Where would New York City be without Shake Shack, the fast-casual burger chain behind Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group empire? When it comes to a solid burger at good value, I can’t think of anywhere else in America (yes, in my view In-N-Out is not even close). Can this fast-casual model, thought, be replicated with any other food? Well, the USHG certainly seems to think they can do the same (and have the same level of success) with pizzas, another American favorite. Martina, which opened earlier this year in East Village, received plenty of hype for potentially being the next big thing. When I showed up on a Friday evening with my wife Jun, we were greeted by an open kitchen with the staffs making dough constantly. It took us less than 10 minutes to get everything after I placed an order. Sounds familiar right? Except, the pizzas at Martina could use a little bit of magic the same way Shack Burger has.
In terms of value proposition, Martina is fantastic. Our mushroom pie with onion and fontina came at $9, and sausage pie with mushrooms and pecorino came at $11. We also liked the fact that both pies came in thin crust so that we don’t have to overstuff ourselves with unnecessary carbs. On the other hand, everything else about the pizza made us inevitably compare the pies to what we had tasted at the more formal Danny Meyer pizzeria Marta in Midtown (https://kenscale.com/2016/08/09/marta/). We both felt that the overall flavor of both pies didn’t have the same punch that led us to enjoy each slice with glee at the sister restaurant, and found ourselves adding chili oil generously to help the spicy kick get us through the pies with more ease. Of the two, I thought the sausage one was slightly better thanks to the red sauce; still, we both ended up dipping the leftovers crust to the sauce of chicken meatball we had ordered as an appetizer (which wasn’t bad, but not memorable either, as was the case with risotto croquettes).
Martina doesn’t take reservations and the dining space got filled up pretty quickly, so avoid prime times if possible. There are a couple of Italian cocktail and wine options to complement your meal but you wouldn’t expect to have a satisfying glass of sangiovese at a fast-casual joint like this, right? For a quick 30-minute bite before going back to work or classroom, Martina deserves consideration for a nice place to stop by. If you are a pizza connoisseur who wants to have a couple of satisfying pies, I’m not sure Martina is the right place. On the other hand, I would have no issue saying that Shake Shack works every time you are in for a nice burger to fill up your belly.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.0/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 198 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (646) 747-6635