One thing’s for sure — New York is hardly lacking in top-notch pizza spots. From cheap, greasy takeout to cozy, neighborhood trattorias and famous, 75-year-old institutions, serving both coal-cooked and wood-fired pies in the Neapolitan-style, Sicilian-style, Chicago-style and more. So there’s no denying that Marta is treading on familiar territory, but whenever Danny Meyer gets involved in a project, it’s enough to make educated area foodies sit up and take notice.
This time, he’s thrown his support behind Maialino chef, Nick Anderer, who’s parlayed his own passion for Roman cuisine into a regionally specific pizza parlor. Located off of the lobby of the well-to-do Martha Washington Hotel in Midtown, Marta is the perfect place for business-class tourists to get a taste of some of the best pizza New York has to offer, without subjecting themselves to a trip in the gritty, grubby bowels of the subway. But for locals, who generally make it a practice to steer clear of hotel restaurants and their invariably inflated prices, it’s a pleasure to find that the pies at Marta are totally affordable across the board, from the restrained Margherita ($12), simply topped with mozzarella di bufala and basil, to the elegant Pomodoro Fresco at $17, which pairs the same, milky cheese with fresh, bitter arugula and succulent heirloom tomatoes.
Working with two top-of-the-line, tiled and domed wood-fired ovens, Anderer focuses on very thin-crusted (i.e. cracker-like,) Rome-inspired pies. So instead of stealing the show, the delicate dough acts as a malleable canvas for the toppings themselves, assembled in various permutations and divided under Pizze Rosse on the menu (with tomato sauce) or Bianche (without). On the red side, there’s the seasonally-changing “Mercato,” which, currently adorned with corn, kale, cherry tomatoes and ricotta salata, has one foot still in summer and one in fall, and the top-heavy “Capricciosa,” generously paved with artichokes, prosciutto, olives and a runny-yolked egg. And without acidic tomato sauce to compete with, the White Pies tend to showcase their carefully paired ingredients even more effectively, such as the autumn-appropriate “Fungi”, strewn with hen of the woods and chanterelle mushrooms, along with funky fontina, melting red onions and fragrant thyme, and the unique “Fiori de Zucca,” where fragile, subtly-flavored zucchini flowers get counterbalanced by nutty curls of salty, briny anchovies. And then there’s the “Patate Alla Carbonara,” which, although it’s not offered during breakfast service, is essentially an array of early morning favorites in pizza form, including thinly sliced potatoes, layered on top of umami-rich gricia (a sauce made from fatty guanciale, sharp pecorino cheese and freshly cracked black pepper,) crowned with a creamy, coddled egg.
Anderer and Meyer may not have reinvented the wheel with their rustic, Roman venture, but as most New Yorkers could readily attest to, there’s simply no such thing as too much great pizza.