Pete Wells really doesn’t want pizzamaker Anthony Mangieri to leave New York City again. Less than a year after first reviewing it, the Times critic has visited the celebrated chef’s Una Pizza Napoletana once again and upgraded the Lower East Side restaurant from one star to two.
Wells says he was “unnerved” by a rumor that Mangieri is considering leaving the city and returned to the restaurant, finding that “it has gone from one of the most confounding pizzerias in the city to one of the most enjoyable.” Mangieri’s partners Fabian von Hauske Valtierra and Jeremiah Stone (Wildair, Contra) have “stepped aside,” meaning a tighter selection of small plates and wines. Prices, too, are a tad lower, going from $25 to a range between $19 and $25.
On the pizza:
He lets you notice each ingredient: the little ping of sourness in the Campanian buffalo mozzarella, for instance. Or the unruly, windswept-hillside aroma of dried Sicilian oregano. The precise crunch of each unrefined Trapani sea-salt crystal waiting to dissolve.
The crust is so tender it barely fights fork, knife or teeth. Some diners will wish it put up more crackly resistance. You inhale it at least as much as you eat it. When you have finished, some of the most popular pizzas in town will seem tough, leathery, overworked.
It’s unusual for a critic to review a restaurant again so quickly after the first one. Indeed, in lieu of extensive food talk, Wells spends much of the review opining on diners overlooking people such as Mangieri and Günter Seeger, the Atlanta chef whose the fine dining restaurant recently closed. “I wasn’t going to let him get away without a fight,” the critic writes of Mangieri, noting that the restaurant has been too empty on recent visits.
The New Yorker called it “peak pizza,” and Eater critic Robert Sietsema found the pies “perfect.” Wells’s own review admired the pies, though he didn’t think the restaurant worked as a whole. But New York magazine said little about it felt “groundbreaking” in light of New York’s growing pizza scene, and Eater critic Ryan Sutton gave the restaurant one star, praising experimental starters but finding fault in the pies. (Sutton did try to revisit the restaurant later to reassess; Mangieri kicked him out.)
Wells now writes that even with New York’s robust sit-down pizza scene, Mangieri “makes what is unmistakably the finest sit-down pizza in the five boroughs.” Two stars.