At first glance, a mix of the American Midwest and classic Italian fare seems like the ultimate disaster, but Michael White’s Nicoletta Pizzeria in the East Village manages to marry the flavors of these two distinctly different regions in menu items such as Midwestern pizza and soft-serve gelato. Although the pizza doesn’t live up to its hype, White’s unique creations stand out in a sea of traditional New York pizzerias. White, who graduated from Kendall Culinary Institute in Chicago and owns Michelin star restaurants, opened Nicoletta as a tribute to his favorite childhood dish — pizza.
As both a big name chef and a mere human, White cannot constantly be in all his restaurants at once. Therefore, Nicoletta’s Executive Chef Bill Dorrler oversees the kitchen operations, Chef di Cucina Michael Cariglio leads daily operations at the East Village location and pastry chef Bob Truitt is the guy behind the fior di latte soft-serve gelato.
The gelato combines the smooth texture of Midwestern soft-serve and Italian creamy vanilla — their only flavor of gelato — which provide a not-too-rich canvas for an array of creative toppings. The toppings are the stars of the gelato, featuring rosemary caramel popcorn, pistachio brittle, peanut butter crumble and amaretti cookie crumble.
This marriage of Midwestern and Italian flavors continues throughout the menu, best highlighted with the Midwestern Pizza. As a tribute to his Wisconsin roots, White’s pizza has a thick crust, a uniquely crispy and chewy texture and a weighty blanket of add-ons including thick-cut tomato and cheese, all characteristics of Midwestern-style pizza. Two slices of Nicoletta’s signature pizza costs $4.50. And while the price of Nicoletta’s plain slices might not compete with that of dollar pizza, the flavor certainly triumphs.
The Tartufata Pie with prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, crema di tartufo and mozzarella is a winner due to the sheer goodness of its ingredients. Additionally, Nicoletta’s menu features homemade gluten-free dough, which is a real draw to students with celiac disease who often struggle to find delicious and safe pizza near campus. Most pizzerias in the area outsource their dough.
The restaurant is very casual and not at all crowded on a weekday, although the servers could be a little more attentive. The ambiance of the warm, cozy East Village location is described best by Jonna Gerlich, Nicoletta’s managing director.
“[When you walk in] you see the chefs tossing pizzas, have that amazing smell from the ovens fill the room and see groups of people sharing classic Italian snacks, salads, pizzas and classic dishes,” Gerlich said.
The pizzeria also hosts many fun events. This past weekend, students could have spent valuable time with their significant others at a couples’ pizza making class or have gotten more bang for their buck with the pizzeria’s game day deals. Best yet, Nicoletta offers NYU students a 20 percent discount – Mamma mia!
Although the pizzeria has some delicious options, Nicoletta is not one of the best pizza places in the United States. Still, with unique flavors and events, it might be worth a try.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 6 print edition. Email Drew Lederman at [email protected].