When we refer to “hidden gems” at Manhattan Sideways, we refer to places off the beaten path…though the Service Station might be slightly more hidden than most. It is nestled next to the Bentley Hotel, tucked behind its own row of hedges. The name comes from the fact that the space used to belong to a former Mobil gas station.
I spoke to Ogi, the general manager, who told me that many locals still assume that the space is a gas station. Though he wishes that he had more neighborhood regulars, he gets a lot of customers from the Bentley and the nearby hospital. He also receives destination diners, since Giulio Adriani, a four-time pizza champion, is the consulting chef, and Bratislav Glisic from Employees Only is the bar consultant. The culinary power duo, the quality of the ingredients, and the spacious outdoor seating all ensure that the Service Station brings in customers.
Bane, the bartender, whipped up some cocktails for the Manhattan Sideways team to try. He started with the gin-based Strawberry Fields, which hits the drinker with a smell of fresh strawberries before the glass touches their lips – Bane followed this drink with the smooth and sweet New Yorker, made with Maker’s Mark and ginger beer. Next, the Beso Caliente’s zesty spice complemented the lime bitters and grapefruit cordial, and last, the delectable Irish Espresso Martini, topped with Brancamenta cream. “The cocktail list is very special,” Ogi said with a smile.
Next, we were led over to the pizza oven where we watched the talented chefs at work. We happened to be visiting during the European cup, so the Service Station had a special Italian flag pizza on the menu. The pizza was split into thirds using ridges of dough and each section was filled with pesto, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes respectively to create the signature green, white and orange. As we watched the masters at work, Ogi assured me that the Service Station’s menu stretched far beyond pizza, and that they use ingredients from Italy whenever possible. Trying to remain authentically Italian, they do not serve a pepperoni pizza, which is an American invention. What they do offer, however, is much better, according to the Manhattan Sideways team: the Nduja pizza, made with spicy pork sausage in a tomato paste with fontina cheese.
Ogi mentioned that every three months the Service Station tries to add something new or make tweaks to the menu. One item, however, remains the same: the Margherita pizza. As he presented us with one to sample, Ogi wisely stated, “If you want to see the differences from pizzeria to pizzeria, try the Margherita.” The flavors were vibrant and, like the other pizzas, the dough was light and fluffy, meaning that we could eat an entire pie and still want more. Ogi smiled and admitted, “If my mom came tomorrow and asked what she should get, I would take her here and order this.”