Weekly Pizza Lunch: The Calabrese pie at Nicoletta

Nicoletta's Calabrese pizza

Nicoletta’s Calabrese pizza, here in the personal-size lunch special, is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, thick-cut pepperoni, fennel sausage, and red onions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about bar pies since last week’s pizza lunch. Bar pizza, and its close cousin, Chicago thin crust,* to me are primally satisfying pizzas. Despite the thin base, these styles are often LOADED with cheese and toppings. Now, that kind of imbalance would typically raise alarm bells for my elevated pizza snob persona, but go and tell me what’s wrong with a bunch of gooey cheese and salty, greasy pepperoni or sausage.

That’s why I wanted to try Nicoletta again. Chef-owner Michael White is originally from Wisconsin, where he first started working in a pizzeria serving quintessentially Midwestern-style pizza.

*Note: I often use the terms “Chicago thin-crust” and “Midwestern thin-crust” interchangeably. Chicago thin-crust is easily more recognizable as a style, but I feel that this type of pizza is served all over the Upper Midwest, not just the Windy City.

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Anyway, because I want to pursue a bar-style pizza, I aim to do a little tour of local and regional bar pizzas in the next few months. I would put Nicoletta’s pie roughly in this camp, though it is a little thicker than some quintessential bar-style pizzas (see photo, above).

Blah blah blah, I went for the Calabrese, which is as close to a “supreme” pizza** as any of Nicoletta’s preconfigured pies get. available in a small, personal-size as part of a lunch special (you also get a salad).

** I define a “supreme” pizza as having one or two meats (typically sausage and/or pepperoni), onion, mushrooms, green pepper. My personal preference is sausage, onion, green pepper, mushrooms. I’m not a huge pepperoni fan.

Like most bar or Midwestern pizzas, this pie is extremely satisfying and wallops you with flavor. The crust is flavorful, though I still think it’s not going to satisfy fans of Neapolitan or New York–style pizza. The crust is almost a vehicle for molten cheese and, in Nicoletta’s case, high-quality toppings. It’s basically Midwestern gut-busting pizza as done by a hot-shit New York City chef (which, by all accounts White, the former Wisconsinite, is).

In working toward my own bar pie, I’m shooting for a much thinner crust, but I take inspiration from the top-notch toppings here and the flavor of the crust. (From what I was told by a staff member there, they use old dough as leavening, which lends it more complex flavor than you’d get in a typical Midwestern pizza.)

I capped off this lunch with dessert — I knew from the one time I went (for friends and family) that the soft serve with customizable mix-ins is fantastic. (And another Wisconsin-esque touch. My word do those people love frozen dairy treats. And I know, because I was born a Wisconsinite.)

Nicoletta

160 Second Avenue, New York NY 10003 (at East 10th Street)
212-432-1600 / nicolettanyc.com / @NicolettaNYC