Move over dollar slices! There’s a new Hell’s Kitchen pizza place that tastes like a zillion bucks. Head to W42nd Street, where the team that brought you Steak Frites Bistro is now tossing up marquee-worthy slices at Zillions Pizza. Zillions soft opened last Friday and is already experiencing a busy first few days of business on W42nd Street (just east of 9th Avenue), where they serve up classic pizza flavors and limited edition new specials like the Buffalo Barbecue combo slice and the “Hot Damn”, comprising Italian sausage, fresh ricotta and mozzarella, garlic, chili flakes and habanero honey and fresh breadcrumbs. The people behind the pizzas are restaurateurs Adam Schop and Stéphane Bibeau of 9th Avenue’s Steak Frites Bistro, who have joined forces with the expertise of “Chief Pizza Officer” Bobby Hellen to realize a longtime dream of bringing top-notch flavor to the humble Midtown slice joint. “Adam and I met when I first came to New York, and we’ve been friends ever since, ” said Bobby. The pair frequently crossed paths with their East Village ventures, the (now closed) GG’s and Miss Lily’s 7A Café before deciding to collaborate on a new concept. “French Bistro is close to his heart and I’ve mostly been involved with pizza, ” said Bobby, “So this came together pretty organically. ” When it came to choosing a location, “we went to all the best pizza places around Midtown – Sacco’s, John’s – and there’s a nice little pocket here, ” said Adam of the space for an upmarket slice shop amid the many dollar joints of W42nd Street. “Pizza is near and dear to many, many people and we saw the chance to capture that nostalgic New York pizza counter the way you remember it. ” “It’s all about Times Square – this is closest we can get to Times Square without being on Broadway, ” said Stéphane, who added that they were building on the already historical legacy of the block – including the last vestige of the area’s “Deuce”-era, the shuttered, infamous and potentially haunted pay-by-the-hour Elk Hotel. “We hope the ghosts stay away, ” laughed Adam, “but maybe that will generate a whole new inquiry about this place. ”To create their signature space, the team worked with Brooklyn-based creative agency Farewell NYC to design a modern take on the old school pizza counter. In addition to the requisite plexiglass pie shelf and soda cases, the pizzeria features cheery yellow accents, letterboard price signage, plans for a Polaroid customer photo wall and a standout marquee that evokes the W42nd Street signage of the 1970s and 1980s. “Stranger Things called, they said they want to use our location, ” joked Adam. And that nostalgia goes for the taste as well. “Bobby did an anthropology dig into New York City pizza, looking at different formulas of the dough and ratios of sauce and cheese, ” said Adam. “We tried to recreate the nostalgic childhood feeling of a slice of pizza that’s thin and crispy with salty cheese. ” It’s “our version” of a classic New York slice, said Bobby. Zillions has their own signature cheese blend, sauce blend and a 24-hour fermented dough. “Everything comes from a bread baking technique, ” he added, after experimenting with different flour ratios and mixes to perfect the Zillions slice. “We’re chefs first, ” said Bobby. “We season everything on every level – not too much, but not under seasoned either. ” Adam added, “We’re super keen on predictable outcomes. ”They hope their perfect pizza formula will attract customers as varied as W42nd Street itself – from tourists to local students to late night partiers in search of a superior slice. The team is also aware that they’re sandwiched between two cannabis smoke shops, knowing they may beckon to more than a few folks who come in with the munchies. “It’s like a Seinfeld episode, ” laughed Adam, as Bobby added: “You walk to the left, get hungry and come back here, and then you walk out, forget where you are and come back again! ” The Zillions team also hopes to reach a base of loyal Hell’s Kitchen regulars with a soon-to-be-implemented delivery service. “We want to offer a really quality product for locals, ” added Stéphane, who has lived in the neighborhood for the greater part of 40 years. For now, they’re having a blast perfecting their pies and developing a rapport with neighbors as the newest go-to slice joint. “It’s really such a cross-section, ” said Bobby. “You meet all kinds of people! ” Zillions Pizza is located at 360 W42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue and is open every day from 11am. The closing hours will be updated, but for now they are “open late! ” This article originally appeared on W42ST. nyc
Once upon a time, this building was a decrepit old church populated by prostitutes and addicts. It took a woman with a vision to recognize that she could make No. 260 into something spectacular. When Madeline Castelloti visited this location in the 1990s, she knew immediately that she had stumbled upon the perfect home for her dream pizzeria. After two years of demolition and construction, while still preserving some of the charm of the church, John's Pizzeria was opened. In 1997, John's was the self-proclaimed largest pizzeria in the United States. Each pizza is made to order in coal-fired brick ovens that retain residual matter like cast-iron pots and pans - meaning that the weight of history flavors each pizza now made. The Manhattan Sideways team can attest to the fact that the results are superb having sampled several of them. Madeline passed away in 2004, however, her daughter, Lisa, has kept her dream alive and extended it to Jersey City and the Bronx. It is rare, today, that at almost any hour there isn't a line extended to the door, but the wait is always worth it.
