There is perhaps no single ingredient more iconic than the tomato when it comes to Italian cuisine. As they left their jobs at a Patsy's on University Place to open their own pizzeria restaurant in the east village, Alex Alexopoulos and Adonis Nikoulis agreed to name their new establishment after one of the finer species of tomato, the plum variety.
Plum has a nice cozy atmosphere that is simultaneously inviting and classy without taking itself too seriously. After making a couple new food and wine-obsessed friends, we took a seat and were promptly brought our first course, a classic Caprese salad-
In addition to the standard mozz, tomato, basil and olive oil, this guy featured roasted peppers, pesto and a tasty balsamic reduction. However, the real stars were the Lucky's tomatoes and fresh and creamy house-made mozzarella.
Promptly after cleaning my plate, I was visited by three impeccable pasta dishes, starting with a serving of penne ala vodka.
Served steaming hot with bits of savory Italian bacon intermixed with the al dente penne, this was my favorite pasta dish of the night. It's hard to nail a balanced creamy tomato sauce without going too heavy-handed on the cream, but these guys nailed it. Yumtown City.
Next up was a fun and tasty combination of pumpkin and pistachio in the form of yellow pumpkin ravioli in a creamy pistachio sauce. I had never experienced these two flavors in the same bite before, but after digging in it was deliciously clear why they had been paired together.
Last on the pasta list was a delicious rigatoni alla bolognese. The sauce here was hearty and zesty, with a mix of veal and beef and from what I could tell some Parmesan, oregano and pepper. Tasty indeed, but I'm no pasta blogger and you came here to read about pizza, ammiright?
I spoke with Alex about his shiny new Baker's Pride ovens which he keeps in plain view to all customers (as it should be!), which he keeps at (a relatively standard) 675-750 degrees. I've never had the opportunity to fire a pie in one of these, but have always wondered just how hot you can crank these things. Before I could ask any more questions, the pizza arrived-
Pretty beautiful, right? We were served two large 17" pies, the first of which was half sausage and onion, half garlic and pepperoni topped off with fresh Neapolitan basil. At Plum, you customize your own pizza topping-by-topping (of which they have a nice selection), but I was happy with the combinations the house made on our first pizza.
Before anyone had a chance to take a bite, Alex walked over to briefly explain his product. What he did next was shocking: he lifted a slice off the tray, to which there was no tip-sag, and then proceeded to hold the slice straight up and down by the crust. Why? To show the neatness of his product, and the prove that nothing is going to fall off your slice.
An interesting and ballsy move indeed, but you can't say the guy doesn't stand by his product! After sampling a slice of the sausage and a slice of the pepperoni, I was really beginning to get a grasp on Alex's approach to pizza.
In order to obtain the stiffer, more rigid undercrust he displayed, he leaves the dough a bit thicker in the middle and then bakes the pie slightly longer. While this doesn't burn the mozzarella and leaves a stronger layer of crust, the end result is a crunchy, almost tough undercrust that I thought distracted from the delicate and oh, so holy cheese-sauce-crust balance.
Don't get me wrong, I've had enough disgusting and shameful pizza at the opposite sloppy, undercooked end of the spectrum to make me cry out for a firmer crust, but I think Plum's pizza could perhaps stand to come out of the oven 30 seconds earlier to preserve some essential pizza "juiciness."
I know for a fact that Alex uses some absolutely delicious mozzarella, fine Italian tomatoes and a selection of primo toppings that I think could all benefit from less time in the oven. Case in point, the next pie was half plain Margherita, and half mushroom with peppers. This was a great classic combo that, had I not eaten so much prior to the pizza, would be endanger of being scarfed entirely by me.
Finally came dessert. We were all brought slice of chocolate mousse cake, and man was it exquisite. Alex explained that he features one, different dessert every night created by students at NYU's Food Studies program. This insures the freshness of his dishes, and boy did my cake taste fresh.
The service, atmosphere, wine, and food were all fantastic at Plum Pizzeria and I had a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience, but next time I return I think I'll ask for extra sauce and cheese on my pie.