Known across the city for its exceptional Neapolitan-style pies, this small pizza lair with low ceilings, vintage light fixtures, and a tiled floor is often on NY's “Best Pizza” lists. I have been here on a number of occasions and never been disappointed with the simple but perfect Margherita pie. Others have opted for the Sopressatta Picante, the Brussels sprouts, and the Stracciatella with basil and sea salt. No matter what goes on top, though, the thin crisp crust is extraordinary. And for anyone who wants a unique brunch experience, Motorino tops their pizza dough with a fried egg, succulent bits of pancetta generously scattered across the silky bed of white fior de latte (mozzarella) and a spicy drizzle of chili oil. Who needs to order the well decorated omelets or French toast that crowd the city’s endless brunch menus when all of the best brunch components are conveniently located right here on a thin-crust pizza?
I was obsessed with this place well before they expanded in several directions around Manhattan. I was introduced to Artichoke Pizza here on 14th Street a number of years ago, and I have not stopped raving. I have brought friends and family members here many times, as well as carried pies home. I was probably one of the first customers when cousins Francis and Sal decided to open their next endeavor on 17th Street and 10th Avenue, and then again in the Village. What a gastronomic delight. There are just a few choices to make when ordering pizza - Margherita, Sicilian, Vodka, Crab, and, of course, the Artichoke. This pizza has the finest spinach, artichoke and cheese dip as its base. Add that to a thick, perfectly cooked crust with a little more cheese and creaminess and... voila! A star is born! My husband, who was afraid to step into any place with artichoke in the name, was quickly won over by the Sicilian, which has just the right amount of crunch thanks to a twice baked crust. Recently, at this original location, the owners converted the space next door to allow for seating. So the good news is that one no longer has to sit on the sidewalk to enjoy their pizza, although many of us still choose to do it the old-fashioned way.
“The finest street pizza in New York…There’s something about the crust, no one else can duplicate it, ” said a loyal customer that we happened to bump into in Stromboli Pizza. Owner Zef Curanaj was happy to hear the words of praise, and quick to agree, claiming that top of the line ingredients add to the quality and great flavor of his slices. Making pies for forty years, Stromboli Pizza was first opened by Zef’s father and uncle. This spot is home to Zef – all he has known since he moved from Montenegro, Albania to the United States at age nineteen. Since then, he has been offering New Yorkers a classic, savory pie that he learned to make from his father decades ago.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.