Frank, the excellent but overcrowded casual Italian on 2nd Avenue, has opened a brick-oven pizza place called Lil' Frankie's on 1st Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets. They claim that the oven itself was built by a 3rd-generation oven builder from Naples.
Only open a few weeks, I feel Lil' Frankies is not only the best pizza in the East Village (which isn't saying much), but also superior to the long-past-their-prime village stalwarts John's and Arturo's. Only the still-capable-of-greatness but sometimes disappointing Lombardi's offers real competition.
Stylistically, some may find fault with L.F's - the crust is VERY thin. I've never been to Naples or Italy at all, so I can't say if this is an attempt at authenticity; I prefer a slightly thicker crust myself, but I think they achieve what they're going for. The toppings, however, are among the best in the city. An obviously homemade sauce, and an incredible, nutty, fresh mozzarella. My favorite is the basic pie topped with a spicy salami (kind of a hot soprasetta, I guess).
The other recent opening is on the corner of St. Marks and 2nd Avenue, where a defunct GAP has given way to a generic, tacky slice joint. While I approve of this rare and interesting example of reverse-gentrification, the pizza is, as one look at the Ray's-style array of 20 different pies sitting in the case, slowly congealing, will tell you - barely mediocre.
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