There’s a main seating area with tables marshaled in rows, but the best seats in the house are along a counter that skirts the kitchen, where cooks — including chefs Ryan Hardy and Tim Caspare — minister to a pair of wood-burning ovens, one flaming in excess of 900 degrees according to a laser device that Hardy points at the oven’s mouth, the other at around 450.
These are some serious ovens. They’re not faced with glittering tiles or inscribed with the name of someone’s significant other. In fact, they look like the helmets of the stormtroopers in Star Wars. And seated at the comfy gray stools looking into the kitchen as a 70s funk soundtrack plays in the background, what comes out of those ovens will likely delight you. The climax of the first meal a friend and I ate was a pork shank for two ($45, all prices include tip).
The climax of the first meal was a pork shank for two
It came smoking out of the oven as "Get Down On It" by Kool and the Gang erupted from hidden speakers. Ringed with fingerlings and sided with a palate-cleansing arugula salad, the shank had a double bone sticking out. The pork had been rubbed with rosemary, fennel, and black pepper — a similar treatment gives porchetta its flavor — and then deposited in a pool of lardo-driven drippings. The quantity of meat is immense, and all conversation ended as we methodically stripped the bones, dabbing each piece with the excellent red Calabrian-pepper sauce provided.
The shank comes from the last section of the menu, devoted to big feeds that also include a smoked pheasant and a Montauk skate wing. There are also sections of wood-oven vegetables, pastas, small plates, and pizzas. A wine list way more ambitious than you might expect in a place dominated by wood-burning ovens takes some thoughtful study. Thankfully, it has plenty of action in the $40 to $60 range, including southern and northern Italian reds, white Bordeaux and lots of other French wines, some New York and Austrian stuff, and just plain oddities that will delight wine drinkers.
We selected a rosé from Patagonia made with pinot noir grapes ($50), principally for its ability to span several dissimilar courses. It went smashingly well with a tomato-free pizza of littleneck clams ($23) that was as good as any bivalve pie in town, including that at nearby Lombardi’s. In addition to deshelled and minced clams, our pie sported rapini, garlic, and heavy cream — the effect of which is not all that different from mozzarella or burrata. The crust was notably good, charred in spots, puffy around the circumference and thin in the middle, though slices could still be eaten using the "New York fold" method.
Our meal had begun with a refreshing first course featuring winter lettuces in a Barolo wine vinegar ($14) from a short-dish roster that also included a beet and grain salad; char-grilled cuttlefish; pane carasau (a crisp Sardinian flatbread) served with ricotta, black pepper, and honey; and charred cauliflower with blood orange. We also tried one of the three pastas offered, in our case spaghetti with anchovies and bergamot ($19). Unfortunately, the last two ingredients were rather thinly applied, leaving the al dente spaghetti pretty much alone. Really, it was the only failing of a first meal that was otherwise distinguished. The repast ended splendidly with the only dessert offered, a small bowl of wood-charred pineapple topped with a scoop of mascarpone gelato crazed with rivulets of olive oil. Even it went well with the Patagonian rosé.
"I could get into this double-oven thing," my friend exclaimed as we walked out into the cool evening, strains of the Jackson 5 in our ears.