NYC Best Pizza: L’asso Takes Pizza & Toppings to a New Level

Date October 23, 2008

When is the last time you ate pizza that made you say “Wow, this is really good?” For the NYC Food Guy, this happened a few weeks back at L’asso on the corner of Mott Street & Kenmare Street.  “The Ace” in Italian, L’asso features wood-fired brick oven pies which strike the perfect balance between thin, airy and crisp while still supporting the weight of the most unique and delicious toppings I’ve encountered in all of New York City.  Read on to find out why L’asso’s pies are a work of art and science and which of the eight pies I tried really stood out…

Special Margherita with pan fried crispy prosciutto, green onions and extra virgin olive oil

Pizza al Tartufo – Portobello pesto, mushrooms, mozzarella, rosemary and truffle oil

Pizza Mela – Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, asparagus, apple, truffle oil

L’Asso’s Pies are a Science, Literally

I stumbled upon L’Asso after being invited to the L’Asso Pizza Guide Release Party. An insert in the satirical newspaper The Onion, this pizza guide was anything but; it outlined everything from the history of pizza to L’Asso’s strict adherence to the Italian government’s rules on what constitutes a genuine Neapolitan pie (Denominazione di origine Controllata or Pizza D.O.C., click & scroll down for the six rules).

L’asso’s owner, Robert Benevenga, seen on the pizza guide’s cover above, is so serious about his pies that he earned a degree in engineering before perfecting his pie-making technique. To quote Benevenga in the “L’asso Pizza guide”:

“Most pizza places will scoop sauce on with a ladle first and then sprinkle cheese all over it.  So basically, the sauce acts like a slip and slide, forcing most of the hot sauce and cheese to slide out of your mouth and onto your face. … I take the round dough, place the bufalo mozzarella slices all over so they act like suction cups.  Then I pour the sauce in the valleys so each slice holds the traditional ingredients, as well as the toppings, in place.  This makes every bite separate but equal.”

Put simply by Benevenga, it’s all about “the most variety at the highest possible quality. It’s the style that I like. … thin with lots of flavor that pops.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

We are entering a new Pizza Frontier

Other than the toppings listed on a pizza delivery box, I’m inexperienced.  I was surprised, therefore, to see pies covered in toppings such as apples, pears, walnuts, and asparagus exiting the specially designed 2-door brick, wood-burning oven.  I was even more surprised how delicious everything tasted.  Pies come in three sizes 12″, 18″ and 29″ and all vary in price.

Pizza Mela – Mozzarella, gorganzola, asparagus, apple, truffle oil

Prices: $14, $20, $26 (below)

The apple and asparagus really lightened up a pizza in danger of being too heavy due to the two cheeses. The truffle oil subtly added an earthy, faintly spicy complexity to the overall flavor.  Texturally, the hot oven and thin pie allowed the apples and asparagus to remain juicy and crisp.

Pizza alla Roba – Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnuts

Prices: $13, $19, $25

Whereas the Pizza Mela (above) combined several flavors which tend to fight for the attention of your taste buds, the Pizza all Roba takes a different approach: the two stronger ingredients (Gorgonzola, Pear) are balanced out by the two quieter ingredients (mozzarella, walnuts).  The result is a delicious confluence of flavor and texture and a pie which I’d definitely eat again.

Pizza al Tartufo – Portobello pesto, mushroom, mozzarella, rosemary and truffle oil

Prices: $13, $19, $25

Lacking any serious pesto flavor, this pizza is dominated by earthy ingredients which are still tasty and fresh.  The rosemary provides a bright undertone to counteract the mushroom and truffle oil. Not nearly my favorite pie, but still tasty.

Pizza Margherita – Tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, oregano, basil and extra virgin olive oil

Prices: $10, $16, $22

Oregano and fresh basil unite to overtake the Margherita.  The sauce is tasty but takes a backstage to the olive oil coated crust, which tasted even better when mixed with cheese, sauce and basil.  I didn’t get to try the Pizza Margherita D.O.C. (bufalo mozzarealla instead of fresh mozzarella), but the result would be an even lighter and more delicate pie.

Pizza Mascarpone Tartufata – Mascarpone cheese, portobello mushrooms, Gorgonzola and truffle oil

Prices: $14, $20, $26

My least favorite pie. The mascarpone melted into a dangerously hot cheese sauce and overtook the pizza.  I’ll pass on this pie next time.

Special Margherita Pie – Mozzarella, fried, crispy prosciutto, green onions, extra virgin olive oil

Prices and Availability Vary, Call Ahead to find out the weekly specials 212-219-2353

This was the first and most memorable pie I tasted. The prosciutto was so fried and crisp, I initially mistook it for bacon.  The salt factor is balanced out by the bright sauce and slightly sweet green onions.  L’asso’s specials menu changes weekly (pizza and dessert), so you may not find this pie upon your visit.

Pizza Snow White – Fresh mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil

Prices: $11, $17, $23

At first I found this pie to be bland and underwhelming, then I discovered a bite with toasted chopped garlic (2nd photo below, top left corner) and found what I was looking for. Be strategic with your bites if you order this pie, try to get garlic in every bite.

Pizza 4 Formaggi – Provolone, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella and Parmesan

Prices: $13, $19, $25

A surprisingly mundane combo of cheeses. None truly stand out and the flavor was lacking an expected sharpness.

So Which is the Owner’s Favorite Pizza?

Our natural inclination would be to assume that after four years of business, Robert Benevenga probably enjoys some strange varieties of pizza. Surprisingly, his favorite pie at L’asso is the Margherita DOC XX.  The “XX” is what makes this pie his favorite, but you can only discover the secret in the L’asso pizza guide or by heading to L’asso to find out first hand.


192 Mott Street at Kenmare Street
New York, NY 10012
Hours: Sun. – Wed. 12PM – 12AM
Thurs. – Sat. 12PM – 3AM
Delivery Hours: 12PM – 11PM
Lunch Special: Mon. – Fri. $10 panini with soup or salad and a coffee or soda
Happy Hour: Mon. – Fri. 4PM – 7PM, $1 slice, $3 Brooklyn Lager on Tap
Brunch: Sat. & Sun. until 5PM – $18 for a 12-inch pizza and unlimited mimosas or L’asso spiked iced teas