I just returned from two whirlwind days in New York City. While most of the trip was dedicated to preparing for and delivering a huge presentation for work, I was able to sneak in one new restaurant.
Marta, located on East 29th Street between Park and Madison, is on the ground floor of the Redbury Hotel. The restaurant is part of Danny Meyer's Union Hospitality Group, which also runs Gramercy Tavern, Maialino, Union Square Cafe and many other NYC staples. Meyer is also the genius behind Shake Shack.
Marta is Meyer's take on Roman, thin crust pizza. Chef Lena Ciardullo helms the kitchen, after stints at two other restaurants in the empire - Gramercy Tavern and Maialino.
We made a reservation the day before (thankfully there were still openings) for 6:15pm. When we arrived, we were greeted by two friendly hostesses, who escorted us to our table right away.
Once seated, we met our server, Vinny. He gave us a very warm welcome and immediately offered to put in a drink order (clearly our work stress was visible!). We needed a minute to decide, so he walked us through the sections of the menu and then gave us a moment to peruse.
We decided on wine, red for me and white for my dinner date. She had a few questions about the types of wine, which Vinny answered expertly. He also mentioned, "If you don't wind up loving your selection, please tell me so we can replace with it with something you will love."
I had looked at the menu a little bit the night before and already knew I wanted to sample a few appetizers. I had my eye on the crispy zucchini fries, but my friend convinced me to go another way. The first thing we tried was the tomato risotto croquettes. Vinny described them as a "the best mozzarella stick you'll ever have," while I found that they tasted more like a super decadent arancini ball.
The batter on the outside was light and crispy, the tomato flavor was prominent, but not overwhelming, and there was a wonderfully generous amount of mozzarella cheese in the center. I made mine disappear very quickly.
We also ordered the grilled sourdough bread with ricotta cheese, oven-roasted peaches, aged balsamic and rosemary. Those who have been reading Pop.Bop.Shop. for quite some time know that I am not a fruit person, but this dish seemed like one worth making an exception for.
The bread was grilled perfectly and had light char marks striping both slices. The blistered peaches were sitting on top of the ricotta, all sprinkled with rosemary.
To make it last longer, I tore the bread into four pieces and methodically spread a spoonful of ricotta and a half of a peach slice onto each one. With every bite I felt like I was holding onto summer just a little bit longer.
Next up, the main event - pizza! We decided on the stracciatella, which was topped with tomato sauce, stracciatella cheese (like a burrata), olio verde and fresh basil.
I am not kidding when I say, this was the best pizza I have ever tasted. It had a paper thin crust, with just the right amount of crunch on the edges, the sweetest San Marzano tomato sauce, creamy cheese, an olive oil finish and a sprinkle of bright green, freshly-picked basil as garnish.
I had to consciously tell myself over and over again, "Slow down. Savor this pizza."
The good news is, I found an incredible pizza I'll be craving for the foreseeable future. The bad news? This has ruined all other pizza.
Because the pizza crust was thin, we had room for dessert! We were having a tough time choosing between the tiramisu (a classic) and the torta caprese. We asked Vinny for his opinion and he said, "The torta is everything you want in a dessert - the base is a chocolate hazelnut souffle, then that's topped with gelato rolled in a praline crunch, which basically tastes like candy, so you really can't go wrong. It has everything." My friend handed over her dessert menu and proclaimed, "Sold!"
When my spoon cut into the torta, I realized it had the texture of a brownie on the perimeter, but a molten chocolate cake in the center. The gelato was coated in a praline crunch, which added a nice contrast to the gooey chocolate in the souffle.
When our dish was cleared (we left not a single crumble in that bowl), Vinny brought us the check and reminded us that Marta, like all of Danny Meyer's restaurants, includes the gratuity. They factor it into the price and you are not allowed to leave additional dollars. There isn't even a line for a tip on the bill after they've swiped your card.
We felt disappointed that we couldn't show our appreciation for Vinny in the traditional, monetary way, so instead we filled out the comment card and hoped the powers that be would see it!
I have a lot of favorite restaurants in New York City, but Marta just skyrocketed to the top of the list. If you live in Manhattan or you visit often, this is super close to Madison Square Park and is an excellent place to indulge after a day of exploring.
Now the only question is, how soon will I get to have that stracciatella pizza again?