On the far west end of Houston Street, catty-corner from the MacDougal handball courts, sits this tiny, cash-only Neapolitan pizza kitchen. With only a counter and five tables, plus a few more out front, this bustling hole in the wall seems like a throwback to an earlier time.
Delivering a complimentary basket of crackly bread with a ramekin of fresh ricotta cheese, the waiter assures us the food is “very authentic,” pointing outside for veritas, where Naples-born owner and chef Ciro Iovine is helping a patron select a bottle of wine. Clad in a red apron and kerchief, chef Ciro is just the kind of burly guy you would hope was behind your dish of macaroni. He takes time to stop at our table, and so lovingly explains a dish of paccheri alla genovese ($18) that we feel compelled to order it. The fresh loops of jumbo rigatoni arrive smothered in a toothsome veal and caramelized onion ragu, generously studded with savory pieces of veal and chunks of carrots, which give it an unexpected yet pleasant sweetness. Paired up with a simple tower of fresh insalata caprese ($13) with ruby red tomato slices and crisp sprigs of basil, it makes for a satisfying meal.
One look at the blasting wood-fired pizza oven lets you know this place is also serious about its pies. With more than 20 different variations on the menu, there’s sure to be something for everyone’s taste. On a recent night, we tried the salsicce friarielli pizza ($18), which arrives layered with smoked mozzarella, sausage, broccoli rabe and EVOO. The crust was thin and char, almost like a fresh pita, and the toppings worked well together.
The quality of the entrees and the high caliber of the service makes it almost impossible to believe that the entire staff of Song’ E Napule consists of only four people: our very accommodating waiter, a garde manger salad chef who also manned the pizza oven, Chef Ciro, and a dishwasher that you’ll need to squeeze past if you want to use the restroom, which is through the kitchen in the back. No worries, though: the chef will serenade you with old Italian songs as you navigate your way through. Taken all together, this gives Song’ E Napule a very homey, rustic feel—as if you’re back in the days when Italian immigrant-run eateries dotted every block—, helping this Naples transplant make his American dream come true.
BY: TIME OUT COMMUNITY REVIEWER WINNIE MCCROY