Speedy Romeo! Perfect, Perfect, Perfect

A pizza joint worth a review…

When it came to our goal of visiting twelve pizza joints in a single year, the intrepid Karen would have happily gone the last pizza mile, but Joan and I got too busy, and I didn’t think there was anything new to say about the pizza we were trying—primarily because we were going to places that were new to me but not new to anyone else but also because we agreed that thick crusts were out and that limited our choices.  It’s not that the nuances of the different pies we tried were lost on me (Fornino Williamsburg is superior to Fornino Park Slope), but it wasn’t particularly interesting writing about variations on a theme.

So I’ve continued my pizza journey solo without writing about it: Fornino Park Slope (better ambiance, inferior pie) Paulino’s on Bowery (and eating grilled octopus for the first time and learning the joys of chili sauce), Otto’s (with its amazing salads), and Motorino Williamsburg before it had to close because the building was sinking…literally sinking.  I also tried Graziella’s in Fort Greene. It might have been good at some point, but it needs to step up its game because there’s a new kid in town, and Speedy Romeo is not fooling around.

What I know about haute cuisine could fit on the back of a pizza joint napkin, but even I have heard of Jean Georges, and when I heard that one of its chefs (Justin Bazdarich) had opened a new place just a few blocks from my apartment, I thought I should try it out before it got too busy.

I waited too long.

And I knew it when I saw Bob Tuschman from the Food Network having dinner at a table by the door.

Speedy Romeo opened on Tuesday and the wait for a table its first Saturday night was already 45 minutes. In fact, my friend and I ended up sitting at the bar.  I’m glad we did as we got to see all of the restaurants offerings being prepared in the brick oven and on the grill, and the chefs behind the bar were happy to offer suggestions.  The restaurant offers pies made in a brick oven located behind the bar and also serves steaks, chops, chicken , and fish.

We started with the mozzarella salad.  I may not know from fancy food, but I’ve eaten enough fresh mozzarella to know when it’s good and when it’s gotten too old, and this was the good stuff.  The texture was perfect and all it needed was a drizzle of chili oil.  It was served with a side of grilled eggplant on toast and garnished with mint.

My friend ordered the Margherita. I’m glad we agreed to share because it was pretty close to perfect.    Too often restaurants don’t balance the sauce with the other ingredients, but they get it right here, and the addition of oregano was terrific.  One of the chefs behind the bar (the friendly and adorable Justin) suggested a pie named after his dad, and I’m glad I followed his advice.  The King Salami is covered with hot and sweet sopresatta, finocchiona, and red peppers, that manage to sit on the perfect crust without weighing it down.  I’m saying the crust is perfection. Seriously. It has just the right amount of salt, it’s firm without being chewy, and when you go back for your fourth piece (because, let’s face it, you’re gonna), it still tastes as good as it did when it came out of the oven

All of this is served with a side of pickled peppers, spicy and tangy and perfect on pretty much everything (I’m dying to try it on eggs).

The only reason I was able to stop eating my pie was because I wanted to save room for dessert.  They were out of lemon tart, so we shared a piece of the chocolate cake, which I was convinced would annoy me.  The menu describes it as having a marshmallow in it.  I know that the whole s’mores thing is all the rage these days, but I seriously have no interest in that flavor combination.  Like everything else at Speedy’s this marshmallow was amazing, more like a meringue than a gooey mess, and the cake was just moist enough to feel almost as smooth as its topping.  I politely offered the last bite to my friend who took me up on the offer before I could change my mind.

We shared a bottle of Montepulciano and the bill was still quite reasonable.

The only drawback to the place is that its ambiance feels out of place in mellow Clinton Hill.  I’ve become accustomed to low lighting, interesting but unobtrusive music, and the hum of a local crowd.  Speedy Romeo feels like a sports bar with its loud rock and roll and even louder crowd.  It’s jarring given how wonderful the food is, and I hope this changes.  I’m looking forward to going some weeknight with the hope that it will be quieter…and that they’ll have lemon tarts to end the evening.

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