Copyright 2015 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.
Pizza Italia is located at 307 W 17th Street, between 8th and 9th avenues, www.pizzaitalianyc.com, 212-242-4242, is open Sunday noon to midnight, Mon 11am-midnight, Tues-Thurs 11am-2am, Fri-Sat 11am-5am. Delivery and catering are available.
It all began with Grandma’s sauce. Prepared only with fresh, raw peeled plum tomatoes, simmered for hours with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, herbs and spices, Anthony Sorisi’s grandmother’s marinara recipe has been passed down from generation to generation. It became the inspiration for the unconventional round Grandma pie he invented at Pizza Italia on Stone Street in NYC’s Financial District, as well as the basis for signature dishes such as Rigatoni Vodka and Seafood Fra DIavolo.
Sorisi, born in Borgetto, Sicily, learned to cook at his father’s side at Sorisi Pizza in Forest Hills. He followed in his father’s footsteps, opening Pizza Italia in 1992. When Sorisi decided to relocate to Chelsea, he asked his nephew Giuseppe Gambino, who trained at the Culinary Academy of Long Island to be his partner in Pizza Italia. Eventually, Sorisi’s eldest son will take his father’s place.
The new location quickly became popular, serving the vibrant neighborhood from school kids to club kids, parents to office workers, from morning to late night. Gambino keeps the restaurant open until after the bars and clubs close to meet the demand of customers who literally knock on the door, begging to be let in, at 4:30 in the morning.
Behind the marble counter that dominates the white tiled space, you’ll see the massive brick oven that takes two hours to heat, and a variety of pies ranging from the classic Margherita to the vegetarian Eggplant and Ricotta; to the untraditional but very popular Chicken Bacon Ranch; and many others. In addition to the list of gourmet pizzas, any variation can be made to order from any combination of toppings—pepperoni, broccoli, Italian sausage, sliced ham, meatballs, bacon, spinach, olives, anchovies and so on—as an 18” round, or 12” personal pie with regular or whole-wheat crust.
But what makes Pizza Italia really stand out is what you can’t see. Behind the scenes, Anthony and Giuseppe prepare an extensive menu of restaurant quality meals. The price and the setting may be casual, but the execution is fresh and made to order using the finest ingredients. It takes a little longer, but guests will find that it’s worth it. For example, The Gotz Panini begins with a chicken breast that isn’t grilled until the order is in place, then lightly charred, until juicy and layered with broccoli rabe, fresh mozzarella from a local supplier and housemade garlic aioli on a toasty-crispy roll. Heroes are substantial too—potato and egg, meatball, peppers and egg, and a choice of parmigiana—veal, eggplant, chicken or shrimp.
But for the full restaurant experience—whether in the restaurant, your office, or home—we recommend you begin with the baked clams. Based on Giuseppe’s grandfather’s recipe and passed down by his father, Giuseppe prepares them with just a touch of seasoned breadcrumbs so the flavor of the sweet, fresh tender littleneck clams shines. Housemade soups such as Tortellini en Brodo, Pasta Fagiolli and an outstanding Minestrone are also a great beginning.
Then, it’s on to the pasta dishes, all prepared a la minute. Some favorites include Spaghetti Carbonara with peas and Italian bacon, Homemade Gnocchi Sorrentino, made in house daily and served with tomato, fresh basil and prosciutto, and Cavatelli Godfather, red sauce, broccoli rabe, sausage and shrimp, as well as Seafood Fra Diavolo, clams, shrimp, calamari and scallops with spicy marinara served over linguini. Pasta dishes can also be customized—with the addition of chicken or shrimp, or whole-wheat penne. There are also baked pastas such as a classic Lasagna layered with meat sauce, ricotta and fresh mozzarella and a selection of risotto—the Classic, Arborio rice prepared with shallots, white wine and butter, 17th Street, with chicken and mushrooms, and Seafood, with shrimp, clams, and calamari.
For the main course, favorites include Shrimp Francese, parmesan-crusted and sauteed with lemon-butter sauce, Chicken Bellamore, grilled chicken with prosciutto, roasted peppers and mozzarella, and Sausage and Peppers Parmigiana. Beer and wine selections are coming soon. For now, there’s a selection of Pellegrino Italian sodas—or you can create your own pairing in the comfort of your home.