Here’s a question for all my friends from Chicago: Why on earth would someone cut a round pizza into square slices? And here’s a question for the folks at Radio City Pizzeria: Why on earth would you imitate that Chicago atrocity with your delicious New York City-style pizzas?
OK, I should cut Radio City some slack. Their standard pizzas are among the best in town—solid New York street pies that rival the offerings at Metro and Secret Pizza. In addition to a classic red pie, they offer white (parmesan cream, ricotta and confit garlic) and green (pesto, mozzarella and a vegetable of the day). All of those are cut correctly, into traditional wedges.
The restaurant recently expanded its menu in a more gourmet direction that includes some of the town’s most interesting vegetable dishes and small plates. It also features smaller “house pies” that, while brilliant, suffer from the aforementioned square cuts. (The NYC pizza recipe has also changed, although it’s as good as it ever was.)
Those 90-degree angles are a sin for which they should certainly atone, but which are forgivable in light of how wonderful the menu is as a whole.
Among these new house pies you’ll find options such as chicken oysters with parmesan cheese, capers, lemon and broccoli rabe, beef hearts Bourguignon with rose water, basil pesto and watermelon radish as well as duck confit with pesto, red chili and pecorino cheese. But I’m partial to the pork pie, made with guanciale, spicy chorizo, provolone, white balsamic vinegar and house-pickled jalapeño, which has just enough kick to rock your palate without overpowering it. These pork products are as good as those on some of this town’s best charcuterie boards.
The new pizzas aren’t the only things that makes Radio City memorable as more than just purveyors of a great NYC street slice. New partners Jake Leslie and Sean Collins have added some more upscale fare as well, which is worthy of any serious Strip restaurant. In fact, it’s better than most. While everyone else in town is frying Brussels sprouts (my new pick for the overdone trend of the year) these guys are cooking them in the pizza oven with pancetta, sherry vinegar and pecorino. The result is a dish that’s not only more flavorful than the fried version, but it actually retains some nutritional value. But as good as that is, it’s not the shining star of the vegetable selections. That honor goes to the deceptively simple sounding rosemary potatoes, which are brought to life with a dusting of leek ash, cranberries, olive oil and a wonderful herbed crème frâiche.
Moving on to the small plates section, I’m partial to the raw seafood selections. The crudo varies daily based on what’s fresh. On my last visit, it was red snapper—a white fish I don’t generally like, but which was topped beautifully with a smattering of salty salmon roe, house-made hot sauce and a few nuggets of sea salt. The oysters Fiamma are even better, seasoned with pickled shallot, tart apple, chili flakes and just a tinge of red absinthe. This was actually the first time I’ve had that variety of the spirit (or the first I remember), and I was happy to find it not quite as licorice-tasting as its green counterpart, so as not to overpower the briny taste of the Kusshi oysters.
The menu at Radio City Pizzeria (much like its long delayed backyard patio) is still a work in progress. The owners continue to promise more offerings. Honestly, I’m happy with what they have and would prefer they focus their attention on the al fresco space, given we’re finally entering outdoor dining season.
I’ve long been a critic of the dining options Downtown. But this spot now makes my top three choices, alongside Carson Kitchen and Eat. If only they would cut all their pies correctly, it might jump to No. 1.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Rosemary Potatoes ($6)
- Crudo ($10)
- Oysters Fiamma ($15)
- Pork Pie ($14)
Radio City Pizzeria
50 Fremont St.,702-982-5055. Open for lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Dinner for two $20-$40.