Pasquale Jones, a sequel to Ryan Hardy, Grant Reynolds and Robert Bohr’s jaunty, wine-charged Soho spot Charlie Bird, is a touch warmer than neo-Italian brethren like Café Altro Paradiso. That might be due to Reynolds’s graciously priced wine list or the Prince hits on heavy rotation overhead (what Charlie Bird did with blaring hip-hop, Pasquale does with foot-tapping funk) or to the actual glow emanating off a pair of wood-burning ovens in the nimble open kitchen, the promise of pizza within.
Manned by San Francisco chef Tim Caspare, those roaring hearths produce one of the city’s best new pies: the clam pizza ($28), a char-puffed beauty covered in briny littlenecks, parsley and a delicate garlicky cream. Finish it with a few oily, lip-swelling chili peppers from an accompanying crock for the kind of bite that will make you forget that you’re eating at a cramped counter, with the blaze of a 900°F pizza oven giving you a secondhand sunburn.
Alongside first-rate za, those ovens produce mains like a lardy, fennel-flecked pork shank for two ($48), which slinks off the bone at the sight of a fork prong, and even the kitchen’s sole dessert, a gorgeous singed-soft rhubarb with mascarpone gelato and toasted pistachio ($8). That wood-fired power is a small difference between Pasquale Jones and the other restaurants occupying New York’s latest nuova scuola of Italian trattorias, but it’s those differences that render Pasquale formidable and others forgettable.