Calzone Hunting: My Weeklong Quest for Midtown’s Best
Last Monday morning, while brainstorming potential lunchtime meals, I was hit with a sudden, intense craving for a calzone (pizza’s oft-forgotten, heavier sibling). This was no ordinary craving, either – it was the kind of craving that can haunt a person for days on end. For whatever reason, I knew that absolutely nothing would satisfy my lunchtime desires except for a calzone. The problem, of course, was that I had never ordered a calzone in midtown. It’s hard enough to find decent pizza in the neighborhood, so how the hell am I supposed to find a respectable calzone?
Naturally, I turned to our archives for help and stumbled upon this gem of a post from 2010. “Perfect,” I thought. Now I had five delectable options to choose from, each with a detailed description and photographic summary. Something was wrong, though… this was too easy. What kind of Midtown Lunch’er am I if I just stick to what’s already been explored? So, I made the difficult decision to forge ahead on a different path and test some new waters. Why should Midtown Lunch readers have to settle for just five calzones? We should familiarize ourselves with all of the calzones! And so began my weeklong quest to find the most worthwhile calzone in midtown.
I established just a few parameters for my journey. Nothing bothers me more than eating pizza that’s been sitting under a heat lamp for some extended period of time, so why should calzones be any different? At all three places I visited this past week, I made sure to call 5-10 minutes in advance and order something hot and freshly prepared. For the sake of comparison, I ordered the same ingredients in my calzones at all three stops – chicken cutlet and pepperoni. Why chicken cutlet and pepperoni? I don’t know, but it was clearly a great idea.
Pizza Rustica – 817 2nd Ave. (btw 43+44th)
Inspired by Dan’s review of the frittata at Pizza Rustica, I went here for my first pick. Priced at a meager $6.50, this was by the far the cheapest calzone I would encounter. This thing was about average size for a calzone, but reasonably filling nonetheless. By nature, I think calzones are kind of heavy, so it’s unusual to find one that doesn’t fill you up. For the price, this was a decent meal, but it certainly didn’t blow my mind.
The cheese was hot and gooey, but the whole thing seemed like it was thrown together a bit haphazardly, and the ingredients were of a pretty generic quality. The chicken cutlet was too soft (the breading in particular), tasting almost like it had been microwaved. The pepperoni was fine, but was very densely packed into one spot – we’re talking two or three bites bursting with pepperoni, yet none to be found throughout the rest of the calzone. One reason I’ll sometimes opt for a calzone instead of pizza is the ricotta cheese. This guy had so little ricotta, if any at all, that I couldn’t even taste it. The bread was hard and toasty, but not in a good way. Maybe it was sitting in the oven too long?
When I left, my craving for a calzone was satisfied, but my sense of adventure was not. Midtown Lunch deserves a better calzone!
Two Boots – In the food court at Grand Central Terminal
Generally, I enjoy the pizza at Two Boots. They’ve got some interesting combinations on their menu that I find to be pretty tasty, if not a bit overpriced, so I figured they can probably put together an alright calzone. After tax, this baby came out to $8.66, but the higher price was totally justified by its size… it’s huge! I was pleased to see that the bread had the same cornmeal crust that their pizza is made with, crunchy little dots and everything. Tasty stuff!
This definitely one-upped Pizza Rustica’s calzone in some ways, but was far from flawless. First, the good – the meat ingredients were way better. Two Boots uses a “Creole chicken,” which adds a tasty Cajun kick to each bite. There was also more ricotta in this one, which I appreciated. However, I still had issues with the distribution of ingredients throughout the calzone. One half was mostly plain (see picture above) while the other half was packed to the brim with pepperoni, chicken, and ricotta (see picture below). Had I been splitting this with somebody else, which seems appropriate given the size, one person would have been totally shafted.
Also, the bread was way too soft and didn’t provide the necessary support needed to contain the gooey innards of the calzone. It may have just been soggy from sitting in the tin container too long, but some bites of bread seemed almost undercooked to me. Midtown Lunch can do better!
Abitino’s Pizza – 936 2nd Ave. (btw 49 and 50)
Midtown Lunch has mentioned Abitino’s once or twice in the past, but has mostly written it off as another generic pizzeria. After my visit, I’m happy to write off the pizza as well, which looked pretty bland and like it had been sitting out on the counter for way too long. Though, because I called up Abitino’s on my walk over, my calzone was made to order and it looked absolutely nothing like the pizza. In fact, it looked quite good!
The bread was practically glowing. It was toasty without being burnt, and it was firm without being too hard. The size of the calzone was average, but again, an average calzone is bigger and more filling than pretty much any other viable lunch option. There was a good deal of ricotta here, which blended excellently with the other cheese. The meat was hot and flavorful, and everything was actually distributed evenly throughout the calzone! I got the impression that someone had handcrafted this baby with love.
Without a doubt, this calzone tops the two that came before it – so much so that I couldn’t bear to try any new ones after this (also, three calzones in one week is a lot of calzones to eat in one week). I’m not going to claim that this was a perfect chicken and pepperoni calzone, but I seriously cannot imagine what a better one would be like. This is exactly the calzone I hoped to discover at the start of the week. At $9.20 after tax, Abitino’s also makes the most expensive calzone of the bunch, but was it worth it? YES.
Got your own calzone rec? Feel free to put it in the comments…