New York City’s dining scene is perpetually great in part because, despite all the naysayers who say the Big Apple is no longer the center of the culinary world, it is still one of the leading testing grounds for so many acclaimed chefs from all around the world who want to make their names in the city with outposts of their own. Unfortunately, not all of these outposts are successful due to a confluence of factors, whether it is the distance (e.g. chefs from an entirely different continent), quality control and focus (e.g. chefs moving to open the next outposts in other parts of the world), etc. When I heard Gino Sorbillo, who is apparently a legend in Naples, Italy, decided to open his New York outpost late last year, I was both intrigued and concerned at the same time. New York City already has so many great pizzerias, so already chef Sorbillo has a high bar to meet for the demanding New Yorkers. Would he succeed in that challenging mission? At least when I visited the new restaurant with my wife Jun and a couple of other friends, our experience had a lot to desire.
The menu at Sorbillo not surprisingly consists primarily of pizzas but there are also some appetizers and pastas to complement the pizzas as well. The Sorbillo salad with tuna, eggs, tomatoes, onion and olives was pedestrian, although the potato gnocchi with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes felt closer to spot-on in the simple, rustic flavor. The pizzas were distinctly mixed bags. You can’t go wrong with a simple margherita pie with buffalo mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, but at a place like Sorbillo, we expected something extra special (but didn’t). Calzone pie with ricotta cheese, salame, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes was delicious at first, but over time I realized that the cheese stuffing was becoming somewhat unwieldy.
The biggest disappointment by far was the alba pie with black truffle, fresh mozzarella and quail eggs. At a whopping $35, we expected a generous addition of truffle shavings; what we instead had was a couple of truffle pieces that Jun wasn’t even sure were fresh enough to go into a pizza. She was visibly upset that the restaurant would serve this pie at a hefty price. The only pizza that was successful, and that I wouldn’t mind going back to the restaurant for, was the nduja with Calabrian hot spreadable salami, red onions, pecorino, fresh mozzarella and basil. The spicy kick of the pizza, and the way different ingredients worked together very well, made it one of the better ones I’ve had in a while. It’s just weird why the kitchen couldn’t come up with other pizzas with similar qualities as the nduja. Our disappointing meal wasn’t easily soothed by an otherwise serviceable tiramisu at the end.
Getting a reservation at Sorbillo is fairly easy and, despite its recent arrival and the pedigree of the chef, the dining space was almost half empty. Perhaps people were initially interested but then decided that they could have pizzas elsewhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn or other parts of the city? There is an Italian-heavy wine list with mostly standard names you have probably seen to go along with your meal. If chef Sorbillo wanted to have a vibrant pizzeria in the ultra-competitive New York City dining scene, so far he hasn’t succeeded and he needs a lot of work.
KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.25/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 6.5/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 7.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (646) 476-8049
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