Against trend, we often side with the belief that most foods labeled “Healthy” might be significantly less tasty than their less healthy counterparts – case in point: Pizza. So, we had a pretty serious Come to Jesus Moment this week while dining for the first time at L’asso EV, a newcomer to the East Village, boasting a dedication to the organic, gluten free culinary approach, that manages to get just about everything right.
We were initially tempted to visit L’Asso with the promise of being served the “Best Pizza In NYC” (a claim we have heard many times before). And while we admit that L’asso EV’s pizza is insane, it is really a co-star amid an ensemble cast (menu) of tasty treats that will likely convert you to a regular customer.
With a smaller, original location at 192 Mott Street (at Kenmare), L’asso EV (Italian Translation : The Ace , with EV signifying the East Village) opened with an expanded menu at 107 First Avenue about 6 months ago. They are proud of their pizza – and rightly so – but L’Asso offers a varied menu featuring fresh, unique salads, appetizers, pasta and desserts that you won’t find on any other area menu. Aside from the delicious food, the space is totally cool.
Striking a fine balance of hip and classy, the restaurant is a perfect addition to this wildly popular and centrally located neighborhood which attracts both foodies and the artistically inclined crowd. Before we even get to the food, the interior is immediately inviting and comfy. L’asso EV’s appealing decor – a mix of clean chic and farmhouse kitsch – is enhanced by an impressive collection of art adorning its walls.
From a collection of Ashley Macknica photographs known as the Pizza is My Lover series, to a colorful pyramid mural painted directly on the wall by local street artist Dima Drjuchin, to an eclectic collection of tiny canvases scattered across the walls of the large back room (great for groups), there are almost as many beautiful things on view at L’asso as there are delicious things to eat. Innovative Chefs Jackie Gibson and Joseph Lee make sure of that.
Amid an enticing selection of big salads, we chose to start our meal with the Insalata Fresca ($15.00), made with cucumber, corn, tomato, cilantro, radish and salty, flavorful caciocavallo cheese dressed lightly with olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce. It looked as good as it tasted!
The D.O.C. Bufalina Pizza appetizer was presented on a house-made bagel topped with Buffalo Mozzarella, San Marzano Tomatos and Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($6.00)
A major highlight of the evening came early (and unexpectedly) in the form of the Fried Tomato Appetizer ($14.00), which was recommended to us by our charming server/host, Paul AKA Love Jungle This is a satisfying plate of three, thick-cut slabs of Red (not green!) Tomato, well coated in a light, seasoned breadcrumb mix and expertly pan fried, drizzled with balsamic and served topped with huge ball of fresh mozzarella. OMG! Not only are the sweet, ripe tomatoes beyond delicious on their own, but the mozzarella is so soft, milky and fresh, this dish is nearly as luscious and decadent as a dessert.
A Trio of Eda’s Meat Balls ($11.00) – a mix of veal, beef and pork –arrived at our table fresh from the oven, baked in a ramekin with sauce and more Buffalo Ricotta. The meatballs are huge, flavorful, juicy, tender and highly recommended!
Gnocchi can be a fickle mistress, but L’asso’s Gnocchi Portofina ($13.00) are among of the lightest and fluffiest Gnocchi we have tasted. Served in a light tomato sauce with homemade ricotta, we would ask for an additional dollop of the accompanying delicious cheese when ordering these again.
L’asso Mussels (cooked with garlic, white wine and pancetta, $14.00) are served with generous helping of crispy, fresh herb-tossed French Fries accompanied by a fresh and creamy Pesto Aioli for dipping.
Finally, it was time for us to get down to the business of eating pizza, and our attentive wait staff created a special, off-menu (but soon to be on menu), item just for us: a Muffaletta Pizza, which they cheekily call The Big Muff ($18.00)! This round pie is based on the famous New Orleans sandwich, being topped with Green Olive salad and both mortadella and sopresatta before being buried in cheese. This pizza is so rich and loaded with toppings and yet the suportive crust stays crisp and light. A small pie can easily be shared between two people, with a shared salad, and it is doubtful you would leave hungry. We will concur that L’asso EV deserves to lay claim to serving the “Best Pizza in the East Village.” We will be back for more.
NOTE: Sadly, L’asso EV Has Closed as of July 2013
L’asso EV is Located at 107 First Avenue, Between 6th and 7th Streets in NYC’s East Village.
Miss May from Pizza is My Lover Series