When I found out that yet another New York master-chef was about to create his version of yet another pizza joint in a city already so replete with pie options, that our municipal mascot has affectionately become a crusty wedge of pepperoni, I decided to measure the square-footage of my disappointment in advance. I figured that even if Danny Meyer (Mr. Mealtime Midas Touch himself) was able to do to pizzas what he had done to hamburgers with his chain of Shake Shacks, I still couldn’t imagine how much more runway there was to re-invent an 11-inch pizza with a handful of toppings. Couldn’t we all agree that the time has come to focus our culinary attention on a different hangover-curing, post-weed-munchie-satisfying, carb-diet-busting, TV-complimenting snack? Just how many more times does the pizza need to be reborn in our lifetime? Turns out, Marta might very well have been the one we’ve all been waiting for!
The newest star in the Meyer galaxy is a big, bright and bustling showpiece that isn’t just located in the lobby of the Martha Washington Hotel – it is the lobby. The ultra-high-ceilinged trattoria’s whitewashed walls offer views of 29th street, a voyeur’s mezzanine and a white, marble bar facing the demonstration-style kitchen, under the watchful eye of two inescapably huge, flame-licking, black-tiled pizza ovens.
In addition to a surprisingly affordable all-Italian wine list and an authentic selection of Roman appetizers, salads and entrees, Chef de cuisine Nick Anderer (graciously borrowed from Maialino) has crafted eleven pizzas in two categories: Rosse and Bianche. Heading up the Rosse group is the vanilla of them all, the Margharita Classica (originally made exclusively for Margharita – Italy’s Queen consort – in celebration of the colors of the Italian flag) delectably combining satiny-soft cheese, pungent basil and Mt. Vesuvius lava-sweetened San Marzano tomatoes. As you work your way down, ingredients like house-stretched buffalo mozzarella, anchovies, thyme and sausage are gradually added until we suddenly find ourselves face-to-face with tripe and mint. The tomato-less Bianche group enjoys even more freedom from convention with a wider variety of cheeses, eggs, potatoes, ham, vegetables and white truffles.
When the cracker-crisp, antique-paper-edged pies appear, it’s clear that Anderer has kept his promise about delivering the thinnest crusts in the land – permitting his fresh ingredients to relish unobstructed in the limelight. Never before have I enjoyed morsels of fragrant pork sausage, scattered between freshly sautéed porcinis, with cream oozing (literally) from dollops of mozzarella over a crunchy red crust as I did with the Salsiccia. And I couldn’t help recalling one of Anderer’s signature Maialino breakfasts with the black-peppery Pecorino and eggs as the heart of the Patate alla Carbonara, concealed beneath a delicious layer of soft potato chunks with chewy lardons of smoky guanciale. It felt a bit like walking in on texture, flavor and aroma in the middle an intimate group hug.
Ladies and gentlemen, Marta is not just another pizza joint – it’s front-page news!