Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gonzo

Craving pizza is not a simple thing. There are too many different kinds of pizza that when I am experiencing a craving, I actually need to define it. Basically, I can break down my favorite kinds of pizza into four major categories: a typical New York slice (Joe's), thin-crust (grilled/brick oven), gourmet pies (Two-Boots), and trashy chains (sorry, Papa John's). Most typically, I crave a true slice or thin-crust - but, (and I probably should not reveal this), I did know the number to Dominos while living in Paris. You are probably shocked that Paris would even allow such a franchise. However, even the French will admit, there are just certain days, especially after a late night, that only an American pizza chain can do the trick. While my pizza intake has not diminished since moving to New York, it is whole thin-crust that I most often end up eating when I go out to dinner - and, Gonzo is my go to for that.

Located on a residential block in the west village, Gonzo seems a world away from the rest of the west village restaurants. While this restaurant is not hurting for customers, the combination of its location and the large space inside guarantee that you can get a reservation most nights - making it an ideal spot for groups and last-minute dinner plans. However, I am certain that if more people sampled their pizza and walked on 13th street, there would be lines out the door. Right now, I am just fine knowing that my thin-crust pizza cravings can be satisfied without a wait - or a hike. As I had just recently walked past Gonzo (and was probably experiencing a pizza craving), I decided to go there with four girls - most actually meeting each other for the first time that night. While I'll admit that I was looking out for myself, there is really no better food to share with strangers than pizza - making Gonzo an even easier choice for the night.

The menu is actually fairly extensive and broken into several sections: cold appetizers, hot appetizers, salads, meats and cheeses, grilled pizza, pasta, meat, fish, and sides! There are so many items that if you didn't know better, you may even glance over the pizza section. While I have sampled many other items on the menu and been satisfied by them, the grilled pizza is truly the reason to head to Gonzo. As we all learned in pre-school, the best way to make friends is through sharing - and so, we began our new friendships by deciding upon several dishes to share. Even though I really just wanted to cut to the chase and get to the pizza, we did start off by ordering a cold appetizers (beets with Gorgonzola and walnuts), a warm appetizer (frittura mista with calamari and rock shrimp coated with a cornmeal crust) and a salad (grilled onion with Parmesan, parsley, lemon olive oil and bruschetta croutons). My favorite, probably because it is the most unique, was the grilled onion salad - but remember to order the supplemental balsamic vinegar on top - it really completes the dish.

But, most importantly, onto the pizza! I had always associated thin-crust pizza with a brick oven, but Gonzo has introduced me to the concept of grilled pizza. I have now noticed it on other menus. Having eagerly tried other versions, I can honestly say that the chefs at Gonzo are the masters of this genre. They stand alone in both technique and toppings. In the summer, they are known for their watermelon pizza and, in the fall, for their pumpkin pizza - both of which sound very strange, but are delicious. As it is basically between seasons right now and neither of these were on the menu the other night, we decided to go with another odd selection - corn and mashed potato pizza - among several other more typical pies. This was actually a great combination - although, I think the pumpkin pizza is my favorite of their unusual variety. They even allow you to split up a pie with two different kinds - allowing us to sample even more. We also ordered the proscuitto, arugula, balsamic combination, a wild mushroom - chantarelle, shitake and oyster - with caramelized onions, taleggio, bel paese and romano pie, and finally, a sopressata sausage pizza with ricotta cheese, roasted red pepper puree, bel paese and romano cheese. Each pie was deliciious, but my personal favorite was the sopressata - and, believe it or not, it was the red pepper puree that was the best part. While the toppings are extremely unique, it is actually the crust that truly makes these pizzas stand in a class of their own. Not only is it so thin and light, but it is always perfectly crispy. Too often, when ordering thin-crust pizza, it either comes out soggy or it goes limp after several minutes on the table. Gonzo's grilled pizza remains crispy from start to finish.

There was really no overall consensus as to which was the winning pizza since we all sampled and really enjoyed each one. Although, it was apparent that we did each have a personal favorite based on the amount we ate. As we each went in for seconds, it was nice to see that while we all barely knew each other, no one was shy about indulging. Gonzo's pizza really is too good to pass up - and each person's seconds selection (showing their personal favorite) revealed a little more about their personality. I am pretty thrilled knowing I have a new friend willing to polish off a corn and mashed potato pizza!



Gonzo

140 W 13th St
New York, NY 10011-7802
Phone: (212) 645-4606
website

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