Pizza, an import from Italy, has become such an iconic part of American cuisine that you see all kinds of variations with different styles and regional influences in this country. Speedy Romeo, which had long been a hit in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, has been known for churning out St. Louis-inspired pies. I’m not much of an expert when it comes to different pizza styles; it seems like St. Louis style is known for a thin crust with the addition of Provel processed cheese, but I honestly don’t recall visiting a pizza restaurant with this distinctive style. Anyways, when the original spot decided to open a second location in the booming LES neighborhood in Manhattan, I knew I had to try this new place. The verdict: the pizzas at Speedy Romeo that I sampled were generally excellent. The surprise: Speedy Romeo is not just about pizzas.
If you look at the menus at Speedy Romeo, you wonder whether this is really just a pizza restaurant, as the pizza section is just one of several that display things like salads, steaks and other oven-cooked items. My initial dilemma once I realized this was whether to go all-in for pizzas or diversify my dishes. I decided to go for the latter and it turned out to be a great choice. You may see Caesar salad everywhere in the city, but the one at Speedy Romeo was certainly above-average and had the nice flavor from anchovy while the romaine lettuce itself was quite fresh. I had no complaint on Kansas City strip steak that came with crispy potatoes, salsa verde, garlic chips, black pepper and sea salt. The meat was more or less perfectly cooked medium rare with the right amount of fat in it. My only warning is to be modest when it comes to adding salsa verde and sea salt. One time I put in too much of these and the juicy tender meat turned out to be overpowered by the strong flavor.
What about the pizzas? The kitchen was certainly not playing safe with their pies, often to great effect. One secret that the server alerted to my party when we, a group of three including myself, were debating how many pies to order. Speedy Romeo offers half-pie options! This meant that my dining companions and I were able to sample two pizzas in half-pie portions so as not to overwhelm ourselves. The classic St. Louie with Provel cheese, Italian sausage, pepperoni and pickled chilies had the rich, hearty feel to it, but the one that I was more impressed with was the Paul’s Boutique that had the famed Manhattan deli Katz’s pastrami along with 1000 island dressing and everything bagel crust for pure decadence. I don’t have a ranking of the best pizzas in the city, but I do feel strongly this one deserves to be mentioned among the top choices. I really liked the fact that the pies came with thin crusts so while enjoying the pure richness of each piece, we weren’t killing ourselves with too much heaviness in our palate. For dessert, white chocolate mousse with rhubarb compote, balsamic and rose sugar turned out to be a nice antidote to counterbalance all the richness of the pizzas and steak.
The restaurant accepts reservations; the space is relatively small, though, so I highly recommend booking in advance or showing up early. I liked the interesting vibe (a combination of hipster and 90’s retro) of the dining space that is quite fitting in the LES neighborhood and ideal for a casual gathering with friends for serious dinners or quite bites and drinks before heading off for a night out elsewhere. There is full bar, and my vote is to go with cocktail or beer options. Speedy Romeo is another welcome addition to the growing LES dining scene; unlike what it has been known for, it is so much more than just a pizzeria. Make sure to shed some pounds at a gym before or after you indulge in a satisfying meal at this place.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 63 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (212) 529-6300