This place opened sometime in the summer and immediately got shot down by a review in the Times. Pete Wells, for lack of a better term, tore Nicoletta apart. He deemed the place unoriginal and poorly thought out. He even accused chef and Nicoletta co-owner, Michael White, for believing that his celebrity status would be enough to make Nicoletta an overnight success.
I went to Nicoletta to prove Pete Wells wrong. I imagined the leading line of this post to be, “Everyone, calm the f*** down – Nicoletta is not that bad.” I thought that there would be a simple explanation for his outrage – maybe, since he’s a food writer for the New York Times, he must have eaten so many imaginative, outrageous meals in his lifetime, that he forgot how to appreciate a simple food like pizza.
I arrived at the restaurant around six in the afternoon on a weekday. With the exception of my date and I, the place was almost empty and I couldn’t help but think that everyone in this city must’ve read the damn review. I liked the look of the place – metal chairs, dark wooden tables, exposed brick. But it felt cold. And the Nicoletta-stamped napkins and drinking glasses with great big N’s on them didn’t help either.
We ordered the Salsiccia pizza: tomatoes, mozzarella, fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and garlic, with mushrooms as an additional topping ($22). It was just the perfect size to feed two hungry people.
Since I’d barely eaten all day and was starving by dinnertime – like on the verge of buying cold churros from the Mexican lady on the train platform starving – the first slice went down in a blind frenzy. I didn’t get so lucky with the second one. All I could taste was an overwhelming bitterness, which partially came from the the broccoli rabe (that we picked off of our respective slices) and partially from the burnt underside of the pizza.
Yet, the crust remains the most disappointing part of the pizza. Wells claimed that “Nicoletta’s pizzas are not quite deep dish, but they are heading in that direction. The crust is as strong as epoxy, and Mr. White piles it up with an abundance of toppings that would buckle an ordinary pie. In thickness and heft, a Nicoletta pizza resembles the September issue of Vogue.” I disagree. The heftiness wasn’t the issue – the blandness and cardboard-ness were. The pizza lacked the chewiness and pliability that I’d come to expect from a New York pizza.
I don’t think Michael White is a bad guy. In fact, I’ve been to his famed SoHo pasta restaurant, Osteria Morini, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think Nicoletta is a failure because it tries so hard to be fancy and the product just doesn’t measure up. I think they have two options. 1. Work tirelessly on the pizza recipe until it’s perfect, do away with the monogrammed glasses, and announce a grand re-opening. Or 2. Shut down and try to forget about the disaster.