Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prince Street Pizza: A Princely Slice Takes Over Manhattan!

By: Anne M. Raso

I mentioned in a review a few months ago that Donatella in Chelsea had the best slice in New York but we've got a heavy duty contender that I'd like to call The Princely Slice Of Prince Street (and beyond)! It's Prince Street Pizza's Spicy Spring Soho Square, a classic Neopolitan style slice with homemade chunky fra diavolo sauce featuring custom cut Grade A Hormel pepperoni (a superior grade not commercially available to the public). The crust is deep golden brown and there's just the right chew--and the whole milk homemade lightly salted mozzarella used is just as gooey and stringy as diehard pizza lovers can dream about. The Fra Diavolo sauce has a kick, but is not painfully hot by any stretch of the imagination!

Prince Street Pizza is owned by the very friendly and customer service-oriented Frank Morano who grew up in Little Italy and who tells us that his wedding reception actually took place next door to Ray's (which opened in 1959) when Ray not only had the space that is presently Prince Street Pizza but also used the currently vacant space next store as a sit down restaurant. Morano has been in the pizza business his whole life and in the past has owned Don Pepe's in Penn Station, as well as Domenico's and Bella Donna in Staten Island. If you ask politely, he will take you downstairs to the basement to show you the two tree stumps that have been holding up the building for something like a 100 years (actor RIchard Thomas remembered this fact from when the place was still Original Ray's and asked Morano if they were still there recently)! Morano will also tell you the whole legend about Ray's Pizza (since he knew the original owner as a kid) and how it resulted in many lawsuits and impostors--but his joint is on the site of the place that was the real deal!
Stuffed Prosciutto Rice Balls
I suggest that you try the rice balls before you start on the pizza or calzone. These deep fried tasty morsels (at only .99 to $1.20 each) are quickly becoming the talk of Nolita and getting rave reviews on Yelp and other foodie websites. All the different types of rice balls look the same externally (meaning that they're fried til they're the perfect deep golden brown color) and I tried three kinds: Neapolitan Rice Balls, Stuffed Prosciutto Balls and Sicilian Rice Balls With Beef & Peas. All three were spectacular but you had the melty, gooey cheese effect the heaviest on the Neapolitans (if that's what you're after). The Sicilians are filled with the heavenly yet simple combo of beef, rice, peas and marinara sauce while the Stuffed Prosciutto Balls are filled with mozzarella, ricotta and prosciutto, making them a kind of mini calzone.
Humble Ham Calzone
And speaking of calzone, I can confidently state that Prince Street Pizza's Humble Ham calzone is the best New York has to offer. I know it's a big statement but the melting of the classic combo of the top grade Boar's Head ham and homemade mozz and ricotta positively rocks here! Why? Not only is the ham incredibly thin and tender, but the hot mozz and ricotta meld together to create almost a Bechamel style sauce. Also, the Humble Ham calzone is anything but humble--it is so stuffed, it practically explodes by the time it makes it to the customer. One portion can easily feed four people and is only $7, plus you can ask for the fra diavolo sauce for dipping if you prefer it to the marinara that already comes with this item. This calzone easily makes the ones you get at New York City street fairs taste and look like an overused Super Bowl football.
Spicy Spring Pizza
As for the pizza, Prince Street Pizza has both round (Neopolitan) and square (Sicilian). They are already famous for the square pizza which they call Soho Squares on the menu. The Sicilian is classically a heartier slice because of the thickness of the crust and you might get full on one slice. Besides the aforementioned "Spicy Spring" which caused "love at first bite" for me, I also tried Prince Perfection, aka the Signature Square. The mozz is piled high on this slice but there's also a lot more sauce than most pizzeria's use. It's a winner, and we have to say that the homemade taste of the sauce puts it in a league all its own.
Fancy Prince Pizza Slice
In terms of the Neapolitan (round pizza) I fell i in love with The Fancy Prince slice ( $3.25 a slice or $22 for a full pie), which has a delicate thin crust, fresh basil leaves chunky marinara sauce and can be made with either lightly salted or smoked whole milk mozzarella. I had a slight preference for the smoked just because it added even more depth to the flavor, but I guarantee that you will be happy whether you go smoked or unsmoked!
There are two items I will be going back to try at Prince Street Pizza which just sound mesmerizing and one of a kind--the Crazy Calabrese which is a homemade eggroll wrapper stuffed with broccoli rabe and garlic (with a side of sweet chili sauce, $2.99) and The Greene Machine, a Neapolitan slice made with pesto, mozzarella, ricotta and Gaeta olives ($3.75 or $26 for a whole pie).
It cute how many of the titles of the menu items are a play on the local street names. Morano is proud of his neighbrohood and Nolita is proud to have a pizza place which such incredibly high standards for ingredients and such a friendly and helpful staff. We say "mozzy" (as opposed to "mosey") on down to 27 Prince Street and have a slice today, and tell Frank Morano that sent you!

Prince Street Pizza
27 Prince St
New York, New York 10012
(212) 966-4100

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