Sauce Pizzeria, a new East Village restaurant slinging slices with a little crock of dipping sauce, is celebrating their opening by giving out free pizza today (September 21st). The new spot is fully opening Saturday with a complete menu and regular hours, but does their gimmick—dipping a classic NYC fold that's already got plenty of sauce on it into more sauce—actually work?
The thing is, Sauce Pizzeria owner Adam Elzer, who also runs Sauce Restaurant, is a native New Yorker with an Italian grandmother who taught him a thing or two, so he knows his pizza, and he knows his gravy. So before you're all get outta here to the whole concept, know that the pizza itself here is excellent, the sauce is also good, and dipping as you go along is not nearly the travesty you might think. Especially when you get to the crust at the end.
At a preview party on Thursday night I got to try the core of the Sauce Pizzeria menu, and everything was great. There's an Upside Down Cheese Pie (an homage to the famous square slice at L&B Spumoni Gardens), where the mozzarella, pecorino, and tomato sauce are put in reverse order, with breadcrumbs sprinkled on top to complete the ruse. There's a gooey Classic Cheese, and a funky Pepperoni, and a garlicky Sausage. All of these worked well with the Grandmother's Tomato Gravy dipping sauce. Elzer also fires up a potentially divisive Al Pastor Pie, a nod to his days spent launching Empellon with Alex Stupak.
In addition to all the regular pizza stuff going on here, you also get chunks of roasted pork, jalapeño, and... a cup of warm pineapple sauce. Sauce Pizzeria will serve entrees, too, like Rigatoni, Chicken Parmigiana, and Pan Seared Salmon, as well as salads and sides such as Broccoli Rabe, Polenta Sticks, and Garlic Knots.
And for dessert, they are now the only place in the city where you can get Van Leeuwen Soft Serve. There's only Vanilla and Chocolate at the moment, but I highly recommend eating your ice cream inside a Boylan's Root Beer (or Black Cherry) Float.
The space itself can seat about 20, at a row of tables before an exposed brick wall or at stools by the front window looking out over East 12th Street. A pressed tin ceiling, old photos of Elzer's ancestors, and tchotchkes from his grandmother add an a bit of old-school authenticity to the joint, while neon signs and handmade collages of 1980s and '90s hip hop artists (who also provide the soundtrack) help keep it from feeling too fusty.
Elzer and his crew will be handing out free slices today (Friday, 9/21) from 2 to 4 p.m., and then again from 6 until 8 p.m.
Sauce Pizzeria is located at 345 East 12th Street, just west of First Avenue. The grand opening is Saturday, and the hours will be Sunday through Thursday from noon to 12:00 midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from noon to 4 a.m. (646-983-4007; saucepizzeria.com)