6/18/2012 02:13:00 PM

Nicoletta Day One: Michael White Opens His East Village Pizzeria

Michael White's eagerly-anticipated pizzeria (and most casual eatery to date) opened on Friday night, featuring pies inspired by the chef's Wisconsin roots, and naturally, we were front and center to sample the goods. Housed in the former Cafe Centosette space on the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue - the combination of location, chef and concept has this place poised to be a runaway hit in a stretch of the East Village that's been long dominated by David Chang's Momofuku empire. But, as to be expected, a certain amount of ridiculousness always accompanies an opening of this magnitude, especially on the first night. Read on for our first look on one of the summer's hottest new restaurants.

The scene: As we approached, four hostesses in Nicoletta tees with clipboards were perched outside the eatery like bouncers, as if we were trying to get into Provocateur on a Friday night. We were immediately quoted a 45-minute wait. "Was there a bar where we could wait at inside?" we inquired. "No, but there is a bar across the street where you can wait and we'll call you," replied clipboard girl #3. So off we scurried to the nearest wine bar. After hardly five minutes of getting situated at our new locale, they called us. So much for that 45 minutes. When we walked in we noticed at least half a dozen empty tables. The quoted wait time was clearly an overestimate, either that or it was part of some Studio 54-esque scheme that created a huddle of people outside the restaurant to make it appear buzzy.

The decor: With shiny silver chairs, exposed brick walls and flashy red personalized water glasses, decor-wise, this place is trendy pizzeria meets Midwest roller derby. The bathrooms downstairs reminded us of a Rally's loo we once frequented during a road trip through Ohio. Each table came equipped with a built-in pizza stand that was removable and tiered, in order to maximize table space. Clever...

The crowd: Mostly young people, but some older couples, locals, and some requisite EV bros who probably read about the place earlier that day on UrbanDaddy. Nothing out of the ordinary for opening night. But there was one major VIP in the house - Ms. Martha Stewart who sat at the next table with a large group of people. White came out to personally serve her and the group as you can see in the pics above.

The food: The menu is divided up into a few sections - our server described (and upsold) the "small bites" menu as "tiny sharable snacks that arrive with our drink order." We pondered trying the suppli': "are those just like arancine?" we queried. Our server shot us a vacant stare before responding: "they're like fried risotto balls." Ro-kay then. (In case you were curious, they arrived a good five minutes after our drinks did.) The harried waitress then blurted at us: "our pies tonight are 12-inches, so we recommend ordering two." For some reason this sentence dumbfounded us. Would they be a different diameter another night?

We took her advice and ordered two (which we would have done anyway) but head's up - one pie here with its substantially thicker crust is fine to split between two reasonably hungry people, especially if you order appetizers and/or salad. Speaking of which, the antipasti menu included items like fancy mozzarella sticks (carrozza), whole stuffed squid and meatballs, plus some basic salads listed in a separate section underneath. The pizzas come in ten different variations plus a make-your-own option. We sampled the calabrese which had thick-cut pepperoni, sausage and onions and the Tartufata - prosciutto, marinated mushrooms and a truffle cream sauce. Yum. Combining traditional Italian ingredients and flavors with a thicker, more buttery Midwestern-style crust is kinda genius. The results were some of the most delicious pies we've ever tasted in this town...no joke.

The drinks: Both the house Birra Morini and some wines are available on tap as well as a small variety of bottled wines. We went with the house brew which was a perfect match with the fatty/salty pies.

The music: Hard to discern above the din of this raucous open dining space but we picked up one Bowie tune amid a sea of nondescript classic rock.

The deets: Nicoletta is only open for dinner right now but lunch and delivery are both coming soon. 160 Second Ave.; 212-432-1600.


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