Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: Motorino, Brooklyn (also, my pizza adventures)

While I wait for the next prospect in my search for worthy pizza west of Philadelphia, I do get opportunities to go further afield. The Sunday before Memorial Day proved to be such a day. Driving from West Chester to Brooklyn, I decided to stop off in the underbelly of Staten Island (not sure if they have an overbelly too) and try Lee's Tavern. I'd read some stuff making it sound better than any pie I've tried. Kudos to scottspizzatours for the lead. Well, my GPS took me to a funky little section but there was no sign of life. A helpful cabbie pointed out Lee's, but all the security fences were pulled down. Closed! So I was shut out of Staten Island pizza, and the first chance to find any virtue in that sad plot of land beyond its service as a connector of NJ and Brooklyn.

Soon, I found myself in Dkyer Heights, Brooklyn, with some down time. Maybe a ten minute drive from DiFara! I checked their hours online: open til 4:30 for lunch, then open again at 6:00 for dinner. I began calling around 2pm, tried a half dozen times, waited out the down time, and began again at 6:30. Each time, I just got the answering machine saying "we sure are busy."  Shut out again.

I needed to be in Flushing by 9:00 (long story) so I realized that Motorino, in Williamsburg, was practically on the way there. I called, lo and behold they answered, and I ordered two pies! All the pizza there is personal size, and priced between $9 and $17. I ordered a margherita (the basic pie to compare to others) and a "soppressata picante" with spicy soppressata, mozz, garlic, oregano.

Then I braved 278, nominated 8 times for "Worst Road Outside Staten Island." On Sunday evening, it was not too bad. I found parking a half block away, and when I entered the cozy and inviting restaurant, I saw that you could walk right in and sit if you wanted. I never see that at DeLorenzo's, Grimaldi's, or certainly DiFara. My pies were ready in a hurry and off I went. I planned to finish my Flushing errand then return to Dyker to reheat and eat the pies.

To spoil the ending, the soppressata pie was superb - more details to follow. What I realized in eating this pie is that, for me, there are TWO distinct crust styles that can be the foundation of a superlative pizza. One is the crispy, thin, almost crunchy kind you get always at DeLorenzo's, Patsy's, and often at DiFara (DiFara pies suffer one flaw, they can be too wet in the center). The other kind is like wonderful Italian bread, soft inside, a little crisp outside, but more chewy than crunchy.  But it's SO important to distinguish that kind of softer crust from the slop you get in chain pizza and most storefront mom'n'pop joints. This has character, and you'd gladly eat it without the sauce and cheese. And this is the crust at Motorino, at Stella, at Osteria, and at Zero Otto Nove. Who does it best?  Hard to say.

The toppings were a delight. The soppressata was indeed "picante" but it did not overpower the pie. The sauce, mozz, and seasonings were nicely balanced. And this may be the prettiest pie I've ever had. Are points awarded for looks?

This pie is top rank. If DiFara and DeLorenzo merit ten out of ten, this is a nine, maybe nine and half. I'm going back and I hope it's soon.  Oh, I gave the margherita pie to my daughter, who was hoping for a DiFara pie with onions. Still waiting for her feedback on that...

Motorino Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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