Those who knew the premises as the laid-back Café de Bruxelles — famous for its perfect fries served in a cone of filter paper — or the later incarnations Lyon Bouchon Moderne and then Cole's will be astonished. What had been a cramped, serpentine space is now opened up and airy, thanks partly to the annexation of an additional storefront around the corner on 13th Street, which contains a trestle table fit for a large crowd, and the gleaming, gold-tiled beehive oven that is the garish centerpiece of the restaurant's décor. But the famous barroom shaped like a slice of pizza looking out on Greenwich Avenue remains about the same.
Rossopomodoro is an offshoot of the pizza concession at Eataly. As with its parent, the pizzas — which are quite good — emerge from the oven in the currently popular Neapolitan style. The pies are small and the crust is glove-soft, and some of the combinations have a soupy demeanor that will force you to eat with a knife and fork. Certainly, the margherita ($15) is perfect of its type, with just enough basil and just enough creamy mozzarella. For $4 extra, you can get a version made with buffalo mozzarella, but why bother?
The pizzas are divided into two coequal categories; five have tomato sauce and five don't. Some of the combinations are head-scratchingly odd, like the one with guanciale, crème fraiche, and the torn-off leaves of perhaps a single small brussels sprout. This is one of the soupy ones, and eating it is a bit frustrating as the crème fraiche dribbles onto your plate from every forkful. The broccoletta ($18), as the Brussels sprouts pie is called, is not a bad combination of toppings, but you'll wish potato had been substituted for the vegetable as in Marta's wildly popular carbonara. The third pie a friend and I tried was salcicciotta ($17), which had crumbled sausage, mozzarella, and mushrooms — this one fared better, and was utterly enjoyable, perfect when eaten at the bar with a glass of perdera ($11), a bright and light red varietal from Sardinia.
Even better than the pizzas were the pastas, including cheese-filled agnolotti ($18) - sheep-shaped miniature raviolis swamped in sage and butter. As with the pizzas, the pastas sometimes display strange combinations. We ordered the calamarata (thick short grooved rings, $17), which contained baby mussels, guanciale, and pecorino cheese, the sauce thickened with potatoes. Genius! Apps and salads were more of a mixed bag. Two to a plate, one conical and the other globular, the rice balls (arancini, $9) were brilliant, while the vegetables roasted in the golden oven (verdure al forno, $10) proved listless and unattractive on the plate. That dish should have been a powerhouse. (By the way, Rossopomodoro, why no English translations for many of the Italian dishes? It tends to confer annoyance more than atmosphere.)
The wine list is lengthy, pan-Italian, and has a few good values sprinkled here and there. The pours tend to be meager, so go with a bottle if there are at least two of you. Also if there are two, a perfect meal would be one pizza (pick the margherita), one pasta, and if you need greenery, one of the side dishes such as cauliflower or the unexpected collard greens. With a bottle of wine, you can get by for around $60 apiece. Why does eating in a pizzeria have to be so damn expensive? 118 Greenwich Ave, (212) 242-2310.
All Posts by Robert Sietsema [ENY]