319 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211 (at Devoe Street; map); 718-599-8899; motorinopizza.com
Getting There: L train to Graham Avenue; walk 1 block south from train
Pizza Style: Neapolitan; 10-inch pies, enough for one person
Oven Type: Wood-burning
The Skinny: Based on what I've had so far, the only Neapolitan-style pizza in New York better than this one right now is Una Pizza Napoletana. Excellent bready crust with great hole structure. Typical Naples-style pies along with some more inventive pizzas. Affordable, too!
Price: Most pizzas here are in the $10 to $13 range, with cheapest being Marinara ($9) and priciest being Pugliese ($15). Visa/MC/AmEx, cash
OK, sit down, homeslices, because I've got news for you.
That new Motorino place in Williamsburg?
I got this email from my coworker Raphael Saturday night: "It's good. Possibly very good. What I had last night was Franny's-caliber. I've got some not-so-great pics (I'll write up a quick review if you like), but you should get out there and do a review ASAP."
Well, I was heading to the Yura Yura Teikoku show in Williamsburg Sunday night, so I figured I'd leave a little early and hit up Motorino beforehand. And then, I had to go back yesterday for lunch for a second take on what I thought I had tasted and felt the night before: Right now, at this moment, Motorino is spittin' some of the best new pizza in New York from of its wood-burning oven.
And it's totally affordable. Pizzas run from $9 (Marinara) to $15 (Pugliese, with sausage), with the majority between $11 and $13. No $21 pizzas here.
That this pizza is amazing seems unlikely. The guy behind it, Belgian Mathieu Palombino, comes from stints at the fancy-pants Manhattan restaurants BLT Fish, Bouley, Cafe Charbon, and Cello. That hardly says pizza pedigree. But he knows what he's doing. His Neapolitan-style pies have brilliant hole structure; great bready, salty flavor; and a crisp-chewy factor that's close to being off the charts.
"The crust managed to hold up very well under its delicious burden, maintaining the essential balance of the Motorino Margherita."
I had a Margherita on my first visit. True to the Neapolitan style, the sauce is made from San Marzano tomatoes, and it tasted as fresh as needed with just enough seasoning to give it some interest. There might be just a bit too much sauce going on, but it seemed to work out OK because there's also lots of fresh mozzarella to balance it out. In fact, when the server placed it in front of me, he suggested I wait a bit before tearing into it. If you're familiar with Di Fara, it was sort of like that—lots of molten gooiness in the center with a healthy pour of olive oil to boot. The crust managed to hold up very well under its delicious burden, maintaining the essential balance of the Motorino Margherita. (And, you know, while I've never been to Naples, I've heard that a soupy center is often the hallmark of the pizzas in that fair city, so maybe this speaks well for the authenticity of this pies there.)
Ten default pizzas are on offer (see menu below), with a couple seasonal pies thrown in the mix (right now a porcini, oregano, and Parmigiano pie and a lardo, savoy cabbage, and Parmigiano pie). Two of the standard pies are white pies (no sauce)—the Pugliese (sausage, broccolini, chiles, and burrata) and the Speck (fior di latte, speck, fresh peas, and Parmigiano). The pizza menu shows some out-of-the-ordinary pies—the Speck, the Lardo, and the Mussel pizzas—as well as the familiar Margherita and Marinara pies.
Placing Motorino along the spectrum of Neapolitan-style pizzas in the city, I'd have to say it's not quite Una Pizza Napoletana but is hot on its heels. (Motorino just doesn't have that puffy-soft airiness to the crust that UPN can have at times.) And is it Franny's-caliber, as Raphael said? Hard to say, because Franny's seems to be not exactly Neapolitan in nature somehow.
As for other top-rated and popular Neapolitan pies in the city, Motorino blows them away. And, yes, Luzzo partisans, it even blows away—especially blows away—Luzzo's, whose popularity among Slice readers I have never understood. And given that Motorino is only three more stops east on the L train than Luzzo's, there's no reason to make the extra trip.
A Motorino Lunch
Like I said, I had to go back for lunch yesterday to see if my mouth had deceived me. I had a Pugliese pie. (Sausage pizza is my favorite.) The crust was just as good as I remembered—a feat of quality control, I should note, as owner-pizzaiolo Palombino was nowhere to be seen on Monday afternoon. I liked the Margherita more than the Pugliese—I just wasn't feelin' the large rounds of sausage and would have liked a little tomato sauce on this one. Still, not a bad lunch.
I brought back a Margherita for the Slice–Serious Eats office here, and on a quick toaster-oven revival, none other than Ed "Slice of Heaven" Levine proclaimed it was "a Top 3 New York City pizza"—falling back to "Top 10" after I balked at that statement.
Go early. Go now. Motorino is serving a pizza-starved part of Williamsburg. It is the Franny's of Graham Avenue. And by that I mean it will soon be acked-pay.
Marinara: tomato, oregano, olive oil, garlic ($9) Margherita: fior di latte, tomato, basil ($11) Margherita DOC: mozzarella di bufala, tomato, basil ($14) Anchovy: fior di latte, tomato, anchovies, capers, oregano, olives ($10) Pommodori: fior di latte, fresh tomatoes, pancetta, garlic, basil ($12) Mussels: fior di latte, tomato, mussels, basil ($12) Pugliese: burrata, broccolini, sausage, fresh chiles, garlic ($15) Speck: fior di latte, speck, fresh peas, Parmigiano ($14) Soppressata Piccante: fior di latte, tomato, spicy soppressata, garlic, chile oil ($11) Artichoke: fior di latte, tomato, artichoke, olives, garlic, oregano, pecorino ($13)