It can be hard for New Yorkers to say goodbye to their favorite neighborhood haunts. Over time, we get used to mourning the loss of a local dive bar or sitting shivah for a shuttered restaurant. That’s exactly what we did nine years ago, when Anthony Mangieri took Una Pizza Napoletana, his popular East Village–via-Jersey pizzeria, and shipped it to San Francisco. Well, if you love something, set it free, because Una Pizza has returned to its rightful home after a stint on the West Coast. While Mangieri cranks out the pies, new partners Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, the chef-duo behind Wildair and Contra, provide the small plates and desserts.
At first glance, the restaurant looks like the low-key date-night spot you’ll keep in your back pocket for a Tinder instant-match rendezvous. Small wood tables fill the heavily tiled room for a clean yet warm feel that is perfect for a casual meal.
The starters are simple and pleasant, like sliced raw beef tenderloin dressed with chopped pistachios and olives or an uncomplicated $14 plate of shaved prosciutto. You’ll eventually come to the realize that the only thing missing is an offering of ham and pineapple, since the small plates would succeed better as pizza toppings than they do as stand-alone dishes. But you’re not here for a few slices of raw meat: You’re here for the Neapolitan pies that rival Naples’ best. The dining room wraps around the pizza station, to which all eyes are glued to the spectacle of Mangieri and his team stretching pillows of dough and making it rain mozzarella. Each table is desperately hoping for the same thing: that the next blistered crust leaving the wood-fired oven is theirs.
Though it may be blasphemy to the slice-folding New Yorker, our server encouraged us to do as they do in Naples and eat our pie with a fork and knife. The menu sports an array of 12-inch pies, each $25 and free of any exotic toppings, making Una Pizza a great option for when you have to dine with dreaded picky eaters. The star of our meal was the Filetti pie: a chewy and airy crust topped with mozzarella, fresh, sliced cherry tomatoes, garlic and basil.
You’ll leave satiated and smiling, without the inflated feeling of overindulgence induced by the average NYC pizza experience (there’s still room to order both the flawless tiramisu and the panna cotta). We may have set Una Pizza Napoletana free, but its homecoming means it’s really, finally, ours.