Last Sunday, I met my friends Caroline and Emily for brunch at Pulino's, Keith McNally's latest restaurant, and the newest addition to the now-completely-gentrified corner of Bowery and Houston. McNally is the force behind the Odéon, Balthazar, Schiller's Liquor Bar, Pastis...you get the idea. He specializes in creating buzz paired with seemingly time-worn atmosphere, and Pulino's is no exception to the rule.
Ostensibly a pizza restaurant (McNally hired San Francisco's Nate Appleman to create the menu and run the joint), it's first and foremost a gathering place for hipsters, hangers-on and (at brunch, at least) downtown parents and their children.
The three of us decided to share a few things, starting with an appetizer of asparagus, ramps and rhubarb. The dish was clearly meant to be a celebration of early spring, featuring the season's three star ingredients. The grassy asparagus, tart rhubarb and stinky ramps actually went quite well together; the flavors weren't revolutionary, but it was tasty. The dish was completely overwhelmed, however, by two things: the mound of far-too-peppery black pepper mascarpone hiding beneath the asparagus, and the price: $14.
Next, we tried the margherita pizza, which we ordered with an egg on top. The pizza was very good - crisp but still chewy, and the sauce, cheese and basil were each top-notch. The egg was put on a bit early and the yolk was cooked all the way through, which was a bit disappointing. Overall, though, it's a solid pizza.
The star of the meal, by far, was the sweet pizza we shared as a dessert. It was topped with pecorino, pears, cinnamon and sugar (and, my guess is, a bit of butter). It was just sweet enough, and the pears were still a bit firm and not at all mushy. We devoured this, licked our fingers, and resolved to come back and order a large one very, very soon.
282 Bowery (at Houston Street)