Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sunday adventures at Ovest

On Sunday morning, in lieu of brunch, AV and I decided to take a short walk down to West Chelsea to check out the newest hyped pizzeria, Ovest. It's an outpost from the owners of Luzzo, and since neither of us had been to Luzzo, we weren't sure what to expect.

We arrived five minutes after noon, when it opened, and were the first customers of the day. But we were greeted warmly by the hostess/bartender/server and allowed to pick any table we liked in the space. Since I didn't eat any of the pizza, my favorite part of the whole experience was the restaurant itself: Ovest is designed to be pretty much my platonic ideal of a restaurant space. It's some sort of converted warehouse or gallery, so it has huge, soaring ceilings and exposed brick. There's a wood-burning oven sending out spurts of heat behind a belly-up bar with high-backed stools. There's a conventional wine bar at the front of the room, complete with wine bottles lining the wall and a decorative wine tower, with bottles protruding like a porcupine's quills. Thin, industrial bulbs hang from the ceiling, providing light and a touch of industrial chic. And the whole front of the narrow restaurant opens up garage-door-style, clearly promising delights in the warm weather ahead.

But space only matters so much if the food isn't there. So AV ordered an 8" "Ovest" pizza, which promised tomato sauce, ricotta, salame, fresh black pepper, and basil. Out table was seated right next to the eating bar guarding the pizza oven, and we saw the chef arrive, stretch the dough, distribute the toppings, and bake the pie in the searing heat for a minute or two, carefully turning it now and then to ensure an even char. It landed on our table cut into four pieces, and AV dug in. As he took a bite or two, I inquired as to where the salame was-- a few bites later, he confirmed there wasn't any. So we asked the server, who was incredibly apologetic, and when the chef (sitting at the bar munching lunch a couple paces away) heard that it was missing one key ingredient, he jumped up and told us he'd make a new one. "Eat, eat," he motioned to the pizza that was already there. So AV ate as the new pizza was constructed. We felt a bit guilty about making a scene, especially since AV was really enjoying the inadvertently vegetarian pie, but we couldn't stop that train once it was in motion, so a few moments later a new pizza, piping hot, landed on our table. Our server took away the remaining ricotta pie and returned a moment later with the two leftover pieces in a box. Nice touch, and well-handled all around.

The first (veggie) version


The verdict on the pizza itself? Fantastic, and even better with the salame, which came out just slightly crisped, the fat beginning to render and flavor the rest of the pie. The crust didn't seem to be quite as airy, chewy, and all-around top-notch as Motorino's (this is from an observer's eye, though, keep in mind), but AV commented that the sauce was spot-on, not too sweet and not too overly spiced. It's also worth highly commending Ovest's heavy hand with toppings: while normally a ricotta pizza might have a dollop or two, if you're lucky, on each piece, this one was heavily strewn with mounded towers of cheese. And the salame pie, when it arrived, was also copiously draped with the meat.


So even though I didn't partake, based on AV's review and my own disproportionate enjoyment of the room, I would highly recommend Ovest. It's wayyyy off the beaten path (between 10th and 11th Avenues, in the middle of nowhere), but it's worth a trek-- while the pizza may not be quite as swoonworthy as Motorino's, the space itself is much more conducive to an enjoyable meal. The service is solicitous, the pizza is perfect, and you'll have a four Offset Spatula good time.

513 W. 27th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues

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