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Eat and Drink

East Village pizzeria Martina expands the Danny Meyer empire

There are two ways to eat pizza in New York.

Either you order from the cheap neighborhood pizzeria, eating your slice on-the-go or your pie at home. Or you sit down for a meal at a restaurant like Marta, where the booze and the ambience outweighs the double-digit prices of appetizers and individual pizzas.

Enter Martina, a new Roman-style East Village pizzeria from Marta chef Nick Anderer and an addition to Danny Meyer's dining empire that aims to blend fast and fine dining.

Martina — Anderer's tribute to the small side-street Roman shops serving up affordable thin-crust pizzas, fried bites and seasonal antipasti into the wee hours when he studied and cooked abroad — is "not a typical fast-casual or quick-serve kind of joint," he said.

Customers essentially get a two-course meal after placing an order at the counter: "One of them comes with starters and drinks, and your second course is pizza, and it arrives hot and fresh and it’s being made for you," the East Village resident, 39, said.

We'll guide you through the experience below:

Grab a menu when you walk through the door

On one side you'll find food: appetizers, thin-crusts
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

On one side you'll find food: appetizers, thin-crusts pizzas and soft serve ice cream. On the opposite side are drinks: beer, wine, Champagne and nonalcoholic beverages.

Once you've decided what you want, step up to the counter

Don't scurry to your seat with your buzzer
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

Don't scurry to your seat with your buzzer after you pay.

"All of the appetizers come up really quickly, so we're trying to encourage people to stay up here, watch the action," Anderer said. "We're going to hand your drinks right to you, and then the pizza is going to be coming up shortly behind it."

Nosh on some meatballs and beans while you're waiting for the main course

Antipasti options at Martina include chicken meatballs with
Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

Antipasti options at Martina include chicken meatballs with tomato sauce and pecorino Romano cheese (bottom), white beans with sage leaves and black pepper (upper left) and zucchini marinated in vinegar, chili and mint. If you're craving something fried to snack on, there's suppli, rice balls with tomato and mozzarella, and potato and chive crochetta.

And sip on a half-bottle of bubbly

Martina uncorks your bottle and delivers it on
Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

Martina uncorks your bottle and delivers it on a tray with two plastic cups.

"I think it's pretty difficult to find another place in the city where you're going to get a half bottle of good Champagne like Laherte Frères for $29," Anderer said. "That's close to three glasses, which puts you at $9 a glass."

Take a look at the wall art, selected by Anderer himself

Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

"There's a story behind every single piece," he said.

His favorite is a sepia-toned 1974 photograph snapped on the movie set of "Godfather II." At the end of the Sixth Street block pictured stands the building where Anderer lived just after graduating from Columbia University in 1999. He's stayed in the East Village pretty much ever since.

Other items on the walls: a photo of men playing on the long-gone bocce courts at Second Street and Second Avenue, original postcards from the release of Fellini's film "Amarcord," the record sleeve of an Iggy Pop live album, and the jersey of legendary Roman soccer player Francesco Totti.

(This is Anderer, by the way)

Martina's interior, he said,
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

Martina's interior, he said, "takes [him] right back to Rome." "But that's me and my personal experience," he added. "We'll see what other people think."

Take note of the staff T-shirts

Literally, the motto
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

Literally, the motto "Nun strozza 'ngrassa" is an expression in Roman dialect that means, "What doesn't choke you fattens you."

Contextually, it's a reaction to the Italian stereotype that classifies Rome's regional food as "uglier, more peasant-y," Anderer said; Roman cuisine makes notorious use of organ meats and other cast-off ingredients, such as zucchini flowers.

"Rome's response to that was, 'Shut the eff up ... if you can get it down, it's all good,'" the chef explained.

Nowadays, Italians take "Nun strozza 'ngrassa" to mean "whatever doesn't kills you makes you stronger," he continued. "So we've adopted it to mean that eating Roman pizza makes you stronger."

Your pizza will be ready in six to 10 minutes

This the counter where staffers top your 10-inch
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

This the counter where staffers top your 10-inch pie with ingredients like pork sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella and pecorino (if you order the $11 Salsiccia), or artichokes, ham, mushrooms, black olives, mozzarella and egg (if you select the $12 Capricciosa).

It cooks in this gas oven

It's no secret that Anderer aims to bake
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

It's no secret that Anderer aims to bake 90 pies an hour, a "lofty goal," he admitted.

"Everyone's coming to me talking about how are you doing with those 90 pies? I'm like I don't f---ing know. I'm making pizza."

But he isn't ashamed of striving for volume and efficiency.

"I want to sell a lot of pizza," Anderer said.

When your buzzer lights up, claim your pie

This one's a Fior di Zucca ($12), a
Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

This one's a Fior di Zucca ($12), a white pizza with zucchini flowers, anchovy and mozzarella cheese.

Head to the condiment counter, where you'll find more than just chili flakes and cheese

Yes, Anderer would prefer you take a bite
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

Yes, Anderer would prefer you take a bite of his pizza before you cover it in dried oregano, but "pizza is pizza," he said.

Plus, Martina's condiment counter offers some unusual seasonings: chili oil, which is so popular at Marta that the restaurant now stores it in capless Tabasco bottles to prevent customers from stealing their supply; garlic-Parmigiano salt, a combo of dehydrated parmesan powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and chili flakes; and finocchio, a dried blend of several types of fennel, garlic, mushroom and chili.

Anderer describes the condiment he invented with his friend Lior Lev Sercarz, of La Boîte, as an "umami bomb."

"We were doing this sausage pizza and I wanted to amp up the fragrance of the fennel in that pizza," the chef said of finnochio's origins. "So when it comes out of the oven, we worked on this spice blend with him to sprinkle onto the pizza."

I thought, if I like it so much, why wouldn't I put it out here for other people to try?"

Still have room for dessert?

An fior di latte with hazelnuts and chocolate
Photo Credit: Martina

An fior di latte with hazelnuts and chocolate amaro sauce and Joe's cold brew coffee from the spigot ($4.50) could satisfy your sweet tooth.

Gelato is ubiquitous in Rome, but soft serve -- "that's one of our interpretive things," Anderer said. The fior di latte flavor is a basic cream one, but if you order it without the coffee, you can mix and match toppings like candied hazelnuts, olive oil and salt for the same $4.50 price.

And if you have leftovers...

...take them home in this box, designed to
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

...take them home in this box, designed to aerate your pizza.

Martina is located at 198 E. 11th St.

You can stop by from 11 a.m. to
Photo Credit: Nicole Levy

You can stop by from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

If you're wondering whether Martinas will soon pop up around the city like Meyer's popular burger chain, Shake Shack, Anderer said he has no immediate plans to replicate the eatery that "takes [him] right back to Rome."

"This is a stand-alone restaurant so far as I'm concerned right now," he said.


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