After getting everything packed up into the shipping crates after the AES Convention held recently in New York City, it was around 9 p.m. We were dirty, tired and hungry. I suggested a place where we could get a pizza and drink a couple beers for our last meal in Manhattan. Todd says, "How about we get three pizzas and drink a LOT of beer?"
I wondered why that I like that guy so much.
I suggested a couple places down in the Greenwich Village area that I was told have great pizza - Lombardi's and John's Pizza. Simon balked at that saying that he wanted to go back to the hotel and clean up a bit and then eat. "It's a 10 minute cab ride back to the hotel, then it's a 20 minute cab ride down to the Village. Let's see if we can find something close to the hotel."
We got back to the hotel about 9:15 and cleaned up a bit. We met back up around 9:30 in the lobby and asked one of the bellmen at the hotel where we could go get a good New York style pizza and lots of beer. He said, "Well, most of the places in Midtown close up early because of all the office workers here."
He talked to one of the other bellmen for a moment and the other guy said, "There's a place just down and across the street called Naples 45. But I think they close at 10, so you'd better hustle."
We walked east of the hotel, across Lexington Ave. to the Metropolitan Life building, just north of Grand Central Station. There was Naples 45. We hoped it wasn't too late as we were walking in at 9:40 p.m. The maitre d' greeted us and I asked if it was too late to get some pizzas and lots of beer. He said, "Oh, no, no, no, sir! Please, come on in and we'll get you fed and some beer in you."
Naples 45 is famous for their Neapolitan pizza baked in a wood fired oven. In fact, cookbook author John Mariani, who also authors an on-line newsletter "The Virtual Gourmet", called the Naples 45 pizza as one of the 10 Best Pizzas in America. Mariani also lists John's and Lombardi's as part of the 10 best in the country.
There weren't a lot of people in the place, being that it was so late. But the decor was very nice and comfortable. It reminded me of an old world Italian restaurant. It had a nice bar area and a couple people were seated there watching the Monday night football game.
It turns out that Naples 45 is part of the Patina Restaurant Group that has a number of restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles. Many of the company's restaurants are at famous destinations and venues such as Grand Central Station, the Met Life Building (as this one was), Rockefeller Center, Macy's, Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
There was an interesting place just down the street from Naples 45 that was also owned by the Patina group called The Beer Bar. However, it was closed when we walked past. We said we needed to try that sometime when we all came back to New York.
The waiter came over and gave us our menus. We were pretty much set on getting pizza, but they didn't have an a la carte pizza menu where you could get a pizza and pick your toppings. OK, we'd work around that.
Actually, pizza was just a small part of the restaurant's dinner menu. They also had pasta dishes, along with steaks, chicken and seafood dishes. They also had a pretty basic selection of wine to choose from, but that was OK with us. We were drinking beer. They even had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap at the bar. We were fine and dandy with that.
I saw on the menu they had a pepperoni pizza that said something about sausage. I was thinking that it came with Italian sausage so I ordered one of those. Simon thought that sounded good and asked if we wanted to get a large. The waiter said, "Well, that's about 18" in diameter. If all three of you would want the same, you could do that. Two guys, that's a lot of food."
Todd wanted a margherita pizza, so Simon and I ordered two of the pepperoni sausage in the 10" personal size. Todd got his margherita and he wanted a salad along with his meal. Simon and I decided to get two orders of the caprese salad for our last meal in New York City. And we ordered more beer.
We got our salads and finished them pretty quickly. The waiter came back over and said, "Gentlemen, the bartender is leaving at 10 p.m., so if you want more beer you'll need to order it now."
I was kind of incredulous with his statement. I said, "No one else knows how to pour beer around here?"
He said, "The wait staff is not allowed to pour alcoholic beverages." I wondered if that was a state law, a city law or what. He said, "No, it's a company rule. But I've worked other places over the years where the wait staff was prohibited from being behind the bar at all times, as well."
We just shrugged our shoulders and I said, "OK, give us a pitcher of the Sierra Nevada."
The waiter said, "We don't do pitchers of beer, sir."
I kinda laughed and said, "OK, well, then bring us six glasses of Sierra Nevada," even though we each had about a half of beer in front of us.
Before our beers came back, another waiter brought us out our pizzas. Well, I found out what they were talking about as their sausage was on the pepperoni. To Neapolitan Italians, pepperoni IS a spicy sausage, but sliced into small discs and served on pizza. Simon and I didn't care - we were hungry and dug in.
And the pizza was fabulous. Light crust that had a nice crisp bite to it. Good spiciness to the pepperoni. The sauce was tangy and the mozzarella cheese was fresh and flavorful. God, it was good.
It was exactly what all three of us were looking for. Great pizza, great beer, and a nice relaxing atmosphere after a long show. I don't think we said six words between the three of us for the first five minutes we were eating the pizzas other than, "Ummm..." or "Oh, man..."
We finally finished up about 10:20 and apologized to our waiter for keeping him so late. He said, "Oh, don't worry a thing about it. We have to get the place ready for the breakfast staff tomorrow, so we're always here after we close."
Todd said, "You guys serve breakfast here?"
The waiter turned and pulled out a breakfast menu and handed it to Todd. It wasn't all that extensive, but had the basics for breakfast. And the prices seemed very reasonable for New York City. Todd said, "Wow, we could have come here for breakfast, too."
The bill with the pizzas, salads and beers came to $130 bucks before tip. (At $6.00 a beer for a pint glass, it added up quickly.) I plopped a $30 buck tip on there for the guy who, other than making us order beer before the bartender left, gave us perfect service all night. And even though he said he had to stay, I could see that a couple of the other people in the restaurant were waiting for us to get out.
I would still like to try John's or Lombardi's at some point in time, but if Naples 45 is indicative of some of the best in the U.S., I'm mightily impressed. It was nothing like I'd ever had before and I can't wait to get back to New York to try a great Neapolitan pizza again.