Toying with pizza can be a delicate balancing act in this town, where you're pilloried for breaking with tradition—even if the "rules" you're breaking are commonplace elsewhere in the world. Take the Smokey Robinson pie ($15/21) from babbalucci, a casual new pizza and Italian spot that opened on Harlem's flourishing restaurant row last month. The pie is topped with prosciutto cotto (ham, basically), smoked scamorza cheese, a drizzle of truffle pate and...sliced potatoes. On this side of the pond, the carb-on-carb combination is something of a curiosity; in a place like Palermo, Sicily, for example, it's just what's for dinner.
Regardless of what you're topping your pies with, they still need to be delicious and the ones coming out of the wood-fired oven here most certainly qualify. If you were skeptical about the potatoes, you may also raise an eyebrow at their signature pie ($15/20), topped with tomato, garlic, parsley, gorgonzola cheese and snails (babbalucci is a term for snail in Sicily). The mollusks—which also show up an outstanding Sicilian-style appetizer with garlic and white wine—are quite tender, not requiring any extensive jaw work as can be the case in some preparations.
The interesting pizzas are just one component of the dining experience, which also includes things like pastas and salads—the grilled romaine ($9) with pancetta and anchovy dressing was simple but flavorful at a recent press preview—as well as antipasti like fried artichokes ($10) and fried calamari ($9).
There's also the burgeoning cocktail program, created by Italian mixologist Enzo Cangemi, and a working stiff-friendly happy hour Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Best of all, they offer apertivo at the bar, setting out plates of antipasti and perhaps a pie or two to nosh on while you drink.
311 Lenox Avenue, (646) 918-6572; website