The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Dear Motorino: I Love You (Plus Some Thoughts About Other Pizzerias)

omg pizza

Motorino isn't just my favorite pizzeria in New York City; it's probably my favorite pizzeria in the world.

Not that I've, like, eaten all the pizza in the world. And of course, that opinion is highly influenced by their pizza probably being the pizza I've eaten the most in my adult life*. Which is also influenced by its convenient location. (I'd call Paulie Gee's my very-close-second favorite pizzeria; I just don't go to Greenpoint as much as the East Village. My last dinner there was in September. It's been too long.) Or maybe it's because hours before my latest visit there last Saturday I had been steeping in grumpiness, and the first bite of sweet, creamy buffalo mozzarella on the just-chewy-and-thick-enough crust erased all the grumps, along with any ability to form complete sentences.


At least, that's what it sounded like in my head. Greg was sitting across from me; he could tell me whether or not I spoke in complete sentences. I think I did. A few times. (Thankfully, the success of our conversation doesn't rely on complete sentences. Our friendship is mostly based on sound effects, awkward pauses, and topics relating to poop.)

We shared the margherita ($14) and cherry stone clams ($17) pies. The mozzarella took the margherita from, "Mm, this is good, yup," to, "I see flying pastel rainbow ponies, magical ponies, omg it is so beautiful." You know how sometimes baby animals taste good in ways that older flesh cannot compare? This tasted mozzarella. Light, tender baby mozzarella plops, replete with the the flavors of youth and innocence. In buffalo milk-based cheese form.

Um, yeah, anyway. Good cheese would be all for naught without a good crust. Of course, the crust is awesome: puffy, light, flavorful, soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, not so chewy that it makes my jaw hurt, not so thick that it drowns out the toppings, not so thin that it can't stand up to the toppings or become a puddle of soggy dough. Sometimes when eating pizza I can't finish the outer rim of crust (erm, I mean cornicione), but at Motorino I made sure every bit of crust found its fizzling death in my belly of stomach acids.

lemon section

The cherry stone clam pizza topped with mozzarella, garlic, parsley butter, olive oil, and shucked clams is now one of my favorites at Motorino (the other favorites being the margherita and brussels sprouts and pancetta). Read this review on Slice to find out why. I can't write a better review of pizza than Adam, so I won't bother.

But what I will talk about that Adam doesn't is the slice of squeeze-it-yourself lemon that comes with the pizza. Have you ever been presented with a one-third cut of lemon like the one above? I haven't. My first impression was, "What the stuff?" Then I used it and realized this is how all lemons-for-squeezing should be cut. Unlike a typical wedge where you're likely to get lemon juice on your hands and a seed dropped on your dish, this seedless cut keeps the pulp away from your fingers and the shape gives you more leverage for easier squeezing. It might be dumb of me to be so amazed by the way the lemon is cut, but...I sort of am. Because it's so simple. The only question may be, "What happens to the rest of the lemon?" I didn't ask, but I'd assume they use leftover lemon in other dishes or for some other purpose.

Margherita Extra Campagnola
Pizzas from Olio Pizza e Piu

I'll also mention West Village pizzerias Olio Pizza e Più and Kesté Pizza & Vino (warning: Kesté's site opens with a Flash animation featuring a volcano-explosion sound effect, which no sane person wants to you hear me, web designers and restaurateurs? MAKE THE SUFFERING STOP), but I don't have much else to say besides that I don't like them as much as Motorino. They're not bad (although Immaculate Infatuation says Olio is terrible, which makes me wonder if I ate the same pizza or don't know how to rate it), but not as memorable.

Two pizzas in one.

For something unique, Olio's mezzaluna ($19) is a nice choice for the indecisive eater. Or the eater who wants a pizza and a calzone on the same plate, because that's what it is. (Peppino's in Bay Ridge also makes a pizza-calzone hybrid called "Pizza I Dunno.") One half is a calzone stuffed with salami and ricotta, while the other half is a pizza topped with cherry tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, and basil. It's a good combo. Kathy wrote more about it at Serious Eats.

Fried dough!

Another thing I liked at Olio and hadn't eaten elsewhere was the angioletti ($9), light-n-chewy fried pizza dough sticks topped with tomato sauce. Not that you need more dough to go with your pizza.'s fried!

filetti di pomodoro

I wouldn't label my opinion of Olio as well informed since I've only been there once. But I've been to Kesté there times and while I would recommend it if you're in the West Village, I wouldn't rate it as highly as Motorino. After eating at Motorino so many times, I've found that Kesté's crust is doughier than I prefer, although it's otherwise good—light, chewy, crispy and soft in the right places. The toppings are sometimes less successful. On my last visit, I found my filetti di pomodoro ($16) pictured above quite...sloppy. Er. Well. You tell me. Is the buffalo mozzarella supposed to be that gloopy and not melted and unevenly placed on the crust? Shouldn't the grape tomatoes be distributed better? Blah de bluh blee bluh? Sure, I'm not expecting Una Pizza Napoletana's version of filetti, but it seemed off.


