Flatiron Lunch: Forget the Pizza, Maffei’s Baked Stuffed Fish is Where It’s At
Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Please give a warm welcome to Jason Lam from the blog Me So Hungry. Every Friday at 10am he’ll post about lunches in Murray Hill south, Grammercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.
Everybody loves pizza, and it’s not unusual to see my co-workers come back to the office from Maffei Pizza (on 6th Ave. and 22nd) with a Grandma slice. It’s very much your usual New York pizzeria –pizza, pastas, soups, and parmesan sandwiches. But what I think sets them apart is their baked stuffed fish.
Salmon or flounder with bread crumb stuffing, mixed shrimp and imitation crab meat. Some bites are delicious and buttery, some tasteless, dry or drowning in oil. Nonetheless, I can’t stop getting it. Perhaps it’s because of the heaping portions that include a side, for which I usually pick the best looking pasta that day. At $8.75, it’s at least two meals. Plus you get garlic knots or buttered bread. Carbo load! (BTW, Salmon > Flounder, IMO)
Of all the pastas I’ve seen them offer as a side dish the best pasta I’ve had there recently was the Gorgonzola Gnocchi. Dense creamy cheese sauce with a strong Gorgonzola aroma over the potato pasta dumplings. I can see it being a Mac N Cheese lover’s dream. Sadly, they don’t have this every day. I’ve only seen it once as a special, so good luck.
I’d pass on the lasagna and spaghetti & meatballs. Those are my favorite things in the world, but sadly it’s underwhelming here. I think it’s the meat filler, which makes for a spongy meatball.
Now here we’ll talk about the pizza. I was never a fan of Maffei’s pizza, which happens to be the local favorite of my co-workers. Could it be that I don’t understand New York pizza or at least pizza by the slice? I did grow up on Domino’s down South, and my best friend in high school crashed his Jeep Cherokee to get to Papa John’s. We agreed it was well worth it after we ate it. And when I moved to New York over seven years ago, I couldn’t wait to try Pizza Hut’s Big New Yorker pizza. What I found in New York is that you get a slice from a pizza that’s been sitting out for hours and then reheated. I’m used to the pizza that burns the roof of
your mouth because it’s just been cooked.
New York pizza –it took me a while to get it. I went into Maffei’s once and happen to get a fresh Grandma slice straight out of the oven. Okay, I got it in that brief moment and understood New York, the crust and its water. Maybe it’s all a matter of eating fresh pizza. Perhaps that’s part of the reason popular pizzerias are good –slices go as quick as they’re taken out of the oven. Makes sense.
Maffei’s is a well-rounded New York pizzeria with a loyal local following. You get what you expect. You’ll hear New York accents, a rarity these days in New York. They have a rug that says “Pizza.” The guys there are nice and generous. One time I handed my money and one of my quarters dropped into the marinara sauce. They told me to forget about it.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I love hefty portions that can feed two or me twice
- I like a good ol’ local pizza shop.
- I’ve never met a grandma slice I didn’t like
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I don’t get New York pizza by the slice.
- Some of the standard pasta dishes are disappointing
- (Oh I forgot to mention) I don’t like the dry breaded chicken that’s occasionally in the pastas.
- I’m afraid to get that quarter Jason dropped into the sauce
[Post review thoughts: After writing this and thinking about all my past experience with Maffei's, that Gorgonzola Gnocchi is truly the only thing I can strongly recommend enough to walk those extra blocks for. Here's hoping one day they'll make it a daily or at least weekly standard, because I really think it's something special.]
Maffei Pizza, 688 6th Ave (@ 22nd St), 212-929-0949