As noted, pizza and sandwich shops seem to be the most common operations opening these days—oh how we await the big openings of Table 8 and Marea this spring!—which makes sense given the cost of ingredients, the relatively low price point of the final product, and the flexibility in terms of restaurant space. As such, we made some quick visits last night to two of the most recent newcomers, Keste—which opens this Sunday—and the two day-old Tonda, located in the former E.U. space.
As seen here, the space is spare but suitable for a pizza place. Basic wooden two tops line the front and back sections; a few framed pictures and diplomas and medals hang on the walls. Until the place opens for good to the public, pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio seems happy to offer trial pies to curious passersby who wander in off the street. Yesterday he tested out the margherita, little balls of dough filled with mushrooms and peppers, and an appetizer pie with a red pepper and anchovy sauce on a number of his Italian partners and well wishers and a pair of girls who said they read about the place on Thrillist.
He and his helpers are often adding new wood to that oven above or stoking the flames, and at times the entire cooking station smells like a bonfire. As a result, it's so hot that pies are finished in under a few minutes. "I call it the microwave," Caporuscio jokes, "One minute ten, one minute thirty for some things."
As for the pies themselves, they'll need to be judged by the experts and the public once they're made under the pressure of a full and hungry dining room. But as first impressions go, it looks to be a serious contender with sweet sauce (which contains only crushed San Marzano tomatoes), a chewy crust, and moderate amounts of cheese. They plan on having 18 pies on the menu plus some specials each day.
Across the island, owner Bob Giraldi was on hand at the sleeker Tonda to watch over the scene last night, while a playlist of 80's hits played loudly over the speakers. "We're trying to keep it light, fun," a manager told us, and they seem to be succeeding so far. The crowd, which packed both the restaurant and the bar (and included some small children), looked to be enjoying themselves.
Here, the menu offers a long list of pies, which can be ordered with a wheat crust if so desired. "There is no fat or oil in our crust," out waitress proudly told us. The oven, a reported $30k model, doesn't require new wood like Keste's, but it does rotate (which we find somewhat reminiscent of those conveyor belt pizza ovens). The result: large, chewy, slightly sweet, cheese-laden pies. Given the times, it has the potential to be a bigger success for Giraldi than its predecessor.