There are a lot of restaurants that want to be the Shake Shack or Chipotle of something. And why not? It’s clearly a concept that works–make a few things really well, do it very quickly and price it relatively low, a winning formula that brings in the crowds and generates the type of turnover that rakes in the dough. So it’s not surprising that Danny Meyer is going to try to replicate his Shake Shack success elsewhere, this time in the world of pizzas, with the opening of Martina, a fast-casual pizzeria in the East Village.
So the verdict? Martina definitely has the “fast” part of fast casual down. The pizzas arrive at the table in record time, probably due to the very thinness of their crusts, which can cook very quickly. However, the pies were disappointingly bland. We tried the spicy salame, a red pie with hot peppers, along with the kale and pecorino, and they had about as much flavor and personality as some mass-produced flatbread pizza from Cosi. Everything about this pizza is fast casual, and not in a good way. You eat it wishing that you had a better slice from a Motorino or Luzzo’s instead. And why wouldn’t you? Sure, it might take a little longer to make, but you’re willing to put up with the wait time for something better, and the prices are only marginally more expensive. They need to somehow work on creating good flavors that are scalable, not just the volume.
I wouldn’t come to Martina for the pizza, I would come for the half bottles of flashy champagne that are actually priced close to cost. A half bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee for $69? Sign me up! I’m all about this high-low dining strategy. And it makes me feel good knowing I can afford the most expensive bottle on the menu, even though it’s all relative. I’d also come for the dessert, because the fior di latte soft serve is delicious. Toppings are optional, but not really, because they, as in the candied hazelnuts and amarena cherries, really make the gelato. Maybe they should rethink Martina as the Shake Shack of champagne and ice cream, now that would really take off.
198 East 11th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY