Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bits and Morsels at Motorino

A Margherita pizza in the oven at Motorino.

This past weekend’s rainstorm(s) had its many advantages. In addition to watering our beautiful parks and purifying our dirty streets, it made going to Motorino without a 45-minute plus wait possible. Alas, even in the middle of a rain storm, Motorino was busy. I have been there before and waited and waited for a table. Throughout the wait I thought to myself that this pizza better be really good; much to my grumbling, it was. According to The New York Times, Motorino serves the city’s best pizza.

That being said, you should still have an open mind because pizza is an intensely personal thing. Motorino (349 East 12th Street) is a tiny and narrow restaurant in the space formerly known as (the short-lived) Una Pizza Napoletana. There is no bar or waiting area, so you should call ahead before you go. Even if the wait is long (and it will be), take a walk or take refuge at a nearby bar, and they will call you when your table is ready.

The pizza is cooked in a wood-burning oven that gives it a good char and perfumes the restaurant with the rustic smell of a warm fireplace. One of the signature pies at Motorino is the white pizza (no sauce) topped with crisp Brussels sprouts. The Margherita pizza is beautifully simple with a tomato sauce that is slightly sweet, but not overly seasoned with herbs (many pizzerias load their tomato sauce with herbs — I assume to mask its real flavor).
Clockwise from above: Inside Motorino; A table for two; According to the NYT: "The City's Best Pizza."
Mixed green salad.
Roasted red peppers with mozzarella.
Roasted red peppers with mozzarella, plated.
The wood burning oven.
Making the pizzas.
Cremini mushroom, mozzarella, and tomato.
Brussels sprout pizza.
Stracciatella pizza with basil, olive oil, and sea salt.
My dining companion(s) were my hunter boots, with whom I spent all weekend.
The only dessert Motorino has to offer is their homemade tiramisu. I know my tiramisu and Motorino's version is one of the best out there. Tiramisu (“pick me up” in Italian) is an assembled, no-cook dessert made by layering coffee-soaked ladyfingers and a mixture of mascarpone cheese, sugar and eggs. When it’s all assembled, its popped into the fridge for 24 hours.

I went back to Motorino to watch them assemble it. It was interesting to see them only dip one side of the ladyfingers. Most tiramisu recipes call for rum or another form of alcohol, which can overpower the dessert. There is no alcohol in the Motorino's and all you taste is the near perfection of of the Stumptown coffee-soaked ladyfingers and the cream. When the weather report calls for rain or snow or even a hurricane, I look forward to an early 5:00 dinner at Motorino.

Motorino East Village
349 East 12th Street
Motorino has another location in Brooklyn:
319 Graham Avenue

Motorino in The New York Times
Getting ready to make tiramisu: whipped cream, egg yolks mixed with sugar and ladyfingers.
Fold the egg mixture into whipped cream and mascarpone.
Dipping the ladyfinger in the Stumptown coffee ... only dip one side.
Almost done with the first layer.
Slathering on the cream and egg mixture.
The second layer of lady fingers.
Getting there ... looking good.
Just about done.
Topping it off.
All done. Now into the fridge for 24 hours.
Pure perfection.
Designer Karl Lagerfeld orders a particular salad so frequently that a chef has named the salad named for him. The new La Gioia restaurant in Paris features a salad of king crab, bread crusts, olive oil and lemon juice named “Insalata Karl Lagerfeld.” [WWD]
Beekeeping is now legal in New York  City. As long as you are careful and obey the health codes you are free to keep your hives and produce honey. There was a time when honeybees were endangered, so it’s a relief to know that bees and their hives can be nurtured to produce honey, legally. [NY Times]
Sunday suppers have replaced brunch as the Sunday restaurant meal to dine out. Chefs at many restaurants have started to experiment with interesting ingredients and items that are not on the regular weekday menu. The menus are relatively reasonably priced and offer a chance to experience a restaurant on a night when it’s more laid back. One of the great deals: the Prime Rib dinner at The Oak Room. $35 buys you a 3-course meal, which includes a generous cut of prime rib, a baked potato, and dessert. [Metromix NY]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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