Pala pizza- 198 Allen Street
Went to Pala this Saturday for to try out the pizza I had been hearing about over the past week or so.
I can't remember what the place was before this but it was really spacious, with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows facing the street. I noticed that the windows were attached to a garage door mechanism so that in the summer they will probably open up (I've seen this before at Cafeteria, I think.)There were two and four-tops in the main seating area and then a larger table for groups further towards the back.
Anyway, the food! They sell pizza by the foot, which I think is a little contrived seeing that they won't (yet) sell you a 1/2 foot of a pizza. Why not just say, one pizza = $15? Several of the tables next to us asked about this, and hopefully Pala will change this no 1/2 foot policy. There were two of us and we had:
fava bean salad- this was really nice and simple. Greens with room temp fava beans that looked liked they had been sauteed topped with shavings of cheese (the name of which escapes me, sorry). The dressing was an oil and vinegar type. Was great way to start the meal, since the menu said pizzas take about 30 to cook in the oven.
We got two pizzas: the pumpkin w/ panchetta and scamorza cheese and roasted yellow and red peppers with mozzarella. There are 8 pieces per pie and they are formed in a long oval shape so the pieces come out sqaure-ish. We liked each pizza a lot and couldn't decide on our favorite. The pepper one was a bit more savory, but the pumpkin had its own merits. The much talked about crust was excellent, but not as thin as I think it had been hyped to be--it was very airy and crisp though. We couldn't finish all the food- had two pieces leftover which we got wrapped up. Maybe next time we will just order two pizzas and no salad or something to that effect.
It was a little more expensive than I had hoped to spend on lunch. Our total bill was about $45 not including tip. We didn't have any liquor athough the wine list had lot of Italian wines and the glasses ran about $7-9.
Some issues. This place is clearly getting its sea legs. At the tables next to us, the waiter kept apologizing to the couple about how long it was taking to get their second pizza (maybe it was finally decided that for tables ordering two pizzas they would be bought out together on a bigger "Pala", like they did with our order). Also, even though orders are cooked to order, there was a display by the register/kitchen area with whole pies seemingly ready to go. I don't think they sell by the slice yet, but this is what it appeared to be, even though the pizza was just sort of standing there, not being consumed.
I didn't really like their "signature" plates on which we were supposed to place our pizza slices. They seemed to be made out of the same wood as the pizza boards themselves, but were very hard to cut on and the knives left marks on the wood. Interestingly, for the salad we were given "real" plates (ceramic/stoneware or whatnot). I wonder how cost-effective the wooden plates will be if they are all marked up by knives and forks and I also wonder how sanitary this is.
The place was very well staffed, with some waiters better than others- maybe some were in training? This is very forgivable and understandable, at least for me. There was a small problem w/ our bill, but it was fixed (charged for something we didn't order: a Diet Coke at $2.50 a pop (for one of the 8oz bottles!), whoa!).
In the end though, really nice pizza and salad, good flavors, lots of options. As said before, this place will learn and hopefully fix quickly what needs to be changed and or improved, but we will likely go back.
I love Pizza Pala. It;s true Roman-style pizza, thin crispy crust and many toppings so fresh and light that they are barely even warm. The buffala cruda being on of these options, with mizzarella and cherry tomatoes so good, you'd swear you were sitting in somewhere in Southern Italy. The pizza with sausage and mushroms is much spicier and heavier, and every bit as delicious. Try the rucola salad with parmigiano- its classic Italian. On a side note, I too wondered briefly about the sanitary "issue" of penetrable wooden eating surfaces.... but I quickly pushed it out of my mind once I actually started eating. I guess that says it all.
I live 2 blocks from Pala & have been there to eat a few times already. just a few thoughts:
This place is not meant to be a NY style pizzeria..it is roman style pizza.
In rome they sell this type of pizza by the meter/length . At pala they sell the pies by the foot ( metric probably wouldn't work here) or the slice. 1/2 foot really does not make sense as you could just order 2 slices from the counter. If you are looking for the typical NY slice this is not the place. The pies are oblong & most slices are squares except for the corners/angles of the pie. A slice is about the size of a sicilian except it is not as thick & doughy...a feature that is a major plus in my opinion.
