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Pizza (and Wine) Recommendations From Sommeliers

Levi Dalton, Eater Wine Editor: Last week, most of New York's top sommeliers were in San Francisco, participating in La Paulée, an event famed for its Burgundy, but also for its pizza pie order. Every year, the organizers of La Paulée order 60 pies for the sommeliers to eat before the grand dinner starts. When in New York, the order is from Artichoke, while the San Francisco event sources from Delfina. I suspect that this is one of the biggest Delfina orders to go out for delivery in any given year. Sommeliers can indeed take down a serious quantity of pizza. So as I was eating my sausage and peppers slice, I inquired of those around me if they might supply me with their favorite pizza picks from back home. Here is what they said.

2013_raj_daniel1234.jpgRaj Vaidya, Head Sommelier at DANIEL: I have for many years loved Franny's on Flatbush in Brooklyn, though I am most often craving their bright salads, rich sausages and pastas rather than the pizza. I love the pizza too, but I kind of think of them more as Italian versions of Indian Naan, smoky from the oven, tensile and chewy without ever getting soggy. My go-to choice is the ricotta pie with spicy, pickled hot peppers. Great with aromatic whites like Alto Adige Riesling, but also working well with fruity, earthy reds thanks to those peppers. I usually opt for the Occhipinti Frappato from Sicily, and it's delicious out of magnum!

2012_jeff_porter_barolo_whale123.jpgJeff Porter, Wine Director of Del Posto and Babbo: Pizza. This is always a vexing question. Pizza is one of my top five foods and something that always brings solace on the worst of days. In my three years of living and working in New York I have tried many a slice of pizza ranging from the 4 a.m. $1.00 slice (while I still don't understand how that pricing is possible, given rent, labor, etc.) to the two hour wait at Roberta's (thank GOD for the beer tent). I am not a native New Yorker and I did not grow up with the New York slice, so my inclination has always been towards the more traditional Italian style joints: Keste, Motorino, Franny's, and Roberta's. This is where it gets really tricky for me. Of my four favorite spots should I choose? I like all of them for different reasons but if just for the pure pizza I would always hit up Keste, although even as I typed that I wanted to hit delete. Damn, this is tough. Pizza is one of the best food groups, a food that even at its worst is still pretty damn good.

My wife and I usually enjoy two different pizzas at Keste. One rosso and one blanche. I always gravitate to any of the choices with cured meats and I love the Quattro Formaggi for our blanche option — it is the best cross between the cheesy pizzas of my youth and the flat wood fired pizzas of today.

As for the beverage, I tend to gravitate towards whites from the Campania: Greco, Fiano, and the like, no mater white or red pizza, meat or meatless. I like the wines, they are never too expensive, and best of all they keep my palate fresh for each new slice.

2013_grant_reynolds_%2124.jpgGrant Reynolds, Wine Director at Charlie Bird: Pizza: perfect for many occasions. You know--quick lunches, late dates, drunk nights, birthdays, funerals, etc. So, I've got a couple favorites depending on the time of day. Lucali is the best pizza experience around--BYO, a cozy room, real local character, and simple, delicious pies. Joe's is my favorite kind of pizza that can still be tasted the next morning, and although I think New York has really dialed-in Napoletana-style pizza (which I love to geek out on), La Pizza Fresca, on its best day, comes out on top.

2012_michael_madrigale123.jpgMichael Madrigale, Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud: I've always had a thing for Stromboli Pizza on St. Marks and First Avenue. It was my spot way before Artichoke or Motorino came to the neighborhood, and I still pop in periodically. It's far from the best pizza in the East Village and it has no designs to be counted in that camp, which is fine by me. It is pizza for when you're drunk at 3 a.m. and you want to pad your stomach with doughy matter so those eight bottles of various Cru Beaujolais you sucked down after service with your somm buddies don't repeat on you.

2013_patrick_cappiello1231-thumb111.jpgPatrick Cappiello, Wine Director at Pearl & Ash: Two Boots Pizza has one my favorite pies in NYC, and thankfully my location (on Avenue A) is open late. I always get pepperoni and mushrooms, but my favorite part is the cornmeal crust on the bottom. I find old school Barbera d'Alba or Cru Beaujolais work best with it, although this is often a hangover meal for me so an ice cold can of Coca-Cola is often the best pairing!

2013_pascal_%21234.jpgPascaline Lepeltier, Beverage Director at Rouge Tomate: It is pretty simple for my pizza choice: it needs to go with Chenin Blanc, which seems pretty easy but is not actually easy. Usually I like my chenin on the drier side, grown on slate — Rene Mosse, Benoit Courault, Jo Pithon and so on. When I used to live in the East Village, I spent a lot of time looking for the perfect after work pizza to pair with these wines. And in fact Motorino made it happen — twice — first with the Brussels sprouts, which was perfect with the bitterness of Chenin, and secondly with the cherrystone clam pie, fantastic with the briny-cheesy-leafy notes of the grape. If you combine pizza with wine like this, it's heaven.

2012_nomad_123.jpgThomas Pastuszak, Wine Director at The NoMad: My favorite pizza spot in NYC is Franny's in Brooklyn — I'm definitely biased since it's only a 10-minute walk from my apartment, but the quality & choice of their wood fired pizzas are awesome. Plus, their menu has so many delicious appetizers that really you can't go wrong. I start by enjoying several courses of appetizers, leading up to a table full of pizza to finish. What makes Franny's even better is that their service team is super hospitable, and their well-priced wine list has gems from all over Italy, sourced from both familiar & far off regions you might not normally consider. If you live in Brooklyn and you're close to Prospect Park, you're in luck; if you don't, Franny's is still totally worth the trek.

2012_jordana_salcito_%21234.jpgJordan Salcito, Beverage Director of the Momofuku Group: The place to go for pizza in New York City is Brooklyn. I'll narrow it down. Lucali nails pizza in a cozy, familial atmosphere. It feels both charming and authentic. Mark, the owner, has impeccable standards and the place feels like your neighborhood spot whether it's your first time or your 50th, regardless of whether it is in your neighborhood. My 30th birthday party was at Lucali. We drank a lot of things that night, most of which were old red Burgundies. Old red Burgundy is delicious with pizza. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to stick to Italian wine and pie! Lucali is also a fabulous date-night spot, and it is where I bring my parents when they come to town.

· All Coverage of Pizza Week [~ENY~]


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