Partners Roberto Caporuscio and Antonio Starita have stellar reputations in the world of pizza. Antonio's family has owned a well-loved pizzeria in Naples since 1901 and it was in this restaurant that Sophia Loren filmed a scene in Vittorio De Sica's 1954 movie, L'Oro di Napoli. Having studied the art of pizza making in Italy, including under the watchful eye of Antonio, Roberto came to the US to open his own restaurants - in New York, Keste's on Bleecker Street has been serving some of the city's best-rated pizza since 2009 and then with his friend, Antonio, the two opened Don Antonio by Starita in 2012. The Manhattan Sideways team had a seat at the bar one afternoon and after finishing every bite of our perfectly prepared pizza, we agreed that the Burrata Roberto was superb. The thin crust was slightly charred, the way we love it, and topped with fresh burrata cheese, grape tomatoes, basil and olive oil - simple yet scrumptious.
"We are the oldest restaurant on our block. We try to keep a low profile while doing the best we can, and every day we appreciate that we are living in this country, ” said Guadalupe, who has been married to Rafael Rivas — affectionately known as Papa Bear — for over forty years. The restaurant was founded by three Cuban cousins, who took Rafael under their wing when he came to the U. S. from the Dominican Republic in his twenties. With their encouragement, he started out as a dishwasher, then a lineman, and eventually ran the show up front. When the cousins decided to retire in the mid-1980s but could not find a buyer, Rafael stepped up to the plate and asked if he could take over Margon. With years of hard work and small payments, Rafael has upheld the cousins' tradition of serving Cuban favorites, such as roasted pork, oxtail, fried sweet plantains, and rice and beans to the line of customers that stretches out the door on any given day. Little by little, each member of Rafael's family was brought from the DR to join the fold. Guadalupe — who met her husband while they were both on a tour of the Statue of Liberty — along with Rafael's brother, sister, sister-in-law, and many of their children — are all part of this warm and loving family affair. Papa Bear's smile lights up Margon — and his entire family smiles with him. They work like a well-oiled machine, serving a constant flow of customers ranging from construction workers on break, to ladies meeting for a leisurely lunch, to a gentleman in his eighties who never misses a day to sit down and enjoy his usual. According to Guadalupe, “We have the best customers. They come from all over the world. We have every accent. They visit once and then they tell their friends.
