The Lower East Side has been ruled by old-school pizza for far too long. Make way for the reign of heaving, Neapolitan-style pies with the arrival of Speedy Romeo, which has finally expanded after four years from Clinton Hill to Clinton Street.
Chef Justin Bazdarich put in time at Jean-Georges, and what better use of French fine dining skills than saucy pizzas with charred, buttery-soft crusts? At the new spot, everything is still fired in the huge wood-burning oven, with the greatest hits from Brooklyn accounted for. But it's the new Beastie Boys shoutout Paul's Boutique ($22) that you'll want to lock down. Made with neighboring Katz's pastrami, crisped up with smoked red kraut, fontina cheese and a drizzle of Dijon bechamel and Thousand Island dressing, it has the deli's blessing and will earn yours, too.
Elsewhere on the menu, there's a cheeseburger topped with their own housemade Speedy special sauce, a rib eye for two and starters like peekytoe crab crostini. Something Bazdarich definitely didn't learn in a French kitchen was Caesar salad as finger food, with Romaine spears drizzled with dressing and freshly grated cheese, a stripe of anchovy laid along the center.
A mix of low and high tables offer 50 seats, but the U-shaped marble bar that takes up the center of the room is plenty wide enough to eat along and watch the show either in front of you or behind in the open kitchen, which spans the entire back of the restaurant. Neither of the two cocktails available on a preview night stood out, and both were spoiled by having to pick dried flowers/spices out of my mouth after every sip. Stick with the handful of local beers on tap and Italian wines.
For now, the restaurant is open only from 5 p.m.-midnight and closed on Mondays, but brunch, lunch and a 2 a.m. last call are in the works.