by MICHAEL COSTANZA
PIZZA & PASTA IN PLAINFIELD: POSITIVELY APPETIZING: It's worth going there just for the beer. I have... on occasion. In fact, at this very moment, New York Pizza & Pasta Company, located eight miles north of Jewett city on Route 12 in Plainfield, offers 120 brews – 22 on tap and 98 in bottles or cans – in a selection that changes by the week. They have every single beer you've heard of, and plenty you've never heard of, and plenty you've probably known since your freshman year in college. They should change their name to New York Beer and Pizza & Pasta Company.
Their food happens to be terrific, too. In most cases, the kitchen hits the trifecta with flavor, portions, and prices. Along with the strong service and casual, family atmosphere, it's enough to forgive the barrage of Dean Martin tunes (a plus for me actually but, sadly, not for everyone) and some wise-acre comments about the Red Sox on the menu. (Co-owner Jimmy Menacho hails from the Bronx.)
No appetizer is more than $6.25. During a recent meal there, we warmed up with the bruschetta and were pleased to count 13 thick and crusty slices of grilled Italian bread (from Vocatura's). Smothered in cheese and tomato with a lovely perfume from all that basil and garlic. A meal in itself.
I've also tried their buffalo cheese fries. Be warned: The penance for this one is steep. You'' need to run at least a couple 5Ks in addition to reciting the usual 10 Hail Mary's.
As far as the beer, I chose a Leinenkugel's ("The Pride of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin Since 1867") Summer Shandy to cool my palate during an intensely flavorful meal. My companion was thrilled by her can of Young's Double Chocolate Stout.
Filling up on bread and beer, we moved on to the Love Salad. At $7.95, it was an adequate mix of greens, fresh enough and thankfully not overdressed in parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette, topped with shreds of pepperoni, salami, and provolone, all hiding a mother lode or roasted garlic cloves. It was good, but we found ourselves reminiscing about other Love Salads we've had that were better – read: Hughie's in New London, which Menacho admits is the inspiration for this one.
By now it was too late to change our order, but I feared we were flirting with a garlic overdose, because next up was our pizza, half of which was the "No Kiss Tonight" – a sensational blend of mozzarella, more whole cloves of roasted garlic, scallions, caramelized onions, red onions, and Spanish onions. The only complaint: Why no jalapeno breath mint? Otherwise, this is a pizza so good, so sweet, it could bring tears to your eyes (not to mention the chef's from chopping all those onions).
The other half of our pizza was no less explosive: a "Flamin' Philly" of mozzarella, American cheese, juicy Philly steak, tri-color peppers, mushrooms, more onions, bacon, hot cherry peppers, crushed red pepper and Tabasco sauce. The toppings were spread haphazardly enough so that just as I was about to exclaim how much the last two bites tasted like a real Philly cheesesteak – wham! – those cherry peppers told me to shut up and concentrate. This one literally did bring tears to my eyes, as I started sniffling from all that peppery heat, just enough to moisten my brow.
Pizza-lovers will be delighted to find 29 pies on the menu – red, white, and speciality – or the option of creating their own. Most of the 12-inch smalls range from $10.25 to $12.25, while the 18-inch larges (or, more accurately, huges) top out at $17.25. Customers may also order by the slice, and on weekdays the restaurant offers all-you-can-eat slices for lunch for $6.95.
The excellent crust on our pizza was thin in that New York style and perfect for folding. The menu promises that any pizza can be made with a stuffed crust or as a thicker, Greek-style "Godfather" pizza ($1.50 more on a large) or with wheat (no charge).
Since this place calls itself New York Pizza AND Pasta, we felt obligated to try the pasta as well. I admit it: I'd gotten so carried away gorging on pizza that I couldn't fully appreciate the rigatoni checca ($10.95). But it made a terrific left-over lunch the next day.
The dish had a comforting, homemade flavor, featuring bigger-than-golf-ball dollops of creamy ricotta with basil, a fragrant sauce of Roma tomatoes and garlic, and a rather large basket of garlic bread.
