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San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar, NYC

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  • San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar, NYC

    I ran into this place while tooling around the Upper East Side. Usually, the UES is fairly barren when it comes to really great food. This place is an absolute exception. The pizza was phenomonal, the wine list great, excellent coffee, and the first panuozzo I've ever had (more in a minute).

    I ended up going twice this past week, once for dining in and once for take out. Eating-in means sitting in a tiny little space that's dominated by an absolutely gorgeous Neapolitan oven. I had a pizza with creamy burrata, porky pancetta, and plump little cherry tomatoes. My wife had a diavola with spicy sopressata, crushed San Marzanos, fresh basil, and some really milky mozzarella. The crust was the standard soupy Neapolitan pie in the center, but firmer and crunchier towards the cornicione. Excellent crusts, if a bit salty. For dessert I had what they call a caff? crema: milk, cream, sugar, espresso, and a touch of chocolate (which isn't mentioned in the ingredients). All stirred with a little crushed ice to make it really cold. Heaven.

    The next time I went, I ordered a panuozzo. I'd never had one before, since I've never been to Salerno. This is cool enough that it's going in my regular oven repertoire. You take a dough ball, stretch it into kind of an oval, and bake it till the outside is crispy and a little charred. While it's still hot, slide it like a pita and stuff it with whatever you want. I had mortadella, smoked mozzarella, and marinated eggplant. It takes the panini concept to an entirely different stratosphere.

    It's pricy, as are all places in upper Manhattan. But it's really great, and the people are wonderful southern Italians.