When one of your nearest neighbors is the Italian megastore, Eataly, it takes a lot to stand out with regionally-sourced products and refined yet rustic cooking. But Roman export Obica (which, up to recently, was spelled Obika) has flourished for the last 10 years with an especially well-defined mission statement — “The World’s First Mozzarella Bar” — with a small café on Madison Avenue, and popular outposts from L.A. to London to Dubai to Tokyo. That’s why, when it comes to their new, sleekly stylish, 120-seat restaurant in Flatiron, they’ve smartly retained a distinct dairy through-line, with their prized and inarguably spectacular cheese — DOP-certified mozzarella made with pure water buffalo milk — flown in from Campania twice a week.
If Obica is merely a pit stop during your day of shopping between Union and Madison Squares, you’d be well-served by ordering the “Obica Experience” ($35 per person), a concise and extremely well-priced assortment of their greatest hits. But if you’re prepared to broach the menu at a more leisurely pace, construct a sprawling meal of salty Salumis, such as Prosciutto San Daniele and Speck Alto Adige, and sprightly Verdure, like delicate Datterini Tomatoes dabbed with Basil Pesto or Marinated Artichokes from Gragnano, to accompany as many silken globes of cheese as you can handle without popping a lactase pill.
There’s the firm and salty Buffalo Classica — supremely delicate and mild, it’s the gold-standard of what a water buffalo-based mozzarella should be — as well as the Buffalo Affumicato, which comes naturally smoked. And we can never say no to Burrata (how can you go wrong with cheese soaked in cream and stuffed inside cheese?), and the Burrata Tartufa is a heart stopping extravagance; its supple, milky innards comingling with the heady, musky perfume of black truffle oil and shaved black truffles. It’s also particular steal at only $15, especially when you consider that the French bistro, Racines, pairs burrata with morels for a whopping $35!
It’s another tall order to stand out when it comes to pizza in New York, but considering the provenance of that mozzarella, Obica has what it takes to make a truly destination-worthy pie. And while we couldn’t resist sneaking rounds of little melted cheese puddles and munching them on their own, the whole proved just as great as the sum of its parts — with a barely-cooked sauce of organic tomatoes, which toed the line perfectly between sweet and acidic, and an ethereal crust, made from dough prepared with stone-ground PETRA flour from Molino Quigley, and left to rise for 48 hours.
Considering that the pastas are made in house, you might as well just say no to carb-counting, and continue on to a traditional progression of Primi and Carni. The Taglierini di Bottarga e Granchio is a seafood-obsessive’s dream come true; thin, homemade noodles made with Sardinian Mullet Roe, and tossed with Crab Ragu and Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, and even the simple-sounding Free-Range Chicken Breast appeals (it hails from Violet Hill Farm), especially when you realize that it’s merely a vehicle for even more of that fantastic mozzarella.
Eataly may provide convenient one-stop-shopping for most of your Italy-sourced needs, but when it comes to all things dairy, we’re officially head-over-heels for Obica.