People who already love Polpettina know it can be a hard place to get a table, and they’re willing to wait.
Still, we can’t help but trumpet this cozy, 18-seat restaurant — part pizzeria, part Italian restaurant, part neighborhood bistro and part small plates bar — even if that means adding to the crowds. Because Polpettina is the kind of place where everyone loves to go.
It’s welcoming for families with small kids, man enough for guys night out, intimate enough for girls night out, entertaining enough for a first date and romantic enough for date night. People know tables are few, but big groups show up anyway, willing to wait their turn to joyfully pass carafes of wine while sharing plates of juicy meatballs, crispy thin-crust pies and expertly prepared pastas and entrees.
The restaurant, down a winding street between Post Road in Eastchester and the Crestwood train station, feels like an old barn transplanted to Brooklyn. Reclaimed wood lines two walls, bricks line a third and the fourth is a glass storefront window, looking out to the street. A few cookbooks decorate two small shelves, a couple of flat-screen TVs play sports, and Edison bulbs hang above a granite bar. There are five tables.
The center of the restaurant is a giant Baker’s Pride pizza oven — the same kind you see in strip-mall pizza joints all around the country. And therein lies the genius of Polpettina. Pizza nerds from here to Naples claim that expensive coal- and wood-fired ovens imported from Italy are the key to bubbling pies with perfectly charred crusts. All Polpettina needs is a good dough, good sauce, homemade cheese and a lot of heat.
Talent helps, too. It lies in the chef-owners Kyle Inserra and Mike Abruzese, two cooks who met working at South Fork Kitchen, a restaurant in Bridgehampton. They realized they had the same philosophy — use local ingredients, make simple dishes, serve good food — and so decided to make a go of it here.
They wanted to own a pizzeria that was different, says Abruzese, who once owned Coal Vines in Dallas, the first coal-fired pizza restaurant and wine bar in Texas. “We think outside the box. We’re more of a restaurant with pizza.”
They do three styles: Grandma, Neapolitan, and Brooklyn. The Grandma is square, like a Sicilian, but with a lighter, airier crust. The Neapolitan is round, with a charred, crispy crust. The Brooklyn, an homage to the great pizzerias of that borough, especially the famous DiFara Pizzeria in Midwood, is a Neapolitan that’s topped with a heavy helping of pecorino and freshly snipped basil, just as it is there. It’s just about the closest thing to perfect you’ll find.
We loved our Brooklyn pie with the addition of prosciutto and a runny egg from Feather Ridge Farm. We cut the egg and let the yolk serve as a creamy topper to the charred crust with its light topping of tomato and salty ham. Yum.
We also tried one of the signature pies, a Brooklyn made with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, basil and pecorino — no mozzarella. When a pizza tastes great without mozz, you know you’ve got a good pizza.
Besides pizza? Well, polpettina means “little meatball” in Italian, and while the meatballs here are by no means little, they certainly are delicious.
First-timers nearly always go for the meatball tasting: traditional beef with ricotta; pork with broccoli rabe; chicken with scallions and soy. All were juicy and tasty: the beef was rich and a little bit sweet; the pork was tangy and bitter from the broccoli rabe; and the chicken was utterly Asian. Very fun.
Over a couple of visits, we also tried a lentil soup (terrific), the roast chicken (succulent) and an arugula salad with beets and burrata (creamy yet refreshing).
Our only quibble was with the truffled carbonara, a pasta that was dripping with cream and so wasn’t technically a carbonara, which is made without. It was still rich and tasty, though.
Abruzese and Inserra cook from the heart and that means cooking from scratch: They make mozzarella and ricotta, cure their own guanciale and pancetta, pickle their own vegetables and and jar their own sauces.
“I would hope you can taste what we’re feeling when we put something in a dish,” Abruzese says. “We like to think of work as a fun atmosphere, so hopefully all that rubs off on everybody. That they can feel the warmth and the comfortableness of the restaurant.”
And hopefully, you won’t mind the wait. We promise: It’s worth it.
If you go …
Polpettina, 102 Fisher Ave., Eastchester. 914-961-0061, www.polpettina.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Dinner for two (minus tax, tip and alcohol): $80.
Good to know: Polpettina Market is next door, so if you arrive to a wait (which you probably will), you can buy a drink and browse the shop.
If you like Polpettina, you might also like …
• lar: Wood-fired pizza and a homey neighborhood feel at this new restaurant in Piermont. The waits can be long here, too. 587 Piermont Ave., Piermont. 845-848-2207; search Facebook for the page.
The Cookery: Chef David DiBari turns out creative Italian food. Don’t miss the lamb bolognese. The closest thing to pizza, though, are the flatbreads. 39 Chestnut St., Dobbs Ferry. 914-305-2336; www.thecookeryrestaurant.com.
Mediterraneo: Thin-crust pizzas, traditional Italian and a welcoming staff, all near the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. 75 Cooley St., Pleasantville. 914-773-1020.