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April 27th, 2010 · No Comments

In 2008 Motorino opened in Williamsburg to instant raves. Less than two years later it rode its success train to the East Village. (Trend?) The raves continue. Reviewers are obsessed. Yelpers are fanatical. Many claim Motorino’s chef, Mathieu Palombino, is making the best pizza in NYC. As it turns out, I’m an outlier on this one, though I have been known to buck a trend or two.

The restaurant space is adequate, if not cozy with pizza joint personality. The service was solid. We went before the 8pm crush and didn’t have to wait for a table. There wasn’t an incident or issue to cloud our Motorino experience. The pizza simply needed to impress. Instead, the pies fell limp.

The three pies we ordered – the Brussels Sprout and Pancetta, the Cremini and Sweet Sausage, and the Clam special – all had similar troubles. Despite admirable ingredients in potentially winning combinations, every bite tasted singular.

The pancetta overpowered the brussels sprouts, relegating the bright green leaves to mere decoration. The pecorino cheese had its way with the creminis and sausage. The measly clam-to-pizza ratio meant most bites held only the promise of clams, in the form of salty clam juice. The toppings were unchecked, unbalanced, and sprinkled with a light hand, as if the plan all along was for them to cling to the dough’s coattails. Palombino’s dough is good, but not good enough for riding.

The crust is too thick and too naked. The cheese, sauce, and toppings are forced to tread in the pie’s center, instead of being allowed to grab hold of the edge. The result is a soggy and droopy pizza center and a crust that doubles as a bread stick.

A survey of the room showed that most diners had abandoned their crusts once the toppings were eaten. The only exception was a couple who had smartly ordered a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. I wasn’t kidding about the whole bread stick thing.

The pizzas are far from bad, but they’re also far from the best. Rest easy, Jim Lahey, I’m still happiest in your Co.

Neighborhood: East Village

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