Pizza Vinoteca

by Mariah Castillo

Last Friday my friend and I, wanting to catch up after three months of separation and not wanting to do homework, decided to eat dinner together. We went to Pizza Vinoteca at Union Square, as I wanted to get out of the MoHi area and she wanted pizza. To put things concisely, I was so glad to have gone.

Pizza is always good, but this pizza was AMAZING.

Upon entering, I was surprised by how inviting the restaurant was. The lighting was warm, more on the dark side, and the two floors (which were fairly small spaces) were filled with patrons of all ages. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Pizza Vinoteca stands out among other great pizza places through its setup. While the traditional waiter is part of the experience, you order everything through an iPad. The whole concept might seem a little pretentious, but it actually wasn’t; the staff was very nice and ready to help us when we had some trouble with ordering. The “app” first asked us to type in a name or alias, and because my friend’s nickname was “Ruby,” she and I decided to type in “Emerald” and “Sapphire,” respectively. We then chose from the starters/ sides, pizzas, drinks, and desserts, which were all divine.

Ruby chose the shrimp pizza, veal meatballs, apple cider, and tiramisu gelato panini while I chose the sausage pizza, house salad, peel soda, and Mexican chocolate bomboloni, and like the amazing friends we are, we shared almost everything. The pizzas were baked on whole wheat dough, making them really filling. One pizza could only really be enough for a ravenous person, but neither she nor I were able to finish ours.

Our pizzas were served on two small, rectangular paddles. Ruby’s pizza contained neat rows of zucchini and squash, followed by shrimp, and a sprinkle of lemon zest on top. This was the only food item I didn’t taste, because I was allergic to shrimp, but Ruby commented on how flavorful the pizza was. The lemon flavor was prominent among the herbs and seasonings, but it went well with the shrimp.

Ruby’s tasty pizza with shrimp and zucchini.

My pizza had two different cheeses under broccoli and a hearty serving of sausage. The sausage was delicious and full of seasonings and spices that make my tongue salivate at the thought of them. The Broccoli Rabe stood out to me, as it gave the pizza a slightly bitter taste (I wasn’t sure at first if the bitterness was from that or from a possibly burnt crust, but upon further inspection I found it was from the broccoli). However, it did not negate the overall quality of the pizza. Since neither of us finished our pizzas, we brought them home for later, and I can assure you that eating them cold or reheated was still good. I was eating another part of my leftover pizza the next day for lunch, and I was happy to find the crust didn’t get stiff. I could easily bite into it and taste all the amazing flavors.

Our sides were also really good. Ruby’s meatballs were tender and well-seasoned. The tomato sauce they were nestled in had hints of spice in them, which complemented the meatballs well. It was served in a tiny cast iron pan on top of a woodblock and flanked by two pieces of bread. I would really recommend this as a side. I thought about balancing the meal by adding some greens and chose the house salad. The vegetables were fresh and drizzled with a lemony vinaigrette. It was served piled high on a plate, and I ate most of that little mountain by myself.

Tiramisu gelato panini- finished in minutes.

Our drinks were sweet and refreshing, a kind of little break between the heavily seasoned food we’d been eating. Pizza Vinoteca’s sodas were created exclusively for the restaurant and served in glass bottles; I wanted to bring the bottle with me, but the cap was removed and taken away as soon as it was served, so I chose to finish the drink at the end, which led to a couple seconds of intense burping (TMI!). However, I would do that all over again, as it wasn’t heavily sweet like the sodas you would find at the grocery store.

By the time we ate three to four small slices of our pizzas, and finished our sides, we both felt full. However, when our desserts came out, we were on them faster than Superman can fly. We decided to cut our pastries in half and give the pieces to each other, so we were able to enjoy both desserts. The tiramisu gelato was nestled in a warm crust. We loved the coffee flavor that came out alongside the sweetness, but I found that the coffee flavor came out more strongly in some bites than in others. The Bomboloni (pretty much a donut hole on crack) was served with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. Upon cutting into it, the Mexican dark chocolate filling oozed out. The filling had the right amount of sweet and bitter, with hints of spice. I don’t know how it happened, but before long both our plates were empty.

How good does this Bomboloni look?

The food was not the only plus of the restaurant. For a place that boasts an iPad ordering system, the staff here was top-notch. They were friendly and gave us our food in good time. Unlike other restaurants, which assign one waiter to a certain table, we were served by various people, all of whom were nice. One of them was particularly memorable for me; Ruby and I were finishing our sides when the pizzas came out. Our table was really tiny, so the waiter said, “Wait, I’m going to play Tetris and make them fit.” I started humming the Tetris theme song to which he said, “Now I’m inspired” and made the two paddles fit on to the table along with our side dishes. Writing it now, it was a little silly, but I approved.

Ruby initially had trouble using the silverware. The spoons and forks are not centered, forming a straight edge along one side. After watching me grab a meatball and sauce with the serving spoon, she realized that using it didn’t feel right to her because she was a lefty; she had been trying to use the spoon with her left hand even though the ladle part was facing the left side. I wasn’t sure if there were lefty spoons available, and neither of us asked. Lefties, when you’re eating here, get ready to switch hands.

Aside from the lefty incident, and the disturbing realization that the two bathrooms in the restaurant were singles (it was an uncomfortable reality for someone who really had to go at that moment), I enjoyed my experience at Pizza Vinoteca. Ruby agreed with me that this place was amazing; their food is divine (you should prepare yourself), and their friendly atmosphere cut the initially scary notion of using an iPad to order. I recommend reserving beforehand, as the tables are small (though can be connected) and space is limited. The restaurant was full, and rightfully so. Barnard students, if you ever want to get away from the stuffiness of MoHi, definitely make the trek to Union Square and try this place out. You will not regret it, no matter what you order.

Grade: 9.5/10

Mariah Castillo is a junior at Barnard and the contributing editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Mariah Castillo and food courtesy of Pizza Vinoteca.

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