Nothing stays secret for long in this city, and the 24-seat speakeasy tucked behind a swing-out section of wall inside Espoleta Tapas & Wine Bar in the Bowery is already filling up fast. But inside aren’t cocktails or burlesque shows — instead, you’ll find SRO Pizzeria by Giulio Adriani.
The pizzaiolo parted ways with Forcella last year and opened Espoleta in December with chef Sue Torres (Suenos), but says it was “impossible that I not have a Neapolitan pizzeria.” As for the 1920s secret dinner club theme, Adriani has had a lifelong fascination with the aesthetic of the period, and enjoys his late-night drinks at speakeasy bars like Employees Only and Angel’s Share.
But there was something else to keeping a low profile: “When I was envisioning [SRO], it was having something secret in terms of sacred — this is my magic place, the only place where I work and feel totally myself.” he says.
The space feels clandestine by virtue of its size, dimly lit with close-set tables and an old school New York vibe, with standards from Sinatra and Ella turning up on a delightful playlist of genuine classics rather than jukebox hits.
At $38 for a three-course tasting menu with drink pairings (wine, beer, soda), it’s also one of the best deals in town. The crust is etherially soft, first lightly fried then flash-baked in about a minute in the oven at the back of the restaurant. Alongside the classic margherita and the namesake SRO pizza, which tastes like it was made with 20 ingredients but is just a kicky merguez balanced with caramelized onions, the menu changes every three days. Or, as Adriana says, “as many times as I find something I like.”
He recently branched out into the sweet kind of pie, too (his father was a baker in Naples) — and an off-menu Nutella crepe can be arranged.