The Vegetarian Option: Mediterranean Pizzas at Nice Pizza
In this great city of ours, it's never too tough to satisfy a pizza craving, and, in my humble opinion, even the nondescript slice shops here often put out a product that's often decent if not transcendent. Sometimes, though, you want a little more out of dinner than what these corner stores offer; you want a well-made pie with some thoughtful toppings, served in an atmosphere that offers a little more than just the requisite red pepper, garlic powder and oregano shakers.
Nice Pizza in Bed-Stuy offers that atmosphere: bright, red-checked tablecloths quickly fill with glasses of wine and bottles of house-infused olive oil, and soft yellow lighting and a cream-colored tin ceiling lend a relaxed air to the place (the "Nice" in the name refers to the city in southern France). We first checked out the place a couple years ago; here's our update on the food: it won't change your life, but you could certainly do worse than ordering a few vegetarian-friendly appetizers, salads and pizzas to share with friends on a low-key weeknight.
My group and I started with the tomates Provencales ($6), a favorite meat-free dish of mine that typically celebrates the bright intensity of summer tomatoes by stuffing them with aromatic breadcrumbs and baking them in the oven until tender. The menu promised those breadcrumbs, but they were nowhere to be found; rather, these were plum tomatoes, split down the middle, topped with pesto and baked. They were fine, but lacked the textural contrast that the garlicky breadcrumbs usually bring to the party. A well-dressed, Caesar-coated salad served underneath was tasty.
Of Nice Pizza's several vegetarian pizza offerings, the Chevre ($13 for a small) jumps out on the menu, and overall, it was a tasty pie, with mozzarella, goat cheese, sweet caramelized onions, sliced mushrooms, and fresh tomato rounds topping a thin layer of tomato sauce. The main issue at Nice is the pizza crust itself: almost wafer-thin and crackly, which I appreciate, but it lacks the balance of chew that's present in a great crust, and it also cries out for seasoning. I still enjoyed the pies, but suspect that a true pizza aficionado would be disappointed by them.
Still, my group and I were content to order another pie, the Quatre Fromages ($14 for a small), which was covered in a rich and satisfying melty amalgam of Cantal, mozzarella, goat and blue cheeses, with a drizzle of herbal basil pesto.
Nice Pizza is a true neighborhood spot, offering a decent meal in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. Don't come here looking for a Michelin-rated meal, but certainly stop in for a bite if you find yourself in Bed-Stuy come evening.