Ba Ba Ba Ba Babbalucci


Okay, so the name makes me want to sing the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann. I just couldn’t help the blog title. Forgive me for that but then thank me for making you go have pizza and the like in Harlem. It…is frigging good.

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Stopped in for a quick bite on my way downtown after a visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx (one fabulous cemetery). I’d been meaning to get there since it opened in June and my expectations were high. But how often are those met anyway? Well, hellooo! A fetching, relaxed, vibrant ambience, lovely staff and exemplary pizza…plus a host of Italian delectables all primarily cooked in fire.

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The chef/owner, Andrew LoPresto has long worked in restaurant world and hails from a paternal lineage of professional bread bakers. He’s also worked in several NY styled pizzerias owned by his father, including Luzzo, a NYC downtown favorite. How sublime that he’s now doing it for himself. And for all of us. LoPresto’s process is akin to the slow food movement, everything is made á casa, the bread and pizza dough apparently use a slow-fermentation process to create a refined, simple crust that’s further perfected in that luscious wood fired oven. He said in the Village Voice, “The product you get is much better, earthier, warmer”. Yup.

Started with a delightful bowl of fried artichokes tossed in herbs and lemon on a bed of arugula.
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Add it to the small list of favorite dishes I would have every day if someone would just bring it to me. But now the tippy top of that list belongs to the ‘Pleasant Avenue’ named pizza. Be still my heart.

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Sicilian tuna with pops of hot cherry peppers, plus onion, tomato, arugula and generous shavings of parmesan on top. The fabulously charred thin crust floats right from the wood burning oven into your mouth and the layers of flavors undulate from brine to hot to sweet onion. Ambrosial. I am not exaggerating.

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And even though this was a late lunch and dinner loomed in the near future, I had to try the Spaghetti with Mixed Mushrooms and Crispy Artichokes.
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Flavored simply, it’s lush, savory and that perceptible and heavenly edge of smokiness clung to my tastebuds.

Also sampled but not pictured (difficult dining companion!) are the very pleasing Grilled Romaine Insalata that too arrives fresh off the fire, just like the pizza, topped with pancetta, parmesan, and croutons – all slicked in a gorgeous anchovy dressing.

The Polpettine, finespun, succulent balls of spinach & beef on a bed of cheese infused polenta are lightly sauced with a nimbly spiced marinara. This dish is turning heads on the internet. And at my table.

There’s a nice wine list and an inventive cocktail menu designed by mixologist
Enzo Cangemi. It’s worldly but happily has a substantial Italian focus with Grappa and Amaro based cocktails and heady ingredients like rosemary and lavender. Their apertivo (happy hour) incorporates bite highlights from the main menu that complement the sophisticated libations. Worth putting in some time on the barstool.

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Lots more to explore on the menu though I’ll be hard pressed to not press repeat when I return. And we didn’t get to the much lauded ‘Babbalucci’ pizza but word is – do it. Snails, uh-huh I said snails…which happens to be what babbalucci translates to in Sicilian dialect. It’s topped with tomato, garlic, parsley and gorgonzola. So, I mean…yeah. That’s why there’s a next time.

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331 Lenox Avenue between 126/127th street
Open daily from 11am-midnight


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