With much regret, we skipped the menu sections for burgers, fried seafood, calzones and Stromboli's, subs and wraps. Keep these in mind, however. The wraps especially. You can choose from plain, tomato, spinach, honey wheat, or ... drum roll ... garlic wraps.
Michael Constanza was a reporter for The Day and for The Mystic River Press. He now teaches fourth grade in North Stonington, where students know him as a teacher who eats a lot. Costanza says he hasn't left a single crumb on his plate since July 11, 2003, the day before he started his thru-hike of the Appalachian trail. Yes, He is a food aficionado. He claims Anthony Bourdain as his favorite writer, and his culinary interests include making soupy and cooking with quinoa, the protein-packed food of the Incas
Dining Scene (Norwich Bulletin) Thursday, June 18, 2009
By JOAN GORDAN
NEW YORK PIZZA OFFERS AND ARRAY OF PIES, BEERS: In the search for good food, you never know where (or when, or how) you might get lucky. One day, we saw a Norwich Bulletin ad for New York Pizza in the morning, a second one on the screen before a movie in the afternoon, and afterward had two young people in a nearby store tell us it was their favorite pizza place. Enough signs; we were off!
The restaurant started about 10 years ago in Canterbury. Three years ago it moved to Plainfield.
There are two separate rooms. On the right is the larger, more family oriented dining room. Décor is mostly prints of old New York. The room on the left, with the bar, has days gone by pictures as well, but some are of a certain baseball team. Since one of the two owners is actually from the Bronx, I guess we can forgive him.
It was a night for carbo-loading. Before targeting the pizzas, we spotted an eye-popping special called Seafood Volcano. A round, artisanal bread was partially scooped out and ladled with a yummy seafood chowder. Spilling over the sides with pieces of shrimp, scallops and potato, it did simulate an eruption. It was delicious, even the bread.
Though the pizza du jour – pulled chicken, tortilla chips and scallions – called to me, I knew the presence of chipotle peppers meant my husband wouldn't help me eat it. Philly Steak Pizza was another story. Shaved steak and strips of red, green and yellow peppers topped a moderately thin, flavorful crust. Mushrooms and melting American cheese gave it a Philly flavor. Not the "wiz wit" (Cheese Whiz) of the real thing, but close enough. Tomato sauce, barely visible over the base, was almost too thin to have the pie qualify for listing under the "reds".
We could not help but chuckle over the name of another red pizza, No Kiss Tonight. The reality was the loads of garlic topping this pie were so naturally sweet they would never offend. Sprinklings of mozzarella and carmelized onions added their own natural sugars.
We also tried two white pizzas: Gorgonzola Chicken and the Bronx Bomber. Gorgonzola cheese on both was tangy and plentiful, giving each a nice, creamy coating. On the first, the crust and chunks of chicken had been in the oven a little too long, and were dried out. The balance of the toppings was good – chewy pieces of oven-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.
The Bronx Bomber really hit is out of the park. Loads of crumbled bacon, mozzarella, Gorgonzola and, for the healthier part, lots of spinach and sliced tomatoes decorating the top. Colorful, filling and a home run with the bases loaded.
The pizzas all sounded so good we could have tried one of each. The Gut Busta was covered with mozzarella, spicy pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, bacon and chicken. The Inferno heated with cherry peppers, Italian sausage and crushed red pepper. There was a B.L.T., a Caesar Salad pizza and a South Street Seaport with my favorite – clams and bacon.
If you're into designing your own pizza or pasta dish, there is a large variety of toppings and sauces to mix and match.
Full entrees are also available. The night of our visit, diners near us were enjoying plates of haddock and New York strip steak.
Worth noting is the eatery offers one of the more amazing beer lists in the area. I lost count of exactly how many there were, but some of the more fancy-fully named attracted my attention: Fuel Café Stout, Circus Boy and Unibroue Fin d'Monde. Our waitress, Amber, could describe them all. We settled on a dark, smoky Moo Thunder Farmstead Stout and a BBC Maibock, amber colored and milder.
Most desserts are not house-made. Carrot cake, Oreo pie and cannoli were among those available, but after all the good pizza we just had no room left.