187 Mulberry St.
New York, N.Y. 10012
Before Pasquale Jones, in the exact same location, there was Toby’s Public House. I don’t expect many to know of Toby’s, but full disclosure, I used to work there. That is, for about a month and a half… or whenever they seemed to need an extra server for busy times like summer or the San Gennaro Italian Festival.
I loved working at Toby’s for a few reasons: 1. I LOVE pizza, obviously, and they made a delicious Neapolitan-style pie. 2. Every shift I got free pizza. (What’s better than that?) 3. Toby’s was directly across the street from my apartment and it could not get any more convenient. And 4. Because everyone that worked there was so genuinely nice and I quickly considered them friends — from the bartender Katie “Booty” to the pizza-maker Hal who quickly learned my pizza preferences of truffle oil with spinach, a special off-menu request he’d make for me when there was any dead time.
The only reason this is relevant is because when I went to Pasquale Jones I went in with an open mind but was quickly taken aback by the unfriendly service. I arrived just before 7 p.m. on a Wednesday evening and was told it’d be a 1 hour and 45 minute wait. Luckily I was with my friend Jason and we were in need of catching up over a year’s worth of life experiences, from job changes to engagements to weddings (Congrats @I Dream of Pizza!), so passing two hours over conversation and cocktails was no biggy.
But fast forward to 9 p.m. when we returned to see if our table was ready and the hostess said it’d be another 20 minutes, then came back to tell us “our spot at the bar was ready.” Admittedly, I looked at her with surprise (and a bit of contempt) because there were tables outside and inside available and yet we were told that if we waited for outside it’d be “another three hours.” So rather than eating dinner just before midnight, we opted to sit at the bar. Don’t get me wrong, the bar seating was nice, it just isn’t what you might expect after waiting two hours.
But let’s get to the food, shall we? First off: Gratuity is included so don’t be alarmed by the pricing. A glass of wine is about $15 and the pizzas range from $21-24. Definitely on the pricey side, but it nets out to be about the cost of a typical NYC dinner. The only issue is you can get dinner at a steakhouse for the same cost, but at P.J. you’re getting comfort pizza and pasta which is not usually something you want to splurge on. To be fair though, it is very good pizza.
The pizza is “neo-N.Y.-style” as described by chef Ryan Hardy (Hardy partnered with Robert Bohr and wine director Grant Reynolds from their first establishment Charlie Bird, also in NYC). In all honesty, the margherita was close to perfect. The crust was doughy, charred, and especially fresh tasting — cooked to perfection in the wood-burning oven (one of two, the second reserved for pasta and meat dishes on the menu). I truly loved every bite of the margherita and enjoyed how the drizzled oil and fresh tomato combined with the Mozzarella di Bufala to create a perfect bite, slice after slice. The clam pizza, while it’s been raved about on NYMag.com and among friends, was overly salty, likely due to the added cream and garlic. If you could order by the slice I’d order one of each, but a full clam pie becomes a bit much for the palate. Luckily, rosé washed it down quite nicely.
All in all, the experience was pleasant once the food was served, but a bit prickly upon interaction with the host and the seemingly brisk waitstaff. I suppose that’s what you get when you have a gourmand take over what was once a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that offered “mug club” members a warm spot at the bar and a familiar greeting upon arrival. When one comfy establishment closes, a fancy, ambitious newcomer takes over. And while they’ve made a name for themselves in the food-space, they may be leaving some customers wishing for more. More as in: better service, a more welcoming staff, and a two-top in the dining room rather than at the bar.
Peace, love, and NYC Pizza,