We caught Pulino’s in an easy-going, sunny mood today, the airy room full and bustling but not packed, the windows flung open to the street. It’s no surprise that it’s a beautifully decorated, skillfully created place–Keith McNally excels at fashioning restaurants you want to hang out in. If the restaurateur heralds gentrification–possibly indirectly responsible for rising area rents–well, at least he does it with panache.
We stopped in for three dishes, not enough to judge a restaurant on, but sufficient to convince us that a very tasty lunch can be had there. The nduja ($10), above, is a homemade version of the spreadable Calabrian sausage, a mash of pork, pork fat, and red pepper drizzled with olive oil. Mounted on grilled bread, it just needed a sprinkle of salt (provided) to satisfy.
This antipasto of smoked sable ($15) is extremely delicious, combining the buttery fish with an aioli-like sauce spiked with bottarga, and seasoned with celery leaves, capers, and dill.
Ahead, the pizza…
The rock shrimp pizza features juicy, garlicky crustaceans along with caramelized fennel, slices of garlic, and a bare sprinkle of speck bits. It’s a nice combination, and the tomato sauce carries it all along with a good balance of sweet and tart. This is not the puffy, wettish, Neapolitan style pizza that’s been everywhere recently. Instead, it’s very thin-crusted, almost as slight as a cracker, and sports only a bit of char. You can eat it out of your hand easily.
That crisp, thin crust makes for a lighter-feeling pizza, and lets the toppings take the lead. You might miss that chewy, yeasty pull that puffier pies have, but that’s not what they’re going for.
Related: Chatting with Beth Ann Simpkins