When I think of pizza and New York City in the same sentence, I think of dollar slices in Chelsea, too-long lines at Grimaldi’s, and pure bliss at Artichoke. The common denominator here is affordable, relatively fast, and thin crust (well, unless it’s Artichoke). That’s a New York slice, right?
But then there are places like Fratelli Brick Oven Pizza and Wine Bar on the City’s Upper East Side, a classy-casual respite from the goings-on of First Avenue.
It’s a joint that could pass as any other Italian eatery from a quick stroll past, but upon entering, you’re met by a chandelier-lit dining room and an array of smiling faces who want to do nothing but make your night better. You instantly become part of an Italian family out for a celebratory dinner. All is right in the world.
And then the sundried tomato pesto and homemade flatbreads come out. The wine lists are given, and then glasses are poured. I enjoyed my affordably-priced glass of grenache, and felt it completed my meal and complemented the atmosphere of the restaurant well (what’s classy-casual Italian without a full glass of wine in hand at all times?).
Just minutes after we placed our order, the Fratelli salad arrived, a chopped salad with olives, tomatoes, capers, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and carrots. We got anchovies on the side; still not sure how I feel about those guys. I felt the color combination and presentation of the salad came off a tad old-school and the flavors weren’t at all unusual, but nonetheless it was a satisfying start to the meal.
Next came the pizza of the day, which was roasted asparagus, roasted red peppers, prosciutto, and mozzarella. We saw the waiter bringing the pizza to our table from afar, and instantly knew we’d made the right decision. It was simple, but delicious. It was rustic in appearance, and overall a good slice, though the crust was less crispy than I expected for a brick oven pizza.
Maybe it’s my undying love of cornmeal-based goods, but for me the white chocolate polenta cake was the most memorable course of the meal. It was a glorified, sweet, moist cornbread drizzled in chocolate and topped with whipped cream. No, it wasn’t a dream.
The verdict is out on whether I’d settle for Fratelli’s over the classic dollar New York slice of pizza. There’s a lot to be said for the dollar slice. But if I’m ever in the mood for a night off, or attentive and cheery service, or another round of polenta cake, then you can bet your bottom (slice o’ pizza) dollar that I’ll be the first one in Fratelli’s door come dinner time.