Pizza Goes Underground at the Grotto. Literally.
Today was going to mark Midtown Lunch: Downtown NYC’s first foray into Chinatown, but for that occasion we wanted to make it special. At first we thought flowers or balloons, but that seemed so cliche. Then we thought about getting you a kitten, but buying someone an unexpected pet is never a good idea in NYC. Finally, we decided on the perfect surprise, something we knew would make your eyes light up and maybe even cause you to shed a tear of joy. Unfortunately, the surprise isn’t quite ready. But it will be. And soon.
In the mean time, let me take you on a little stroll down New Street to the aptly named Grotto. Located in the basement at 69 New Street, the restaurant is fairly dungeon-esque with no windows, no natural light to speak of, but thankfully a pretty good ventilation system. Not that you’ll want to inhale anything other than the heavenly aromas emanating from the ovens. These guys are taking pizza to unseen levels as far as New York pizza is concerned, with spicy buffalo chicken, chicken parm, and bacon jalapeno pizzas.
I made a couple of trips to this cavernous hideaway in the name of Midtown Lunch: Downtown NYC and the fruits of my first raid can be seen above. On the right is your standard slice ($2.25), but on the left is the mighty chicken parm slice ($3.50). The parm slice was rewarmed, but during lunch they’re constantly slinging those plain pies so you should manage to get one fresh. The crust on both is thin and pleasantly chewy, definitely in the New York style and damn tasty. The chicken parm tasted, well, like a sandwich but with a better balance of bread to meat to sauce than most of the sandwiches I’ve had downtown. If you can’t decide whether to get a sandwich or a slice for lunch, this is without a doubt the perfect compromise. The only problem I ran into is the exact same one I ran into with the sammies: pockets of sauce with no meat. Apparently it’s unavoidable when dealing with chicken parm entities.
For my second trip, I again went with the regular slice (to serve as my control in the experiment and also just ‘cuz it’s a damn good slice) and the spicy buffalo chicken slice ($3.50). They’re using the same breaded cutlets they are on the chicken parm slice, which ain’t a bad thing. The sauce was almost certainly Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or some derivative of that sauce. When I worked at a pizzeria back home, we made something very similar and it flew out of our kitchen. This one was good, but lacked a little bit of that kick I remember from the one back home, which makes me think they watered down the hot sauce they used. Still a good slice no matter how you, er, slice it.
And the now obligatory upskirt shot for you true pizza hunters. If pizza just isn’t your thing, there’s still no reason not to come here. The Grotto markets itself as a real ristorante with pasta, sandwiches, various Italian entrees, and daily specials. I caught a look at a couple of guys next to me eating the sandwiches and they actually made me a little jealous. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to trying out the bacon jalapeno slice just yet, but mark my words, I’ll be back soon enough. That’s something you can bank on.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Awesome pizzas I’ve never really seen anywhere else in the area
- It’s just good pizza, what more do you want?
- For Italian food that’s not a sandwich or a slice, this is where I like to go
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Spicy Buffalo Chicken pizza isn’t all that spicy
- Toppings like this are an abomination to the pizza tradition
- I’m claustrophobic and don’t do well with underground restaurants
The Grotto, 69 New Street, 212-809-6990 or 212-809-6991