For my birthday this year, Todd bought me tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway and made dinner reservations at Marta, a new restaurant from chef Nick Anderer that “reimagines and invents thin-crust pizzas” cooked in wood-burning ovens. Fish, meats, and vegetables are cooked alla brace, over an open-fire grill, and beverages include local craft beers as well as an all-Italian wine list. Located in the Martha Washington Hotel, the space is romantic (think soft lighting and cozy nooks) yet bustling, with an open kitchen, high ceilings, and tall windows that looked out onto the street.
Though our servers continually changed throughout the night, they were all helpful and attentive; I don’t think my glass of lemon water was ever less than half full. Todd and I took a while to decide what to order: Would two pizzas be enough food? Would two pizzas and an additional entree be too much food? Should we order an appetizer or two, instead? We finally settled on two appetizers, two pizzas, and two desserts. There was more than enough food for both of us, and if you don’t have a boyfriend who can eat a horse and still be hungry, I’d recommend one appetizer, two pizzas, and one dessert to share.
For our first appetizer, I chose grilled broccoli seasoned with chili and garnished with olives, capers, and apricots. It was the perfect mix of charred, crisp heads and soft stems, and I was happy to see that there was enough garnish to go around. What I loved most about this dish was the sharp, vinegary kick that came along with each bite.
Todd chose our second appetizer: crispy sunchokes (a variety of artichoke, as I learned thanks to Google) with duck confit and burnt orange. The sunchokes felt starchy like potatoes but had a fresh, herbaceous flavor, especially when paired with the charred bits of orange that came in the dish. The duck, though soft enough to melt in your mouth, didn’t stand out enough and left me wanting something more. Overall, this appetizer really had a bright spring-inspired flavor that got us in the mood for the warmer weather forecasted for this week.
After quite a long wait, we finally received our pizzas. And were they worth it! A note about the crust: when they say thin crust, they mean thin crust. I happen to prefer doughy, heavy pizzas, but I can go for light and crispy every now and again. These crusts are paper-thin, with the brittleness of matzoh and a taste similar to a saltine cracker. That doesn’t sound appealing, but somehow it really worked, and what I loved most was that the thin crust really let the toppings show off their flavors.
Our first pizza, the patate alla carbonara, had received rave reviews on Yelp. A white pie, it was topped with potato chunks, egg, guanciale (an Italian pork), black pepper, and pecorino. The combination of ingredients really worked on this pizza, and because of the thin crust, it didn’t feel like an overload of carbs. It was creamy, rich, salty—delicious for the first slice, good for the second, but maybe a little too strong by the third.
With our second pizza, on the other hand, I could have eaten the whole pie. Or two. For multiple days in a row. It was a simple creation: a light layer of tomato sauce topped with thick, wet, gooey stracciatella cheese and basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. The cheese, similar to a burrata, soaked through the entire pizza. I can’t describe the flavor other than to say it was probably the best cheese I’ve ever tasted—and the best part is that it was made in-house, right there in the restaurant!
Though I felt a little full, I knew I had to try dessert. Todd decided on a rich chocolate cake frosted with olive oil buttercream and accompanied by a glass of milk. I don’t really like chocolate cake, but he said he enjoyed it. I chose a cannoli cheesecake, which had a soft, creamy center that definitely had a cannoli cream flavor. Beneath that was a layer of chocolate chips, followed by what tasted like a graham cracker crust atop a thin cannoli shell. The best part: the dollop of pistachio cream and crumbled pistachios on top.
Marta was a little pricey for pizza ($15 for appetizers, about $20-$30 for a smallish personal pie, $9 dessert), but definitely worth it for a special occasion. For the price, I felt like we received enough food, though I was surprised that we didn’t get any bread before our meal, which is usually standard in Italian restaurants. And my boyfriend was disappointed that they didn’t do anything special for my birthday even though he’d mentioned that on the reservation. It won’t replace my usual pizza joint, nor is it my favorite Italian restaurant (that designation is held by Oregano in Brooklyn), but Marta is still an exceptional choice with great flavors and decadent dishes.