RECOMMENDED: Complete New York pizza guide
235 E 4th St between Aves A and B (212-254-2900)
You can feel the 1,000-degree heat emanating from Tonda’s peak-of-geekiness oven—outfitted with rotating stone floors and stocked with smoldering wood—from across the dining room of this East Village pizzeria. The man guarding this inferno is Michele Sceral, a graduate of the venerable Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani. Ever the apt pupil, Sceral displays a slavish attention to detail: The tomatoes are San Marzano specimens; the cheese is a milky, low-water Italian import (buffalo is available for an additional $5). Even the H20 used in the dough has been considered—Sceral uses filtered water, which he says helps control overbubbling of the crust.
The pies, if not your sweat glands, are the better for all that heat. They emerge from their turns in the oven (each pie makes two to three 30-second rotations) with a crisp yet elastic crust. The low moisture of the mozzarella keeps the cheese from pooling, and the sauce expertly balances sugar and acid. Sceral is a hard-line traditionalist, so take your cues from him and stick to the classics when ordering. The Margherita pie is exemplary, but more adventurous varieties (like a salty combination of broccoli rabe and sausage) are less pristine.
M Shanghai Bistro & Garden
Brooklynites don’t need to trek to Chinatown to find good Shanghainese food—just head to Williamsburg to dine at M Shanghai Bistro & Garden. Plop down at one of the tables with communal seating and go to town on the menu of dim sum favorites. Think hot and sour soup ($8), scallion pancakes ($7), the juicy pork buns also known as xiao long bao ($9 for six) and ma-pao tofu ($11.50). Vegetarians will be happy to hear that M Shanghai Bistro offers both a vegan and vegetarian version of their menu to make ordering sans meat that much easier. Wash down all the steamed dumplings and spicy stir-fried vegetables with big pots of oolong, chrysanthemum or green tea ($5 each). An extended happy hour—from noon to 4pm, then again from 5pm to 7pm—makes it absurdly easy to take advantage of $5 beer and wine deals.
Venue says: “It is that time of year to enjoy a steamer of Juicy Pork Buns and a freshly made Hot and Sour soup!”