It’s a mistake to label Wood & Fire in Pleasantville first as a pizzeria and second as a restaurant. Yes, the pizzas—as many as three every two minutes—come out of its 800°F wood-fired oven with beautifully blistered crusts and just the right amount of bite and with toppings that excite all the senses, but it’s what the kitchen sends out from the rest of the menu that sparked our gustatory exploration on two separate visits, the first on a sultry summer night.
As we cruised into Pleasantville, we came to what looked like a friendly place, where people sat outdoors at gray tables and chairs under red Stoli umbrellas. Inside was a noisy environment with baseball on giant TV screens and people at the bar and at tables placed closely together. We unfolded our dish-towel napkins at a street-side corner table with a bird’s-eye view of a live ball game across the road.
I sipped a strong Lemontini made with the house limoncello. The drink’s bristling acidity unfortunately got nudged aside by Absolute Citron and Cointreau. Positano Death Door Gin and Tonic, which has cucumber and basil leaf and is served in a large tumbler crammed with ice, had a citrusy undertone and was more refreshing. The creative bartender crafted an unusual Negroni, spritzed with Prosecco: different and fun.
The Positano Death Door Gin and Tonic with cucumber and basil leaf
As young families were replaced with young couples at the tables, we dug into a house salad heaped with arugula and other garden pickings perked up with pickled onions. A flatbed of prosciutto, fried shallots, olive tapenade, and shaved Parmesan rendered a “carpaccio” salad a top choice. A chilled Lugano Trebbiano nicely complemented the piquant flavors in the dish. W&F riffs on the Iceberg/blue cheese salad darling of the ’50s with three long wedges of romaine lettuce bathed in a buttermilk dressing—so crisp it’s served with a steak knife.
One salad could easily satiate three people as a first course, ditto the appetizers. Our favorites were the arancini suffused with shredded squash blossoms and bacon sweetened with maple syrup, and the tasty tar-tar (tuna) tacos mixed with Sriracha, lime juice, scallions, and avocado.
Specials are just that at W&F (swordfish rang in at $28), like the yellow risotto with shredded squash blossoms and surrounded by six perfectly cooked pink shrimp. From the menu, we picked clams, which were ocean fresh (and practically overflowing a huge bowl), but the tomato-y broth was a disappointment. There was not a hint of the promised roasted garlic or of spicy soppressata. A quartet of breaded veal meatballs in tomato sauce were dense, each topped with a peculiar twirl of ricotta, the sweet creaminess of which lightened the dish considerably.
On a second evening, the ravenous among us chose Lidia’s Lasagna with house-made everything (noodles, mozzarella, ricotta, tomato sauce, and minuscule meatballs), as well as the fusilli swathed in a lamb ragù cushioned with mascarpone. Both delizioso. There was much more going on in the veal saltimbocca, which had breaded cutlets that were layered and created a thickness that required that handy steak knife to cut through. Break the yolk of the fried egg to ooze over the scaloppine, mushrooms, and prosciutto for a dish fit for a prince—or, considering the size, a lumberjack. Fork up some broccoli rabe with the mains, and you’ll have a Neapolitan feast. Eggplant rollatini, their bellies stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta, would have benefitted from a more seasoned tomato sauce, like the one dressing the margherita pizza.
|Staffer Luigi Dolgetta with a wood-fired pie|
Did we say pizza? You can’t leave without having one of the 15 selections. Thin, soft crusts blessed with savory toppings and the scents of basil, tomato sauce and truffle perfuming the air. We tried three: margherita, with its classic balance of garlic and basil; quattro stagioni, with prosciutto, artichokes, olives, and mushrooms; and, my favorite, the bianca, with its overlay of garlicky spinach skirting the mozzarella and ricotta, which are dewed with truffle oil. We ordered a spicy soppressata version with honey to take home but discovered that the waiter had mistakenly boxed the simple classico instead. Now we’ll have to go back for that—and maybe another three.
Desserts are inventive but not especially memorable. Skip the dry cheesecake and the wet biscotti with gelato, and try the doily-sized cookies that hug vanilla gelato instead.
Food: 3/4 | Service: 3/4 | Atmosphere: 2.5/4 | Cost: 3/4
Wood & Fire Neapolitan Pizza
59 Marble Ave