There's something great about Neapolitan-style pizza. Perhaps it's the cloud-like dough that improves after every bite. Or the molten center that forms from the marriage of cheese and sauce. It's a unique style of pizza, and at Proof Pizza & Pasta in Midtown, it's the specialty.
Executive chef and owner Justin Flit wanted to bring some diversity to the neighborhood. "With Harry's right down the street, we are really trying to set ourselves apart," he says. "We're not really going for the mamma Italian restaurant feel but all-around Italian food." We stopped in for a taste of the inventive cuisine that extends beyond dough and toppings.
Flit's got quite the resume. After the Miami native attended culinary school in New York, he spent six months at DBGB with Daniel Boulud before coming back home. Then he spent three years at Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak, where he was executive sous chef. He even traveled to San Francisco for four months and helped Mina open up a restaurant there. Still, he craved his own thing, and so he enlisted the help of friend and former Dutch cook Matt DePante to be his chef de cuisine and roll out this idea of a neighborhood eatery.
The laid-back vibe at Proof is felt best in the terrace -- particularly considering the current amazing weather. The menu is a living-and-breathing document, always changing depending on what's seasonal and available. All plates, from the appetizers to the pasta and pizza are meant for sharing. "You get one and one of each and then another round depending on how you feel." Prices are extremely reasonable and refreshing, as is the wine list, which was put together by Flit's good friend, who happens to be the sommelier at Bourbon Steak. Local and craft beer are the only brew options and include Due South's caramel cream ale, Ommegang's saison and Funky Buddha's crisp Floridian hefeweizen wheat beer.
The edibles start with a warm farro salad with duck prosciutto, pomegranate, and pistachio ($12). The fat from the duck prosciutto is wonderfully cut and balanced by the acidity from the pomegranate. It's a unique dish diverse in flavors.
There's no lack of Brussels sprouts on menus in this town. Hell, just a block away in opposite directions Gigi and Sugarcane serve their pioneering versions of the vegetable. But at Proof, Flit is taking a different approach. Like Gigi's, these greens are shaved, but the handfuls of gorgonzola, pecans, dried cranberries, and apple cider vinaigrette that permeate the sprouts make the dish more of a refreshing salad ($11).
Lamb ribs are heavily charred on the exterior but perfectly tender at the core. They're drenched in a finger-licking mint salsa verde with black garlic ($14).
Proof proffers five pastas on the menu, all of which they make from scratch and by hand daily. Choose from pappardelle with roasted oyster mushrooms and sherry vinegar, agnolotti verde with braised pork and pickled peppers, or keep it classic with fettucini with vine ripe tomato sauce, basil, and Parmesan. The dish that will keep you coming back to Proof, however, is the angel hair with crab, calabrian chili, and lemon breadcrumbs ($17).
On the bottom of the menu, you'll notice a section titled "tonight." The lonesome dish on there is the nightly (or weekly) special. In our case, it was a garganelli with homemade fennel sausage, castelvetrano olive oil, and orange ($17). Bonus points for the extremely delicious homemade fennel sausage, which you can also have in pizza form with tomatoes, broccoli rabe, and mozzarella.
A white pizza fused mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan ($13).
You want to go for the oxtail pizza, which shares the spotlight with black garlic, thyme and caramelized onions ($14). The caramelized onions perform as more of a gravy for the pizza, making it extra saucy, just the way Neapolitan pizza ought to be.
For dessert, a chocolate macaron the size of a burger is stuffed with ice cream and painted with salted caramel. A sprinkle of maldon sea salt leaves your tongue tingling for more sweet.
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Taking care of that, focaccia bread pudding with butternut squash is surprisingly sweet.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha