Is artisanal pizza overwhelming New York, the way burgers and barbecue have done in years past? OliO Pizza e Più, a new pizzeria in the West Village, offered the entire Feisty Foodie empire front-row seats to witness chef Giulio Adriani at work, and so we found ourselves there before the dinner rush this past Friday.
OliO is located at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue, Sixth Avenue, and Christopher Street. Even without the bright-green paint job, one can’t help but notice the restaurant.
Giulio’s skill was evident from our seats at the “bar”, a set of six stools facing the custom Italian pizza oven, next to the actual full bar. Other diners in the forty or so tables in the main dining area, plus ten or so on the sidewalk, didn’t have this view of the pizza-making process.
Giulio was born to make pizzas, seemingly absent-mindedly forming perfect pies from the dough, a dough leavened by the original yeast culture his family has used in Italy for generations. The pizzas are assembled, stretched onto a pizza peel, and slid into the thousand-degree, ash-fired oven for 60-75 seconds, lifted late in the game, evenly charred on the special stone floor of the oven, and removed to a plate to be served immediately.
An almost-overwhelming set of sixteen or so pies are listed on the menu, though looking at the bins upon bins of topping selections you figure anything you want would be made to order, no problem.
We started with the classic Margherita — marinara, mozzarella cheese and basil. What better way to evaluate a pizza place than with the standard?
A classic misshapen Neapolitan slice, nicely charred on the edges, crispy basil, a little soft in the tip area, and HOT.
The obligatory upskirt. My slice had a beautiful char thanks to that hot stone surface — so hot, each pizza leaves a circle of char behind, and often glowing embers, when it’s turned and picked up.
As if it isn’t clear from the looks of that slice, the pizza was wonderful. The sauce is tangy, a little sour, but so rich and natural-tomato tasting. The crust is the star here, a little crisp with a pillowy, chewy interior. I finished my slice with ease and polished off others’ uneaten crusts to boot.
Next up, for contrast, we picked the Margherita Extra, which is certainly that. For a few dollars more, the sauce is bumped to another dimension with halved cherry tomatoes, and using bufala mozzarella is, well, just always a winner. On this pie it was oh-so-tasty, and plentiful to boot.
Note the extra special charring in the big air pockets? That’s the best part of an already great crust. This was my second favorite pizza of the night, behind…
… the Mezzaluna, which combines a calzone with a pizza, in, of course, a half-moon shape. It eats sort of like a “stuffed crust” pizza, but to imply any similarity between this and a chain-restaurant pizza borders on blasphemous.
The calzone portion is stuffed with salami chunks and ricotta cheese, with a smoked mozzarella-basil-cherry tomatoes pizza half. I wish this were slice-able such that I could get both parts in my mouth in one bite, but instead had to improvise. The salty salami was just unbelievably good, to the point where the rest of the pie almost seemed like a letdown, except for that mozzarella. The smokiness forced me, against my will, to eat that mozzarella directly off my slice instead of tasting the interplay with the rest of the pizza. I’m so very sorry.
In the meantime, of course we were thirsty, so we ordered drinks from the Employees Only-created cocktail menu. I decided on the Waterloo, as I’m a fan of Plymouth gin; the watermelon dominates this drink with the signature sharp flavor of Plymouth; Campari and lemon juice are in there, but definitely bit players. Clearly I picked the right cocktail, as The Feisty Foodie herself ordered the same.
Blind Baker settled on the Go To, a cucumber vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, cucumber, ginger ale and mint concoction, which turned out far more minty than anything else. It hid the alcohol well from the few sips I took, but wasn’t anything particularly special or worth re-ordering.
Finally — at least as dinner — we opted for the Amaltifiana, which consists of arugula, lemon slices, and mozzarella. The arugula and lemon are obviously not fired in the oven, but are added just prior to cutting the pizza.
I’m typically just not a fan of “salad pizza”, but as a light side dish of pie, it worked perfectly nicely. Left to choose for myself, though, I’m not ordering this again, but I’d like to see how the lemon works on other pies.
Not to let us leave without dessert, Giulio insisted we try the Nutella pizza. Um, gee, twist my arm! Essentially, the pizza dough is baked naked, sliced open, slathered with nutella and pignoli (pine nuts), closed up, fired again for 30 seconds, then dusted with sugar and topped with strawberries, and drizzled with more Nutella. In a word, delicious.
And quite photogenic. Roughly ten seconds later, this slice ceased to exist. Note: don’t inhale when going in for a bite — the confectioner’s sugar is too plentiful.
Stuffed full of pizza and dessert, we noticed the restaurant had largely filled up around us. Full disclosure: we asked for, but did not receive, a check, but that in no way affected my impression of OliO. Giulio’s a charismatic force in the restaurant, and his passion for his pizza was obvious with every bite I took. This is seriously good pizza.
Do I recommend OliO Pizza e Più? Unequivocally yes. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but I’ll gladly pay next visit for these beautiful, tasty pies. This is not your standard thin, crispy crust New York-style pizza. This is “authentic” Neopolitan style, and done exceptionally well. You would do well to check out OliO before it becomes overrun, and too difficult to get a table.
Please note that this meal was courtesy of the restaurant’s PR. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor was I obliged in any way to post about this meal, positively or otherwise. This is my own opinion of Olio and I feel it was unbiased; you are free to take from this what you will.