When Dessert's So Good, You Order Two
Originally, in an effort to turn tables efficiently, there wasn't going to be any dessert at Pasquale Jones, the new restaurant in Soho from the team behind Charlie Bird. Thank goodness there is one, packing as much joy as a well-edited puppy gif.
Like so many of the savory dishes from chef Ryan Hardy, it's delicious and scruffy. On the bottom: roasted rhubarb, coming undone in soft, sour threads. On top: pistachios and the mascarpone ice cream that L'Arte del Gelato delivers daily. A glug of fruity olive oil gives everything a throat-tickling sheen. In a few seconds, in a few spoonfuls, it’s gone. And just like this pair of golden retrievers, you may want to enjoy it on repeat. Twice, I’ve put in a second order for the compact thrill, and twice my table has discussed, potentially, going in on a third. It’s that good.
The kitchen at Pasquale Jones is set back in a forgettably handsome dining room on Mulberry Street, which is only a little too tight for its 52 seats. Things might get uncomfortably hot in the summer, at the counter in front of the ovens—two massive, heavy-breathing dragons that burn somewhere between 600 and 900 degrees, turning out puffy pizzas in seconds.
Yes, another day, another vaguely posh, neo-Italian, wood-fired pizza place in New York where the waits are unpredictable. An hour and a half, the host says at 7:30 p.m., but the table is ready in thirty minutes. A half hour, the host says at 8 p.m., but the table is ready in an hour and a half. Walk right in, the host says sweetly over the phone, but there is always a wait. (And there is no room to wait.) If you didn’t get a reservation, add Pasquale Jones to your list of people who will text you when it suits them.
But maybe you’ll come running. This is a restaurant that knows what you want: to listen to Prince, to drink unlimited amounts of free, fizzy water from unmarked bottles, and to dribble chili oil on your pizza crusts. The pies are thin, floppy in the center, with a chewy, charred edge. One of the best is covered in clams and garlicky cream, along with a little chopped broccoli rabe.
The kitchen sneaks pork into many of its vegetable dishes—prosciutto in the fresh farfalle, under a confetti of fava beans, and petals of salami in the artichoke salad. Juicy white asparagus is perfectly dressed, with hazelnuts and even more cured pork.
Everything is for sharing, and one of the largest dishes is a pork shank that smells like the smoldering embers of a fire that has burned all night. The knife is superfluous—you can nudge the meat right off the bone, though you might want it stickier and softer. Pasquale Jones is playing with fire, and the results can be inconsistent: In some places the meat is dried out and nearly calloused (best enjoyed smushed aggressively into the meaty juice at the bottom of the bowl).
Though the prices seem steep, keep in mind that they include service, and there won’t be any room on your receipt to leave a tip. For diners who think only of themselves, the concern with restaurants abolishing tipping has been that their own experience will diminish, that servers who aren’t counting on tips to survive will offer third-rate service.
This isn’t the case, not at all, and dinner at Pasquale Jones goes a long way to prove it with a warm, nimble team of servers. They're professionals, and no, they won’t make you feel badly for ordering another round of dessert.
Pasquale Jones is at 187 Mulberry Street (Soho); +1 (917) 472-7230 or pasqualejones.com
Rating: Two Stars (Very Good)
What to Order: Warm braised leeks ($18); Margherita pizza ($21); Little neck clam pizza ($24); Diavola pizza ($22); Farfalle with fava beans ($19); Martelli spaghetti ($21); Golden tilefish ($32); Pork shank for two ($48); Roasted rhubarb with mascarpone ice cream ($14))
Who’s Next to You: A Frenchman who knows everyone well enough to kiss them; Women wolfing down pizzas in groups of two, three, and four; Men with rounded beards and distressed leather backpacks drinking chilled, Patagonian rosé