This time of year, almost nothing sounds more appealing for dinner than pizza. Nothing smells better than the scent of a pizzeria when you open the front doors and bread, tomato and oregano come pouring out into the stale, cold air. Nothing feels better than a cozy booth, a glass of red wine and the roar of the fire in the kitchen's huge oven.
I have to admit, I've been cheating on the concept of a city-wide artisanal pizza comparison because I haven't come up with a good enough list of local places that meet the criteria. Twice, recently, my mistress has been Spin! Neapolitan Pizza on Main street.
This section of Main between 49th and 51st streets has turned into a cool little strip of restaurants and bars and Spin! is right in the middle of it all, with its own sparkling new dining room. The layout of the restaurant is nice - the entrance features a spread of their $18 bottles of wine - a great idea for a casual place like this - and giant menu boards.
Seating in the high-ceilinged room includes a mixture of small tables, larger conjoined tables and booths clinging to the outer wall made of painted cinder blocks. The decor is modern sleek and industrial (think Chipotle goes Italian), with nods to cycling like light fixtures made with bicycle gear sprockets and their cycling-themed logo painted into the murals on the walls.
Behind the front counter is the cavernous oven. It's not wood-fire or made of brick, but is the type that that you slide the pie into and out of on a long-handled board, rather than the typical stainless steel conveyor belt type. No pan required, which allows the flour-dusted crust to char and crunch rather than coming out wet and flimsy. It's a good crust, similar to Blue Grotto. I'd like the bottom of the crust to be a little more cracker-like and the top to have softer, pillowy pockets rather than being quite so cardboard-like, so it's not perfect, but still good.
Pizzas are categorized as Pizza Rosa and Pizza Bianca, and feature well-assembled compilations of ingredients, like The Patate - roasted potato, Italian bacon, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and scallions.
On my last two visits, we enjoyed the Pollo Arrosto e Chevre (roasted chicken and goat cheese with caramelized mushrooms and cremini mushrooms), the Cipolla e Chevre (roasted and caramelized onions and goat cheese with fig jam and fresh mozzarella) and the super-savory Oliva e Carcioffo (olives, roasted artichokes, caramelized onions and capers). I've also had and would recommend the Salsiccia (Italian sausage and caramelized onions) and Polpette (meatballs with caramelized onions and mushrooms). I enjoyed every single bite of each of these pizzas.
The salads are exceptional, too... certainly a cut above what you find at the vast majority of restaurants in the city, including many much higher priced restaurants. We absolutely love the Sonoma and recommend it the highest - beautiful red leaf lettuce and tender baby spinach with grape halves, thin slices of crisp apples, raisins, goat cheese and chopped, sweet-glazed pecans. It's quite sweet, but the blood orange vinaigrette's tart bite keeps it from going over-the-top. The Greek is also delicious, but get the Sonoma for sure.
Spin! is one of those few restaurants that blends its offerings in a way that makes it enjoyable to almost everyone. It's quick and casual, but still special enough to be a good date restaurant. It's inexpensive, but not cheap-feeling. Ingredients are high quality and more unique than the typical lineup available from pizzerias, but not weird at all. So while the level of cuisine or sophistication of its ambiance may not rival that of my other three napkin restaurants in town, Spin! finds itself there among very good company. Check it out soon.
Rating: three napkins