If I went back to Kesté I'd stick with the regina margherita or their calzone ($16) filled with tomatoes, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, salame, and extra virgin olive oil. Ricotta, you are awesome and ought to be in more pizza-y things. (Note to self: Go to Paulie Gee's and get the "In Ricotta Da Vita." It's got crispy prosciutto, arugula, and ricotta. Pizza teleportation device, where are you?)

I guess I lied about the "I don't have much else to say" bit. I wrote less than I originally planned though because writing about pizza makes me nervous; having seen the comments on Slice, I know pizza critiquing can be intense. My weakly trickling stream of pizza knowledge is no match for fanatical New York City pizza lovers. I feeear theeeem.

* It seems wrong to include my childhood of Pizza Hut, and those heavy cheese-and-fluorescent-oil-laden slices I ate during "Pizza Day" in elementary school don't count. You know what I'm talking about: a spreading pool of melted cheese with crust somewhere underneath, suffocating.


349 E 12th Street, New York, NY 10003 (map)

Olio Pizza e Più
3 Greenwich Avenue, New York NY 10011 (map)

Kesté Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014 (b/n Jones and Cornelia streets; map)


serena / January 24, 2011 4:55 PM

OMG. So. Much. PIZZA! I still haven't made my way to Motorino yet, despite numerous attempts. But if it tops Keste, I know it's gotta be good!

Su-Lin / January 25, 2011 9:45 AM

Pizza day! I vaguely remember my school having a pizza day too! I think they were Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas that day. I think.

Yas (aboutthefood) / January 25, 2011 3:14 PM

They're lemon cheeks! I like the name, because it's they're plump cheeks you can squeeze. As you note it's the most wasteful way of cutting a lemon, as each lemon has two cheeks (like your face) or maybe three (not like your face). But hopefully they have fun uses for their lemon discards. Like for cleaning. Or lemonade. Or rubbing in the eyes of muggers.

Morten / January 27, 2011 4:56 PM

I love pizza, and agree that it's possibly "the perfect" food, but you actually think Motorino is better than the best you ate in Italy? And we still didn't go there while we were in NYC? This appears to be the only major flaw of my stay there.

Anyhow; I think we'll make you pizza at my place when you get here if we have time. There actually isn't a single really good pizza place here. Lots of mediocre to poor ones, though. It's sad, really. However, it means my homemade pizza actually seems pretty good (although, not like my favorites from Italy).

Sarah / January 30, 2011 4:24 PM

You write kind of amazing reviews...i know exactly how the pizza must have tasted when you described seeing magical pastel ponies!!! Thanks for my food porn for the day, lady!

roboppy / January 31, 2011 1:38 AM

Su-Lin: Pizza Hut Day would've been a way more exciting than the pizza I got at school! I sort of loved Pizza Hut as a kid. ..Not so much now, though.

Yas: I love the name "lemon cheeks." :D

Morten: The best pizza I've had in the US has been more memorable than the pizza I had in Italy, but Italy it seemed more likely that you'd get good pizza without trying to look for it, while here you have to know where you're going or you could end up with crap. I'm more spoiled than most though; I've eaten at three of the top four pizzerias we chose in our roundup of the top pizzerias in the country (haven't been to Pizzeria Mozza). And those three places really did make three of the best pizzas I've ever had. And they're probably not like pizza you'd find in Italy.

Sounds like you gotta start a pizza place in Bergen! ;) Not sure if you've seen our Pizza Lab posts, but I can vouch for some of those recipes cos I got to taste em. (Haven't tried to make them myself though!) Soooogooooddd.

Sarah: Thanks for reading! May you also taste the MAGICAL PASTEL PONIES!

inafryingpan / February 2, 2011 5:22 AM

Your awesome pictures made me realize just how much I miss pizza in NYC. Left NYC last year before I had a chance to try Motorino - I should have reprioritized packing that last bag and got myself a slice instead :( Just blogged about a new pizza place in Dubai myself, and kept coming back to the same thing - we need more Motorino type places, not the mass produced goop you get in those pizza hut like franchises. Sob

PerutBesi / February 4, 2011 12:30 PM

Wow! The pic of the pizza makes me crave for some pizza at this hour of the day! I'm from Malaysia & was just blog-hopping when I came across your blog :D The pizza sure looks good although the crust looks slightly thicker than the ones we have here in Malaysia :) The best pizza that I had so far is from this restaurant called Sherwood in a small city called Kuantan: Their beef pepperoni pizza has generous portions of cheese & pepperoni that's just SO delicious in every bite!!

Chris / February 8, 2011 4:35 PM

Great Post! I think i'm just so used to going to grimaldi's because paulie gee's is so far that i never get out to other pizza places. I know grimaldi's is super touristy, but it's still not half bad. I've been to keste and like it, but have always been meeting to get to motorino's. i just asked my friend if he wanted to to go this weekend. i think the squeezing the lemon is a great idea.

Katie / May 17, 2011 6:04 PM

I really like paulie gee's. I also haven't been to Motorino yet because paulie gee's is so close to me, and is really tasty and has a great neighborhood vibe (how can you hate a place where the owner stops by your table EVERY visit to check that you're happy with your selection?) But i feel that i will have to get out and do the Motorino thing... are they the same ones who do pizza at the brooklyn flea as well?

Something random from the archives