Not only does Barbetta profess to be the oldest restaurant on Restaurant Row, it is also one of the oldest Italian restaurants in New York. Opening its doors in 1906, in four adjoining townhouses built in the late 1800s by the Astor family, Sebastiano Maioglio began his long restaurant career. The emphasis has always been on Italian dishes and wine from the Piemontese region, where he was from. Sebastiano’s daughter, Laura, took over in 1962, and immediately began to remodel the restaurant in the style of 18th C. E. Piemonte. With her passion for collecting art, great sense of personal style, frequent visits in Piemonte, and an art history degree from Bryn Mawr College, it is no wonder that Barbetta’s exquisite interior has become as highly regarded as its food. The dining room demonstrates its old-world opulence, with ornate chandeliers, chairs, and tables meant to evoke a palazzo of the eighteenth century, during Piemonte’s cultural height. The baroque interior serves as more than just a reference to its heritage; it is a part of it. The great chandelier in the main dining room initially came from a palazzo in Torino, where it belonged to the royal family. Laura negotiated to obtain this 18th C. E. chandelier for two years. Other highlights of Barbetta’s extensive collection include the harpsichord in the foyer - crafted in 1631, as well as hanging wall prints from Piemonte - part of a distinguished set crafted in 1682. Items that could not be authentic, such as the numerous chairs and barstools, are reproductions of museum pieces that were specifically chosen by Laura to be reproduced in Italy. The garden, available for dining in the summer, holds trees dating back over a century ago, and, in line with the interior, holds the atmosphere of refined European aristocracy. Barbetta, while serving as a cultural landmark, remains focused on the excellence of its ever-changing list of dishes while serving classics such as risotto and polenta since its founding. Every dish on its menu since 1962 has been approved by Laura, and celebrating its long history and heritage, each menu item is marked with the year it began to be served, while dishes from Piemonte are in red print. Although esteemed for its dishes, Barbetta is also famed for its 72-page wine list, which has won numerous awards. Barbetta has also transformed the Italian dining scene through its numerous examples of “being the first”- from its conception to the present day. A few highlights include its beginning as the first Piemontese restaurant in New York, its status as New York’s first elegant Italian restaurant after its 1962 transformation, as well as its usage of numerous ingredients that at the time, were not commercially available in America and which had to be specifically imported by them from Italy. A particular example of one of these imported ingredients is white truffles. Years ago, Barbetta’s own truffle-hunting dogs became so well known that they were asked to perform a demonstration at Carnegie Hall in 1992. Barbetta is also unique in its emphasis on low sugar and low salt dishes - Laura even decided that Barbetta would smoke its own salmon to ensure it would not be too salty. Laura described Barbetta as “an institution, much more than a restaurant, ” due to the extensive culture that has been built around it and that it has created. The description as “much more than a restaurant” struck us as particularly apt, due to Barbetta’s long list of famous regulars - from The Rolling Stones to Jacklyn Kennedy - its exceptionally elegant and unusually spacious interior, variety of phenomenal food, and historical significance.
Joe Allen, founded in 1965, is the archetypal post-theater restaurant. With one of the longer histories on Restaurant Row, Joe Allen has been serving classic American cuisine in a brasserie setting since I was a little girl. I was always happy to come here with my parents and be able to order a hamburger rather than having to go out for a fancy meal. Mr. Allen - who also owns Orso, an Italian restaurant next door – had an initial concept to provide a comfortable, dynamic atmosphere with good food. And while the restaurant continues to serve some of the best comfort food around, spending time at night in the bar area, shows Joe Allen's real appeal. The high energy level from the post-theater crowd is contagious. The manager explained to us on one visit that they are the first phone call that people make after they have secured their seats for the next Broadway show. And, while he remained hesitant to divulge names, he shared how many actors and actresses have continued over the years to head immediately to Joe Allen after they perform - "here, " he elaborated "you're surrounded by theater, and we do all we can to promote that culture. " I can attest to the numerous actors who grace their tables, as I have had the pleasure of meeting a few over the years, as well as a highlight one evening when Barbara Walters sat right next to me. It is hard to say something new about Joe Allen, so long has it been a staple for theater goers. While the menu remains updated and contemporary, Joe Allen does not take any risks. Rather, it thrives on its reputation among patrons based on its long tradition of casual dining. Seeing the last of the pre-theater crowd during our visit, we were struck by how Joe Allen seemed appropriate equally for a quick burger and glass of wine in half an hour before a show, or a long, late into the night dinner where no one wants to head home.