant in Nolita and to nearby The Orchard, Apizz has a familiar look and feel to the others in its family, though, without question, it’s just plain betterthan its siblings.
Tucked away on a quiet block of Eldridge Street and thus removed from the drunken hipster disaster that is the Lower East Side after 9pm, Apizz is a charming find. Small and intimate, Apizz just about oozes an all-encompassing coziness. The mood is set by the seemingly signature low amber-orange glow of Apizz, Peasant, and The Orchard. It’s virtually impossible for someone to look unattractive in such universally flattering light (though, naturally, I can’t promise the world here…). The look is rustic, with a tiny open kitchen, pulsing from the heat of the pizza oven, a verifiable explosion of exposed brick everywhere, bottles of house wine perching on the hanging industrial ducts, simple wooden tables, and so forth. Chances are, if you live and ever eat out in New York, you’re familiar with this cozy and charming rusticity that’s all the rage right now. In the back is a miniature bar area, competently-manned and a pleasant place to enjoy one of the fairly delicious house cocktails or perhaps a quick bite to eat if you can’t get one of the coveted tables.
The food is straight-up Italian, without frills or anything nouveau, and it’s delicious. Think: a crispy and simple margherita pizza, classic antipasti with bresaola, mortadella, roasted peppers, and buffalo mozzarella, among other things, roasted and marinated mushrooms over plenta, a traditional polpo (octopus) salad, and perhaps, best of all, a marvelous dish of tender butterflied shrimp and chorizo in hot bubbling herb-infused olive oil. And those are just a few of the starters. The kitchen is known for their meatballs, and its tennis ball-sized variety is very good. A combination of veal, pork and beef, they are satisfyingly meaty and savory; a generous dollop of creamy, fluffy, decadent ricotta is worth the price of the dish itselfl and the ‘tomato gravy,’ a thick pomodoro-style sauce that tastes like its been brewing for a luxuriously long time, is just heavenly – the sort of thing you’d expect from an Italian grandmother’s kitchen in the homeland itself.
If you make your way to Apizz, you must sample one of the homemade pastas for their bold, homey, and nostalgic flavors. It’s virtually impossible to choose from housemade gnocchi in a tomato ragu with braised short ribs, lasagna made with wild boar and parmesan, a mushroom risotto with creamy mascarpone and fresh herbs. The fazzoletti, a hand-torn pasta variety, is remarkable and unique with lumps of fresh crab meat doused in an addictive creamy tomato-basil sauce that’s so good I wanted to lick my boyfriend’s plate while he was in the restroom. And of course, after you’ve stuffed your belly full of traditional Italian pastas and antipasti, it would be sacrilegious not to finish off the meal with one of Apizz’s classic New York Italian desserts: cheesecake, apple crumble, a dark chocolate torte, tartufo, and of course, spumoni. *NOTE: if you want to obsess over a dessert for about a week, treat yourself to the chocolate torta. You will not regret it, even if you need to unbutton your pants for the rest of the meal.*
If you can snag a reservation or weedle your way into the bar, Apizz is pretty much just plain awesome. It’s the perfect combination of hip dining, fantastic food, romance, and the comforts of a neighborhood spot; it’s hard to imagine going wrong at Apizz. And while there may be a few service snags here and there (the host when I stopped by was a little bit … difficult), it’s virtually impossible not to forget them when you’re being plied with such delicious food, affordable wine, and boozalicious cocktails. Yup, I’m pretty much obsessed.
Perfect For: any and all date nights, eats at the bar with a friend, romancing, Italian food connoisseurs, meatball mavens, LES locals