Laurent Tourondel tackled burgers, steak and market-driven menus while under the BLT empire. Now the prolific French chef is dabbling in Italian influences with this 90-seat corner bistro, honoring his rural European upbringing with rustic Windsor chairs, accordion-style sliding windows and a pair of copper wood-burning ovens, visible from the dining room, for firing pizza.
Before pitchfork-wielding purists come harping on the virtues of New York versus Neapolitan, it’s worth noting that Tourondel’s pies are neither. Pulled from one of those ovens (the other is dedicated to firing tendrils of octopus and Calabrian-chili–smacked orata), the small-scale rounds sport the blister and blackening of much mightier pies. Between those charred puffs, crusts are paved, in order of most to least bewitching, with feisty sopressata picante, tangy tomato and Sicilian oregano for the menu’s sole red pie; rugged crumbles of Esposito’s sausage with shishito peppers and fennel pollen; and one-note white mushrooms with truffle paste and Taleggio.
Like any French chef worth his toque, Tourondel clearly knows his way around a carbohydrate, and house-made pastas are further proof. Cranked through an extruder in the open kitchen, tender curls of pipe rigate are richened with veal-shoulder bolognese, and a seasonal fusilli is gamely tossed with zesty sausage, bitter greens and pine nuts.