The owners and creators of Adoro Lei in Hudson Square in New York City hold pizza in a very high regard, as one should. The restaurant pays homage to all things Italian cuisine and has hired executive chef Mario Gentile to maintain its kitchen, create its extensive menu, and oversee all of the restaurant’s day-to-day pizza making efforts.
The restaurant was born out of the partnership of Gentile and Michael DiBugnara, the creative director. These two Italian-Americans, who grew up in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, are no strangers to the restaurant and entertainment space. Gentile spent time cooking in three Michelin starred kitchens throughout Italy—including a stint at the well-respected La Terrazza dell’Eden restaurant in Rome—before coming back to run the kitchen at Angelina’s in Staten Island, among others.
DiBugnara’s experience is the perfect complement to Gentile’s culinary talents having spent time in the entertainment space. To that end, he crafted the restaurant to include a DJ booth on the top floor as well as a private room downstairs aptly named “Heaven Below” used for events complete with a DJ booth and slide show capabilities. To compliment the musical and lounge-like feel, the team commissioned expressive artwork from Dessie Jackson that highlights Adoro Lei’s ethos of adoration for its patrons, explained DiBugnara.
But while customers certainly appreciate the hip, electric atmosphere of Adoro Lei, they’re without a doubt staying—and lingering—for second and thirds of the brick-oven made Neapolitan style pizza. The pizza oven, brought into New York via Naples, Italy on direct orders from Gentile, churns out an incredible list of pizza specials each night and a panini list with each panini named after classic Led Zeppelin song titles like “Whole Lotta Love.”The secret, Gentile admits, is all in the dough. The dough is made every day in the kitchen in a specialized cool room made with flour imported from Italy. It is then flash baked in 90 seconds in the wood-burning oven before arriving on guests’ tables within minutes. The chef also offers a variety of gluten-free options such as gluten-free pizza, also homemade each day, too.
DiBugnara also took great care in crafting the names of the menu dishes, and most notably the titles of the pizzas. He went to great lengths of searching for an Italian historian who was able to identify key figures in history who were what he deemed “the party animals of the Renaissance” hence, leading to great pizza names such as the Medici Magnificent which is a pizza topped with pesto, soppresata, roasted peppers, and fresh mozzarella.
There are also stand-out dishes that aren’t carb-centric like their sous-vide beet dish with wild arugula, caramelized walnuts, blackberries, walnuts, topped with a walnut dressing. Also be sure to try the asparagus side dish (or main event, depending on how you look at it) topped with a poached egg, artisanal grated cheese, and nutmeg.
If you happen to be in the snacking mood, order a round of the Worship Wings made with warsala wine and topped with caramelized onions, crumbled bacon, and Gorgonzola cheese that are as addicting as they are divine.
Different people are bound to like Adoro Lei for different reasons. Some will like the place for their hip atmosphere coupled with its lounge-like feel, while others will come to indulge in their pizza obsessions and worship at the altar of what is a real authentic wood burning oven. I’ll be back for a combination of all of the above while looking forward to discovering new intricacies of Adoro Lei not yet experienced by my palette.
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