Where do we draw the line between calling something a pizza vs. a flatbread with toppings? This is the question I struggle with when I think about the pizzas at Violet, the new restaurant in the East Village run by Matt Hyland of Pizza Loves Emily fame. The specialty here is the Rhode Island style grilled pizza, but something about it feels so far removed from a traditional pie that the meal ends up being very unsatisfying. It’s the same type of feeling you get when you melt some cheese over a piece of bread in the microwave out of desperation to make a “pizza”, but despite the effort, the end result is anything but. The cheese is so subtle and scant that you can hardly taste it, and the crust lacks that bubbly, doughy chewiness that’s a trait in even the thinnest of New York crusts. You would do better with a box of Celeste frozen pizza than a slice of grilled pizza at Violet.
We tried the classic, which on paper, seemed like it would be somewhat reminiscent of a classic margherita, but what it brought to mind was a naan with tomato sauce. The added touch of scallions had an even odder effect of making it taste like a Chinese inspired flatbread. A similar thing happened with the ‘nduja, which came adorned with chorizo that tasted a lot like Chinese sausage. These are not bad things, necessarily, but they make for an experience that seems very disconnected from the expectations of eating a pizza.
What I did really enjoy were the non pizza grilled items. The banana stuffed french toast was a real standout and wiped out a lot of the head scratching disappointment of the grilled pizza at Violet. The key takeaway from this meal is that I should probably take a pass on the pizzas if I’m ever in Rhode Island. And maybe Violet should do the same and pack their bags for another state that has better pies.
511 E 5th St (between Ave A and Ave B)
New York, NY 10009