To get everyone through the dog days of summer, we've asked our readers to tell us about a favorite, somewhat oddball restaurant, bar, or place of note that perhaps exists mostly off the radar. Please send in further recs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muzzarella Pizza, 221 Ave. A, East Village: When I hear “hole-in-the-wall” one place comes to mind- Muzzarella Pizza on Avenue A just off 14th Street. It is, quite literally, no larger than a hole in the wall. And no cleaner or friendlier than a hole in the wall, for that matter. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, with such kind things to say about the establishment, why on earth would we want to celebrate this little guy? Well, the answer is simple- great pizza that’s quick and dirty and gets the job done.
The East Village that I know and love is not the glitzy $15 cocktails and $20 two-bite snacks. It is the neighborhood where those of us just starting out could find a home. Where there was no pretension, no judgment. Where pierced and tattooed-to-the-max musicians existed alongside eccentric artists. Where you could look down a street and see a row of 19th Century tenements disrupted only by a quirky community garden. The East Village that I know and love is not a $2,000-a-month studio. It’s not a happy-hour hangout for Murray Hill finance investors. It’s not a place for mommies with strollers sipping $7 lattes. It’s not a high-rise glass tower blocking my sunlight. Muzzarella pizza is everything that the East Village used to be and is losing at an alarming rate.
It’s cheap, simple, and delicious. After a long day typing away at a desk that’s what I need. That’s what I crave. The guys behind the counter are not particularly friendly. Nor are the patrons. And, again, that’s just what I need after a day of forced smiles. I want to get in and get out without having to pretend I’m in a good mood. And, I’ve realized, the less-friendly my Muzzarella experience is, the more likely I am to drop a few of my precious coins into the decaying tip jar. And when I bite into that perfect combination of soft yet crispy crust, gooey cheese, and luscious sauce, I know that it was a couple dollars well spent supporting my East Village.—Dana S.
La Casa Bella, 2579 Cropsey Ave., Bensonhurst Brooklyn: There's this small pizza joint near me in Bensonhurst Brooklyn called La Casa Bella. They make a penne vodka slice to die for. —David O.
Kasadela, 647 East 11th Street, East Village: Used to be a Nobu chef, 9 years ago started doing non-sushi japanese food on avenue C. Bomb sake menu, great food. Every once in a while they serve Yellowfin collar, its the next duck (assuming duck is the next pork belly.) Place is baller. —Cullen M.