Jim Lahey … Jim Lahey… the master of yeast … the sultan of sourdough … the bread God … the man behind the incredible Sullivan St. Bakery…. the baker man who had foodies across America needing No-Knead Bread. Which, by the way, if you haven’t tried to do, you simply must!
It makes perfect sense that Jim Lahey’s first restaurant – and newest project – is a pizza place aptly named Co. (which is short for Company, a word which Latin roots mean ‘with bread’ – I don’t make this stuff up!). Located in Chelsea, this pizza is definitely a must try!
It seems to be a trend in restaurants to have fronts so plain that unless you are ‘in the know’ you wouldn’t know that they were there or what goodies lay behind the plain front doors. The same is absolutely true of Co. But beyond those wooden doors lays deliciousness.
The interior is very simply decorated. Tables for two around the outside and two large, rustic tables in the center. Each probably seating 12 – I think more, but I didn’t count.
Our waitress started off a little rough and a bit aloof, but as time went on she seemed to soften a bit and was actually quite friendly.
They do not have iced tea!! A sad Fork and Spoon had to settle for other drinks. They do have teeny tiny bottles of Diet Coke. Teeny tiny bottles at really big prices! An 8 o.z. bottle of Diet Coke for $3! Really? That borders on insanity. The very large glass of Lemonade is $4 ~ at minimum 16 ozs. There is bottled water as well, plain or fizzy. And those are your choices for anything non-alcoholic. You can buy 24 8 oz bottles of Diet Coke for $18.95 – and this is not a price from a strictly wholesale distributor, as that would be less – which comes out to about $0.79 PER BOTTLE! Seems like quite a markup in my book.
They also bring a bottle of water to the table. All of the bottles are emblazoned with the Co. logo. You can not beat New York City tap water. If anyone ever tries to convince you otherwise, and tries to sell you bottled water in a restaurant in New York City, unless you want fizzy water, always go for the tap. The bottle was always full, and fresh glasses with ice constantly brought to the table.
But, back to the food. There are a nice variety of breads, toasts and soups on the menu for starters. The toasts can be topped with beans, chicken livers, roasted peppers or eggplant, and greenmarket tomatoes. Anything you order at Co. that involves bread or dough is going to be fabulous.
There is a really nice selection of salads. Although difficult to pick just one to try, we finally decided on the Artichoke Salad. Baby artichoke hearts delicately poached in olive oil lay nestled in arugula, and you could have stopped right there, but no – sprinkle on some capers, a wonderful lemon dressing and top with shavings of parmesan. Incredible combination, hitting so many taste buds at the same time. It was a simple way to get our palates awake and ready for the feast to come. The saltiness of the capers was nice against the mildness of the poached artichokes and the tang of the lemony dressing. Fork kept thinking it was just missing something else, though not quite sure what. To be honest though, the missing thing wasn’t enough to keep this salad form being completely devoured by starving cutlery! The salads are a little pricey, but definitely worth it.
There are 10 pizzas to try and make a decision between. Not an easy task, believe you me!
The first choice was simple. Fennel & Sausage. Slivers of fennel that become sweet and caramelized while cooking, crushed tomatoes, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, spicy sausage, and red pepper for some added zip. Pizza doesn’t get much better than this. There are those that argue that they don’t like the fact that Co.’s pizza gets a little charred in places, but brick oven goodness is brick oven goodness and the char is the price one pays for a pizza top that is cooked as well as it’s crust. This is an amazing combination. All the things that go into Fork and Spoon’s favorite sausage are all on top of the most amazing pizza dough.
Pizza No. 2. Equally as difficult to choose. We opted for the Stracciatella. For those of you that might be confused by the meaning of stracciatella, which is (A) an Italian soup, (B) a gelato (like chocolate chip in the USA), and (C), in this instance, a soft mozzarella. Stracciatella is made from mixing torn mozzarella and cream. It is very delicate and creamy.
Atop this crispy crust is stracciatella, crushed tomatoes, black pepper and arugula. This gives you a delicate creamy element and a delicate peppery element. Another incredible combination. Fork and Spoon both like that the tomatoes are crushed tomatoes and not a tomato sauce. It gives the pizza a much more earthy and fresh taste.
Our third choice was a relatively new addition to the Co. menu. Cauliflower. What kind of adventurous cutlery would we be if we didn’t try this new pizza.
This pizza has no tomatoes at all. The cauliflower is roasted, which for those of you who think you don’t like cauliflower, roasting it completely changes the flavor, so it’s a must try. Along with the roasted cauliflower is a bechamel sauce, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, green olives, chili, garlic and parsley. Fork thought there was WAY too much garlic. Now Fork likes garlic as much as the next cutlery, but when it leaves a strong after taste it’s too much. With the exception of the garlic, this pizza has a very mild taste. Maybe a little more red pepper would give it a little kick. Might have been that in the middle of a bite we realized that we needed to be 10 blocks away in less than 10 minutes!
This definitely warrants another trip to try the other 7 pizzas!
Jim Lahey has a great new book out, My Bread, this is a step by step guide to his now famous No Knead Bread, along with different recipes. For those beginning to bake bread this is a must have. The No Knead Bread is a great recipe for your baking repertoire, and the variations in this book are fantastic