Slices range from $2.5-$3.75..i think they have lowered the prices since opening. They also have a sampler option on the menu now which offers a choice of 4 slices (from the counter) for $12.
The counter pizza gets re-heated as in any other nyc pizzeria unless of course you are there when the pie is just coming out. One major difference...not a whole lot of grease and the crust is crunchy the whole way through even after re-heating.(something to do with the flours they use & natural raising) My favs so far are the Forza Roma (red& yellow bell pepers, bufala mozz & tomato sauce) the arrabiata (no sauce, no cheese but lots of cherry tomatoes & lots of hot pepper & garlic...very hot but very tasty!!) and the Funghi (mushrooms and sicy sausage with mozz cheese...has a nice kick!)...
Pies range from $8-$15 per foot (about 4 slices). When I first went they were averaging about 25-30mins to get them out of the oven but it appears they are getting faster and we got our pizza after15-20 mins. This past weekend i went with two girlfriends and we had the ubriaca (mozz, pancetta & goats milk cheeze cured in red wine) a whirlwind of flavors and an absolute euphoric experince and the bufala cruda(cherry tomatoe sauce, fresh bufala mozz & basil) Margherita who? or better yet why?
They cook the dough & cherry tomato sauce first then when it's ready they top it with fresh bufala mozz (you can see them pulling apart the bufala ball in water as they top it) then dress it with fresh basil & olive oil. Seriously folks there is no reason to ever order a Margherita pizza again!!!! The bufala pie is a little more expensive( $15 per foot)but soooo worth it! There are sprigs of sicilian oregano at the tables that add the perfect touch. We had some leftovers I took home & had for lunch the next day ...was even good cold.
We also shared the arugula & pecorino salad $8 (nice portion) and the Zucchini blossoms $10 but soo tasty (zucchini blossoms filled with bufala mozz & anchiovies.
For wine we had a bottle of the Red Lambrusco(sparkling) $34
served chilled, which surprisingly went very well with the pizza.
My girlfriends & I had a lovely evening and were never rushed out of the door. We plan to go back often! An addiction is probably likely since they just started delivery.
On my way to Russ and Daughters on Friday, I stopped in as I was walking past and could not resist. They do sell by the slice, a hefty $4.00 (plus tax). The slice was oddly shapped but a little smaller then a slice from a standard round pie. Sadly the pies just sit out at room temperature and have to be reheated. I had a red and yellow pepper slice and a mushroom slice. Crust is very different,light and airy but very chewy. Toppings were just ok. If, like me, you like a basic sauce and cheese slice I think you will not be impressed. If however you are a big toppings fan,you will have a higher opinion of the place.
i also visited and just got a couple 'slices' from the counter. they were each about 4" x 5" in size and the whole thing cost me about $8.60. i got the pumpkin sauce slice and the red and yellow pepper. pumpkin sauce was very tasty and the crust was very good. the pepper one i believe was sitting around a bit longer since the crust didn't come out as good... and i felt the peppers overpowered the rest of the flavor. when i asked if there was something approximating a margarita or plain cheeze pizza, a got a rather snooty 'no'. and then got pointed to a pizza that looked like it had been sitting around forever with mozzarella and cherry tomato halves. i left still a bit hungry and was tempted to go to rosaria's a couple blocks away...
summary: worth the visit, but unlikely to be part of any regular rotation.
I've also noticed a large dropoff in quality between the pizza sitting on the counter and the made-to-order pies. Of course, this is true at any pizzeria, but I think it is more so here.
Ask them about the crust -- our waiter went into a spiel about the multiple flours used, the high water content of the dough, and the owner's Ph.D. in chemistry(??). I don't know if that's what does it, but it sure is a great crust!
Other favorites include the Arrabiata, which is nicely spiced roasted tomatos, no cheese, and Asparagus and Gorgonzola -- the strong flavor of the cheese works surprisingly well with the Asparagus.
Deep-fried Zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheese are light and flavorful.
Good wine list, if a bit overpriced.