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Review Recap: Motorino

The Times posted tomorrow’s restaurant review (one star for Motorino) before we gamblers could place our bets. For the record, one star is exactly what we would have predicted.

Sifty loves the place:

Motorino is having a moment. That seems fair. It serves the city’s best pizza.

It does so consistently, at both locations, whether Mr. Palombino is cooking or not. Made to his specifications and cooked in the tempering heat of a wood fire, his crust emerges from the oven as a Neapolitan fantasy of crispness that is also pillowy and soft, sweet but not sugared, tangy without too much salt.

Multiple visits to the restaurants conform: Motorino pies are great hot out of the oven, 5 minutes later, 10. You can order too much, watch a pie go cool on the plate, eat it anyway and discover: terrific.

We aren’t so sure that any one guy could really know whether Motorino is serving the best pizza. Given the vast range of restaurants he covers, how many of the candidates could Sifton have tried recently? Beyond that, given the wide range of pizza-making styles, are they all even comparable?

Anyhow, we haven’t been to Motorino, but the review is certainly consistent with everything we’ve read, and Sifton is entertaining as always.

Reader Comments (3)

I agree that a review that confidently claims that a particular pizza joint in New York City is the best is just silly. But I also agree that Sam is entertaining. There is a certain refreshing lack of pomposity, ignoring the baseline arrogance of all NY Times writers.

What frustrates me is that with such an important bully pulpit, he is preaching pizza. How many people are going to make a special trip for a pizza pie? A few perhaps, but I read the Times reviews for information about special restaurants, not everyday food.

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteriamnotachef

Do I disagree with both Marc's hypothetical (yet inherently answered) question and iamnotachef's response regarding the status of Motorino as the best pizza in New York? Not at all. I certainly think it is well up there, but that said, I have not had nearly enough slices in New York to decide.

However, regarding iamnotachef's last point, I believe the poster is entirely wrong. I have been, unlike Marc (and perhaps iamnotachef), to Motorino. I definitely do not live near enough either location to make it my regular joint, and yet I had heard good enough reviews to make the trip (in my case, to the Brooklyn one). Nor was I disappointed when the food arrived. So, I think that this is the perfect meaning of a one star restaurant. Is it a place that one needs to visit before one dies? No. But, if one has time, is it worth it to make a trip that is, or could be, a little out of the way? For sure.

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlievrealaroyale

I am not sure where #1 is drawing the implied line between “special” and “everyday” food. But however one draws it, are there enough “special” restaurants (those worth a special trip) to fill 52 reviews a year? I am not so sure. Some would argue that a review of the city’s best pizza is more worthwhile than a review of the terrible (according to Sifton several weeks ago) Le Caprice.

Pizza is everyday food like a hamburger, in the sense that it is widely available, but most garden-variety pizza is mediocre. And most people cannot make decent pizza at home. So it does seem reasonable that the restaurant purporting to serve the city’s best is probably worthy of a review in the Times. To some people, great pizza is worth a special trip.

The Times used to have a separate critic who covered such places full-time, but that position was eliminated, which means that Sifton has to cover everything from pizzerias to Per Se. The main part of his beat will always be higher-end restaurants, but I don’t mind if he spends the occasional review on a truly special pizzeria (or as “special” as a pizzeria can be), on those rare occasions when one comes along. All we are losing is a forgettable review of a place like Le Caprice that we probably didn’t want to patronize anyway.

February 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterMarc Shepherd

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