Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget. He blogs at Ben Cooks Everything.


Mortadella mousse and bruschetta.

Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria opened earlier this year to much fanfare. The debate on the quality and pedigree of their pizza started immediately, and has yet to reach a conclusion. But their menu is robust and features much more than just pizza; I stopped by last week to see what a meal of appetizers at Pulino's looks like, and if it's worth it to venture off of the pizza section of the menu. Turns out it is.

The first menu item to catch our attention was the Ciccioli Frolli ($8), two slabs of pork belly fried until crispy, and served with a sweet and tangy peach mustard. These were browned until the skin was crackling, complementing the melting, gooey fat inside. Some may tire of seeing pork belly on so many menus, but this preparation was unique enough to set Pulino's offering apart.


Ciccioli frolli, crispy pork belly. [Photos: Ben Fishner]

Next we had the Mortadella Mousse and Bruschetta ($10). The mousse was a rich, meaty spread drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for just a hint of sweetness. Pistachios and garlic added texture and depth of flavor to the dish. An ample pile of toasted bread came alongside it, making for a kind of do-it-yourself crostino.


Fazoletti with lamb ragu.

Finally, we decided to try a half order of the Fazzoletti ($12). It was the listed ingredients that won me over: I figured I'd like anything that combined lamb ragu, smoked ricotta, and pecorino. Fazzoletti at Pulino's is a crepe filled with ricotta and topped with ragu and grated pecorino cheese. This was definitely the standout dish of our meal: the lamb ragu was rich and hearty, while the crepe was light and filled with warm, melted smoked ricotta. It was not at all what we expected, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise.

In all honesty, I was not expecting any pleasant surprises from Pulino's—I wouldn't have been surprised by throwaway appetizers for people to eat while they wait for their pizza to arrive. This is simply not the case. I was also expecting a loud and overcrowded restaurant, but we ate at about 7:00 pm on a Thursday; the restaurant was busy but not yet full and we chose to eat at the bar, where the service is stellar. You could certainly have the pizza here and stay within the $15/head Apps Only price range, but as it turns out, the appetizers and small plates on the menu are not to be missed and can make for a great meal in and of themselves.

Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria

282 Bowery, New York NY 10012 (map)


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