The Boss Inspired Great Calzone Taste Off of 2010
My first thought when George Steinbrenner died two weeks ago wasn’t of Yankee Stadium or championship trophies, it was of Larry David’s voice. I guess I’m a bigger Seinfeld fan than Yankees fan. One of my favorite Steinbrenner episodes of Seinfeld is when he becomes obsessed with George’s lunchtime calzone stuffed with cheese, pepperoni and eggplant, and starts making George bring him one everyday. The spell that calzone casts on Steinbrenner always makes me crave one. So, to honor The Boss, I headed out to some of Midtown’s most notable pizzerias in search of Midtown’s best calzone. See what I found after the jump.
PAPA PERRONE TRUCK
Papa Perrone’s Pizza Truck (55th btw. Mad+Park) has been serving calzones as a special on Tuedays for a couple of weeks now. They have a normal cheese variety and a “Bensonhurst Special,” which comes with ham or meatballs. I went with the ham. Papa Perrone’s calzones are really loaded with cheese. The ricotta and mozzarella are so prevalent that I could actually feel my arteries clogging after a few bites. This is kind of a good problem though, because the cheese tasted great. Stringy mozzarella and creamy ricotta – just the way things should be. Papa Perrone’s had the best cheese of all the calzones I tried.
The ham was sliced thin like sandwich meat. I actually liked this more than the thicker chunks of ham I’m used to seeing in calzones. It does mean that the cheese and ham are basically in layers rather than mixed all together though. My calzone also could have used a little more time in the oven. The crust didn’t have that golden brown hue and was a little gummy. I don’t really mind that too much, but if you’re looking for a really crisp crust, you might be disappointed because they turn these around pretty fast in the truck. They give you some heated up marinara on the side (I really hate it when places give you a little cup of refrigerated tomato sauce).
Perrone’s charges $8.50 for their calzones. They’re quite large and offer a ton of cheese, but I got a little bored before I finished it. I’d be happy to split one and also get a slice or something else.
Next up is Lazzara’s (on 38th btw. 7+8). They have cheese, ham, broccoli and spinach options. I stuck with ham but I was very tempted by the spinach. Lazzara’s calzone isn’t nearly as big as Perrone’s, but it’s very well made. As you can see, the crust is a nice golden brown.
Inside, the cheese and ham are all mixed up offering a more consistent meal. Although I didn’t like the cheese or ham as much in Perrone’s calzone. Lazzara’s charges $6.50 for the ham calzone, but they also charge you 75 cents for a side of tomato sauce. That’s pretty lame but the sauce didn’t add a lot in this case so not getting it is a viable option. It was heated though, so that’s good. All in all, it was a nice, satisfying lunch but nothing spectacular. I will probably go back to try the spinach.
PATZERIA’S PERFECT PIZZA
Patzeria Perfect Pizza (46th btw. 7+8) hasn’t gotten much attention on Midtown Lunch, but it’s got a pretty good reputation (and it’s close to my office), so I decided to give their calzone a try. They list cheese, pepperoni, ham, meatball and sausage as options. They just take an already made calzone, slice it open and put the toppings in there though, so I bet they would put in anything that’s readily available behind the counter. I didn’t realize this before ordering so I just went with the sausage.
Patzeria’s calzone was very unremarkable. The crust was beyond crisp and was kind of hard. I don’t think sitting in the window for hours had done this thing any favors. The cheese was nothing special but the sausage was pretty tasty. It comes with a side of heavily seasoned (heated) tomato sauce. I’m a little suspicious of this sauce (like I think it might have come from a jar), but this calzone benefited more from its accompanying sauce than any of the others, so it’s a good thing it’s there.
Patzeria charges $7.95, which is definitely steep for what you’re getting. The calzone wasn’t terrible (I think it’s kind of hard to make a terrible calzone considering how much of it is simply melted mozzarella). I’d consider going back since it’s the closest to where I work, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
My calzone search seemed like a good reason to finally check out the very well liked Previti Pizza (41st btw. Park+Lex), and I’m extremely glad that I did. Their menu prompts you to choose any one of their toppings to go in your calzone. After perusing the list, I knew what I had to do; this was my chance to try The Costanza: cheese, pepperoni and eggplant. They charged me extra for the second topping (I fully expected this), but they didn’t give me any trouble. This opens up a whole world of calzone experimentation using Previti’s extensive list of toppings.
Obviously this is another place that cuts open the calzone and shoves your chosen toppings inside. Previti’s cheese was good, and I especially appreciated the ricotta cheese that had some kind of seasoning mixed in. The pepperoni and eggplant were a little on the skimpy side, but nothing offensive. In fact, I was happy that it wasn’t loaded with the toppings because the whole thing comes together really well. Previti gives you a side of tomato sauce and it was the freshest tasting tomato sauce I had at any of these places, but they didn’t heat it up! It’s very disappointing (and shocking) that the place that gets everything else right managed to get this wrong.
Previti’s calzones are $4.95 with one topping. Mine was $5.71 before tax so I guess they charged me 76 cents for that second topping. That’s a great deal considering the quality of the calzone and what I paid other places. I can’t wait to go back and experiment with different combinations.
My final stop was La Bellezza (49th btw. Lex+3rd). Their calzone looks more like some sort of cheese dome than what I expect a calzone to look like, with the top of the crust rising well above the rest of the ingredients. And the star of La Bellezza’s calzone is that crust. It’s great. The top portion was thin and perfectly crisp. I think all that space between the cheese and the crust might be the key. This is another place that slices open a calzone and tosses your toppings in there, but they only advertise cheese, ham, ground beef and sausage on their menu. I went with the sausage.
Maybe calling it a cheese volcano would have been more appropriate. Between the ocean of cheese flowing from the calzone and its unusual shape, it was a little difficult to eat and I definitely needed a fork and knife to start it off. The cheese was good and there was a ton of mozzarella, which is just how I like it. The sausage was pretty unnecessary as it is completely drowned in cheese and there isn’t enough of it to really stand out. The whole thing had some seasoning thrown in which really helps calzone from becoming monotonous. The cheese made this a difficult one to finish, although I think a large part of that is calzone fatique setting in. The calzone comes with a side of (heated) heavily seasoned tomato sauce.
At $5.75 La Bellezza’s calzone is a pretty good option for lunch especially if you really care about the crust. Just make sure you’re ready to eat a ton of cheese as well.
If I had to pick a winner from this group, it would definitely be Previti. Theirs came closest to the legendary status of the Seinfeld calzone. The price, quality and number of options makes them my go-to calzone provider for the time being, but I’ll keep my eyes open for challengers.
Papa Perrone’s Truck, 55th btw. Madison+Park, 917-880-1432
Lazzara’s, 221 West 38th St. (btw. 7+8), 212-944-7792
Patzeria Perfect Pizza, 231 West 46th St. (btw. B’way+7), 212-575-7646
Previti Pizza, 122 East 41st (btw. Lex+Park), 212-557-4992
La Bellezza’s, 145 East 49th (btw. Lex+3rd), 212-871-3223