Warning: what you are about to read and see is not safe for work. If you are in a public place, you may want to wait until in the comfort (and safety) of your own home before proceeding. The following photos are pure culinary pornography. On the other side of the East River lies a small village known as Williamsburg, rife with flannel shirts, thick-rimmed glasses, beards, attitudes, and now, pretty good pizza.
Being located in Williamsburg affords Motorino a fair amount of space for a restaurant -- even outdoor courtyard space. The wood-burning pizza oven in the back is cleverly incased by thick glass to lock in the heat, keeping the dining room cool even in the summertime. The simple yet cosy interior keeps the focus on the pies. I was impressed with how my sun-drenched window table turned into a romantic corner alcove as night fell.
The menu reads pretty simply, with two types of Pizza Margherita one with D.O.C. Buffalo Mozzarella and the other of a lesser quality of mozzarella for a few dollars less. Most of the appetizers are decent and feature seasonal ingredients. I particularly liked my beet salad with acidic red onions and creamy ricotta. But let's face it, I wasn't here for the salads.
Pizza Margherita D.O.C. - An 18-inch flat pie decorated with creamy mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil leaves. This pie was very crispy all around, a fork and knife were not necessary. The cheese and sauce magically bound to the crispy crust: even when I held a slice vertically, nothing slid off. It did seem a bit like the pizza was forcefully catered to my expectations: a little extra cornmeal underneath to make the pie more rustic with, at times, excessive charring to make the crust more real. However, I did buy into Motorino's authenticity game and enjoyed the pizza. Maybe the crust was a bit too crunchy and lacked elasticity at times; but that's a personal preference, I suppose.
Pizza Marinara - One look at this pie says it all. It's a violent display of charred explosions and molten tomato sauce, tempered with a drizzle of olive oil and slices of fresh garlic. It's outstanding. Just gently painted with fresh tomatoes, the Pizza Marinara is both light and savory with a hint of sweetness coming through from the tomatoes. A fork and knife is not necessary here.
I've brought home slices of this pizza several times, and I will say that it keeps exceptionally well for several days. After the first day it's really more like bread than pizza. It tastes good hot or cold, for breakfast or for dinner, and still maintains its crispy texture despite being refrigerated. The light saucing means this crust will never get soggy.
Special Pizza - Mozzarella, Olive, Anchovy, and Capers - I ordered this pizza to try something completely different and outside my comfort zone. I'm not an anchovy guy. I was surprised at how well the olive's acidity complimented the salty anchovies all supported by a base of creamy mozzarella. In this situation, the crispy crust was fantastic as it gave significant structure to all the toppings. A fork and knife was still not necessary.
During my visits I've rarely laid eyes on Chef Mathieu Palombino behind the counter; but that doesn't seem to matter. The pizzas are consistent, a testament to his ability to train the staff effectively (I only wish that such pizzaioli actually existed in Mexico -- the pizza down there is awful). However while consistent, they lack much of the love and soul found at Kesté.
Is it an authentic Pizza Napoleatana? Sometimes; depends who's making it. On some visits I've had hints of elasticity in the crust; other times, it was more crispy with extra garlic and charring. So while the pizzas are consistently good overall; there is a range of variability in textures and flavors: sometimes it's more New York-style, other times more Naples-style, and occasionally somewhere in-between. But they sure are consistently gorgeous.
As with any pizza, no two are completely alike. You'll just have to go see for yourself. And what better way to test this edible chaos theory than with a pizza?