Yesterday was supposed to be the day I finally visited the bakery on Staten Island owned by relatives of mine I’ve never met. Well, something called people vacationing in August combined with some other hitches landed my parents and me instead on an impromptu trip to the Upper East Side. And what do you do when you find yourself in a neighborhood you rarely visit? You eat of course! You take advantage of the opportunity to finally visit some of the places that have accumulated on your to-go-to list. It had been a while since I was last on the UES. There are many places there I like. I had ample time to explore the area as that is where I went to high school. But it really is not much of a meandering neighborhood, like the areas downtown are. You can wander, but it’s not as pleasant as wandering around downtown. It’s better to have a pre-determined destination.
Luckily, my dad is the walking encyclopedia of GOOD pizza places. Well, he’s an encyclopedia of all of them, but he can specifically tell you the worthwhile ones. He really should have his own website and guide. But for now I get to benefit from his knowledge. As soon as we landed uptown, he suggested Nick’s Pizza on 94th and 2nd, which is an outpost of the well-known Nick’s in Forest Hills, Queens. And if you are curious for a second opinion, Nick’s has the mark of approval from certain pizza-minded food writers.
In my family, we are purists when it comes to pizza. Not only do we love a standard cheese or margarita pizza, but as with any food, the standard unadulterated variety is the best way to judge the maker’s merits. The sauce and cheese were excellent. I read a review that described Nick’s sauce as tangy. On our pie, I did not find it to be as such. It was tasted quite simply of crushed tomatoes that were sweet and lightly seasoned. I very much enjoyed that they did not add a lot to flavor or sweeten the sauce. The cheese was nicely dry, not wet or oily, and broke apart easily.
I loved the crust beneath the toppings. Perfectly crisp and sturdy, not soggy, but also not overly charred. The crust around the edges was a tad drier and crunchier than I would prefer. I like the plain crust to be a little chewier, but it is that dryness that allows the crust in the middle to retain its crispness even with the toppings. The generous sprinkling of fresh basil, which is standard if the pizza is technically a margarita, as always adds so much to the flavor of the pie if it is really fresh basil. For pizza purists who are curious about the type of oven, Nick’s receives acclaim specifically because they achieve a crust similar to that of a coal-fired oven but in a gas-fired oven.
I don’t always feel the need to comment on service, but I caught a framed Zagat review on the wall that alluded to sometimes moody service. I thought I would just dispel that. We did stop in mid-afternoon, and so the staff was not particularly overloaded, but they were all exceedingly gracious and pleasant. Another nice touch to an excellent meal.