Between gelato carts and waiter statuettes jutting out into the sidewalks, Little Italy is hardly subtle when it comes to self-promotion. But 180 Neapolitan Eatery, a new pizzeria on Hester Street, lacks a proper front door, let alone a sign. A scuzzy glass door leads to a generic elevator, and on the second floor, a little dining room stares down at pizzaiolo Salvatore Olivella’s thousand-degree wood-burning oven. There are some flowers in the windows. Otherwise, it’s all about the pizza.
“We only want the right people to know about it,” the general manager, Vincenzo Auriso, told me. Among them: three guys with Riff Raff-style haircuts who went for the gorgonzola, pear, and walnut pizza at the behest of Riff Raff 1 (“You sold it so well,” said Riff Raff 2.) It’s been said that New York pizza owes its renown to the local tap water, but in this case Olivella’s house-made fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and sauce made with uncooked San Marzano tomatoes deserve as much credit. The San Daniele sees prosciutto (from San Daniele), thick-grated parmesan, and heaps of arugula topping the pie.
The aforementioned pear and gorgonzola affair—the Agrodolce Maria—comes white, without sauce. Olivella’s true signature is La Vesuviana, which takes any pie of your choosing and folds half of it over several scoops of ricotta to make a half pizza, half calzone mashup that feeds four easily. Knock one back with a round of craft Italian beers (the Almond ’22 Pink Pepper IPA is tops), and if you can, save room for a Nutella zeppole. Just don’t break the elevator on your way down.