We all go through an intense pizza craving every once in a while. Well-traveled connoisseurs don’t just settle for any pie—they long for the real, mouthwatering New York/Sicilian experience, which a good majority sadly haven’t found in Manila yet.
Meanwhile, foodies who have never been to either dot on the map merely rely on their noses, taste buds and bottomless bellies to guide us to the good stuff. Thanks to word of mouth, both groups of pizza lovers were able to get a whiff of something promising, right in the heart of Bonifacio High Street.
Having just opened in late January, Nolita has already been generating a lot of buzz for a newcomer. The brainchild of restaurateurs/business partners Patrick Santos and NY native Chef Cuit Kaufman (the same people behind Borough at The Podium), Nolita was born out of a proposal by Ayala developers to create a sort of spinoff of Borough’s “NY comfort food” concept at High Street’s new extension. “We came up with this whole idea of serving NY-style pizza that you can just grab for a quick lunch… But at the same time, we wanted to offer a place where you can sit down, have a few drinks with your friends and hang out for a bit,” Santos explained.
Short for “North of Little Italy,” Nolita is named after the hip, pizza-famous neighborhood in Manhattan, where Chef Kaufman gathers his inspiration for his recipes. The place is relatively small, about 40-50 seating capacity including outdoor tables, but that’s all part of recreating the look and feel of a typical NY pizzeria in an urban Manila setting.
The earthy, no-frills Interior is also done by Borough’s Dustin Reyes, who had undergone apprenticeship for an interior designer in NY. It’s casual enough for customers to be comfortable dressing down and eating pizza with their hands (in fact, they highly encourage it), but chic enough to blend in with the upscale dining complex. Avid fans of the HBO series “How to Make It in America” might even notice some thematic references.
Granted, the prices are a little more expensive than those of the other NY-style pizzerias, but they have darn good reasons for that. One, they don’t scrimp on the ingredients, which is fairly obvious just by looking at a slice. Two, practically everything is made from scratch, from the pizza dough and the bread for the sandwiches, down to the fresh chili flakes on the center of each table. And three, the servings are filling and huge enough for sharing. If you can manage to share, that is. “We believe that our pizza is really the most authentic NY-style pizza in the entire Manila area. We don’t want to compromise quality,” said Santos.
For pizza, the owner recommends the Chicken Parmesan (P230), a tomato-based bestseller which, for lack of a better term, is nothing short of mind-blowing. From the crispy crust to the fresh tartness of tomato to the juicy, savory chicken cutlets swimming in cheese, all the flavors literally explode in your mouth from the first bite alone.
For the cream-based pizza, there’s the Spinach and Artichoke (P220), a divine creation overflowing with ricotta and large chunks of incredibly tasty artichoke that will make you forget about wanting some meat on your pizza. Santos also recommends Steak and Eggs, Wild Mushroom Walnut Ricotta/Blue, and even the plain Cheese; they have around 16 original creations on rotation, so you’ll have no choice but to drop by every so often to try the featured flavors of the day.
Make no mistake, the pizza runs the show, but the other offerings on the menu actually give it a run for its money. At a hefty P420, the Nolita Burger is definitely not for penny pinchers or the faint of heart, but for those who are neither, this is a definite must-try. Served on a freshly made brioche bun, the insanely juicy Angus beef patty is usually cooked medium rare (but can be changed upon request), topped by bacon, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and a fried egg whose yolk deliciously seeps through the meat on the first huge bite. Goodbye self-restraint, hello soaring cholesterol levels.
For the ultimate comfort food, we happily binged on the deceptively flavorful, blue cheese-dominant Mac ‘N Cheese (P330) and our personal favorite, the Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (P230). Why shell out that much for a regular PBJ? Just order it and you’ll know why; there are simply no words for this. Oh, and don’t forget to dip it in the crème fraiche served on the side to balance out the intense flavor.
Being the gluttonous foodies that we are, we thought we’d have room for drinks and dessert, but after polishing off five dishes in one sitting, our stomachs happily waved the white flag. Santos vouches for the customer favorite Cannoli (P85) and White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Tiramisu (P280) for those with a sweet tooth. For the house cocktails, which can be ordered virgin or spiked, the Watermelonade (only fresh watermelons for that) and the ubiquitous Mojito are surefire winners. They also carry imported beer; ask the staff, or even Kaufman or Santos if you’re lucky, which one would go well with your meal.
The verdict? Two thumbs, two big toes and a happy belly all give a hearty stamp of approval. You might want to check in your diet at the door, because once you take a bite out of this Big Apple at The Fort, that word will disappear from your vocabulary in a flash. Sound like a bit of a stretch? Maybe, but you have to taste it to believe. And, boy, we definitely believe.
Nolita is located at 7th Ave. corner 31st St., Bonifacio High Street Central (above Jamba Juice), Taguig. Operating hours are 11 a.m. daily to 12 mn (Sun-Mon), 2 a.m. (T-Th), and 5 a.m. (Fri-Sat). As of this writing, orders are per slice, but they’ll soon be entertaining whole orders and delivery within the Fort area.