I’ve written about Pizza Club quite a few times on this blog. And if you’ve been paying attention you know that Jason Feirman (of I Dream of Pizza) is the guy who organizes the monthly event. Well, in November I was very excited to try out a new spot that I had been reading about. I even switched my schedule at work to be able to come on a Thursday night. Jason had picked Donatella, which is Donatella Arpaia’s new pizzeria in Chelsea. And neither of us had yet to try it out.
When I ran into some of Jason’s friends outside the restaurant, they informed me Jason would not be attending. He was quite sick and it was in the best interest of everybody that he stay home and get better. A pizza club without Jason? How could this possibly be?
Well, we managed. Ordering pizzas was a little difficult, but in his honor we decided to order just about every pie on the menu. Jason would have wanted it that way. Photos were snapped, comments were made, and pizza was consumed. But when we tried to divide the bill, we were all left a little baffled without Jason’s math skills.
So did Jason miss out on amazing pizza? Not really. It was the quickest of all the pizza clubs to date and I feel like a lot of it had to do with the fact that the staff wanted us out. We were a table of 10 and we didn’t spend too much money. No big wine, no big pastas. Just one of every pizza on the menu. The server was nice enough at first, then eventually stopped paying attention to us. And Donatella herself was walking around, but we may as well have been dirt on the floor.
Donatella is a big food personality. She’s a restaurateur and is credited as chef here. She’s been in the news over the years for her famous break-up’s with big time chefs at other restaurants – most notably with David Burke at their once lively spot davidburke & donatella. That spot is now known as David Burke’s Townhouse (so you can guess who got the eatery in the divorce). Most of the tabloids and blogs blamed the conflicts on Donatella’s difficult personality. And with the looks of her gold-plated pizza oven with her own name emblazoned on it, I imagine she has a bit of an ego problem.
Now I don’t know Donatella, but I sensed some attitude as we were continually ignored the entire meal. I was amazed as we left and she was standing at the host stand. I made full eye contact with her and she completely ignored me as I left her restaurant. No goodbye, no smile, no thank you, no come again. I felt really unwelcomed and most likely will not be returning. Whether she told me to or not.
Okay, enough about the woman, how was the pizza? It was alright. Nothing groundbreaking in my mind. Donatella studied pizza-making in Naples and had a legendary pizza oven maker build her a wood-oven right in this location in Chelsea. Yet I still don’t think it made her pizzas any better than the big neo-Neapolitan spots that have been around for awhile now (Kesté, Motorino, Luzzo’s, etc.).
In fact, I think they paled in comparison. We started with the margherita (as any pizza judge should). Immediately I could tell the dough was too soft without any crispness. It was lacking much basil and the fresh cheese and tangy tomato sauce made the pizza rather soggy. It was one of those pizzas that falls apart as soon as you pick them up. It required a fork and knife, which to me is not a good thing.
The soft and soggy issue continued throughout the meal. I think in general most of the pizzas were undercooked (they came to the table in under 2 minutes) and they were all rather messy as the ingredients continued parting ways with the thin crust. The charred and marinated mushrooms on the Capellacio were chewy and dry, but were still no match for the wet mozzarella. The Carita was ridiculously salty. When you have anchovies and olives on a pizza, why also add capers? It wasn’t the capers that bothered me but the combination of all that salinity without any sort of balance.
The Enzo (named after the constructor of the oven) was the favorite at the table. It was well-balanced with interesting and fresh toppings: sausage, broccoli rabe, and smoked mozzarella. I also enjoyed the Diavola with spicy salami, chili oil, and pecorino. Although, again too many of the same flavors – I didn’t think you needed both chili oil and spicy salami! I don’t know what they taught Donatella in Naples, but balance is important in constructing pleasing flavors.
I think in many ways the pizza was missing the same thing the service was: a little love. They were soggy, limp, and uninspired. Many at the table liked the thinness of the crust and the freshness of the toppings. But I couldn’t get past the messy composition and lack of balance. Not to mention the hostess’ lack of graciousness towards her guests. So while I don’t wish Jason was subjected to the restaurant’s flaws, I do wish he was there to give us an opinion on the pizza. And to have helped us figure out how to divide the bill.
Is Donatella’s the best pizza in NY? You can train in Naples and have a special oven built for you, but the pizza was undercooked and out of balance. It gets a 5 out of 10.
|184 Eighth Avenue (between West 19th Street and West 20th Street)