Update (7/20/09): UPN has closed. Motorino will be moving into its place.
Although reliable sources have told me for years that Una Pizza Napoletana churns out the best pizza in New York City, I've avoided going because it's infamously expensive, has a love-it-or-hate-it reputation (partially influenced by its high prices and unaccommodating hours of Thursday through Sunday after 5 p.m.) and no one has really pushed me to go there. But when Alex visited me about three weeks ago, I used his presence and vegetarian diet as an excuse to try it out.
How expensive could a pizza be? According to this review on Slice, the pies were $16.95 each in 2004. Today they're $21 each. On the "pizza pricing" scale it sounds like a lot, but on the "nice Saturday night dinner" scale, it's not likely to give your wallet reason to commit suicide. Hell, it was a Valentine's Day (not that any of us were celebrating—at least three of us were single).
Still, $21 for a single serving pie? They mean business. It may look simple, but if the three-panel "menu" has anything to say about it, it's not. I say "menu" because the actual listing of dishes only takes up half of one panel:
- Marinara: San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, fresh garlic, fresh basil, sea salt.
- Margherita: San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, sea salt.
- Bianca: Mozzarella di bufala, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, sea salt.
- Filetti: Fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, sea salt.
The section explaining their dough is twice as long as that.
The rest of the "menu" gives a quick primer on the history of pizza and explains how they pride themselves on using the best ingredients—buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil from Southern Italy, Sicilian sea salt, fresh garlic, fresh cherry tomato, fresh basil—and baking their pizzas in a wood-fired brick oven. it ends with, "Taste may be an opinion, but quality is a fact." If you think it tastes like crap, you can suck it—the ingredients are QUALITY!
The four of us—Alex, Sophie, Greg, and me—ordered three Margheritas and one Filetti. (I can't imagine getting the marinara unless I hated cheese. Isn't cheese at least half of the joy? Sure, the customer could also be cheese intolerant, but...but...but. LIVE WITH THE PAIN, I DON'T KNOW.) The Filetti was my idea; anytime I can get a pizza with cherry tomatoes instead of sauce, nothing else exists. My mind fills with dancing images of bisected, juice-oozing tomato babies, as evidenced by the loads of cherry tomato-ed pizzas I ate in Rome. It's a shame this topping isn't more popular over here.
Of course, I liked the Filetti. It combined many good things into one mouthful: sweet buffalo mozzarella, sweet lil' tomatoes, sweet basil, sweet olive oil, and surprising bits of
sweet sea salt on a thin, slightly chewy crust—nicely puffed up at the edge—that tasted of...dough. You know. Wheatiness. And when I describe everything as "sweet," I mean subtle, like being caressed by the fuzzy, nubbly ears of baby bunnies sweet, not diabetes sweet.
The only "meh" part was that the pie was soggy in the center where all the cheese and tomato juices convened, thus causing soggy, messy slice tips. Maybe that's how it is; I dunno. Naturally, we sopped up the oil-cheese-tomato sauce with our crusts. Like hell we were going to let that go to waste.
(On a random note, while we were waiting for our pizzas we noticed a woman at a neighboring table who left all her crust behind. A pile. Of crust. Left to perish. Unfortunately, the weight of our appalled words and facial expressions carried to her table and she probably thought we were crazy/rude/assholes. But seriously? You only ate the center of your pizza made with dough that is made in "the oldest and most difficult way," says the menu, and takes two days to complete? Whatever floats your boat. I tried to justify by telling myself that she just had a small stomach.)
Sorry that my pizza descriptions suck. I'm not well learned in the art of pizza. Slice has it all covered anyway; I can't add anything valuable to the chatter.
There's the upskirt. Lots of crispy bits. Carbon-y crispy bits.
My crust had a tumor.
We all liked the Margherita too, of course, pretty much for the same reasons as above but with sweet tomato mash instead of the semi-solid version.
I saw that UPN is "kind of worth it" because whether or not you want to pay $21 for a pie depends on how much you like pizza and how valuable a dollar is to you. A $21 pie isn't small change. I don't mind splurging when I think it's worth it though, and for my first experience I thought it was worth it. Will I go back to UPN someday? Probably—just not in the near future.