At the recently opened Prova Pizzabar inside Grand Central Terminal, restaurateur and chef Donatella Arpaia combines some of the best attributes of both Neapolitan- and Roman-style pizzas—and the results are worth a stop, even if you don’t need to catch a train.
From Rome, she has taken rectangular pizza, offered by the slice. There’s no soupy center here, one of the trademarks of the Neapolitan pizza; instead the slices are soft and light on the inside, while the crust has a nice crunch that lasts. The toppings are where Neapolitan sensibilities come in. Rather than Roman-style potatoes and sausage, you’ll find some light and flavorful options.
Don’t miss the Zucca, with pumpkin purée, guanciale, mozzarella, rosemary, and pine nuts—a sweet-savory ode to the season; or the Polpette, topped with ragout, mozzarella, basil, and Arpaia’s award-winning meatballs, which had me going back for more ($6 for a slice, $32 for a large pizza).
Arpaia has recruited master pizzaiolo Giuseppe Manco, winner of the 2014 International Pizza Challenge in the Italian-style division. Manco, who is from Naples, Italy, pushes the limits of the hydration level of the dough, to around 87 percent. Regular New York City pizza, he explained, is about 40 percent, while Neapolitan pizza is about 60 to 63 percent.
His main concern is digestibility. The more hydrated the dough, the more digestible it will be. He also takes his sweet time with the dough, letting it rise for a whopping 36 hours. Having the kitchen space required to make this happen, however, is not such a relaxed matter. “Space is the biggest issue,” Arpaia said. “We’re doing it here but we have [people] working through the night now, literally.”
If your taste buds demand a dish other than pizza, Arpaia, who used to spend childhood summers in Puglia and Naples, prides herself on offering some family classics—”recipes [that] are a snapshot of my childhood memories.”
For example, there are tender meatballs, made according to her mother and grandmother’s recipe with hormone-free veal ($12 for a small portion; $18 for large); or the Eggplant Parmesan, a successful recreation of her great aunt’s recipe that took countless tries to perfect ($10). “My dad cried when he tried it— this is it,” she said.
You can easily grab and go, but there is a comfortable sit-down dining room in the back that seats 45, in addition to a full-service bar. The wall is adorned with more references to family, with photos of Arpaia’s 5-year-old son, gleefully tucking into dishes with full abandon.
Grand Central Terminal, Lower Level Dining Concourse
89 E. 42nd St., Manhattan
11 a.m.–10 p.m.
11 a.m.–9 p.m.