by Dan Johnson
Pestolini is like the Wonka factory of Downtown food establishments. No one comes in and no one goes out. There’s no treasure or grand mysteries waiting for lucky visitors inside. Just a perplexing paradox. How does this place stay in business?
These are exciting times for 4th and Broadway. The state building on the Southwest corner seems to be going about business as usual despite the all too frequent smack catastrophes that occur outside SHARE.
Meanwhile, the Southeast corner is a superlative pit. Thanks to Mr. Shomof for getting the permits for the proposed thirty-four story skyscraper only to immediately divest himself of the project so that the rest of us could enjoy an empty expanse for a year. On the up side, the dismal akeldama where the check cashing company used to be has been a major boon for Wild Life and SC Mero. Art lives.
Over on the Northeast corner where Wild Life and SC Mero used to ply their cheeky trade, whatever asshat owns that burned-out hulk of a building has opted to pay a security guard to keep it from getting vandalized and presumably burned down rather than deal with his mess.
Hey, I like blight just as much as the next Joe. I’m glad his building is a charnel house of broken dreams. It is the one structure on that corner that feels authentic. It does, however, disturb me that shit dumps like this endure in Downtown as abstractive after thoughts in the minds of owners who are far, far away.
Moving on, we have the famed Pestolini/Precinct building. God bless Precinct. It’s a welcome addition to a block that can’t seem to get its shit together. There are other great establishments going north on Broadway. I love Beantage and Bernadette’s as well as Buckets of Beer. If oddly conceived jumbles of conceptual mishmash and non-essential European bar games tickle your fancy, I can see how you might enjoy Bar Clacson.
With such esteemed company, it’s reasonable to expect that Pestolini would be a dark horse diamond in the rough. That was my hope, at least, when I spied the sandwich board advertising a $6.95 single topping pizza.
Sign me up!
Your first warning that things are not as they seem in Pestolini is the lack of clientele. The second warning is the bizarre décor that looks as if it were curated with an eye toward third grade tastes. There are odd paintings on the wall and a Christmas snoopy hanging from the ceiling.
The music piping through the speakers feels like something you’d hear in a cut rate south Orange County spa in the days and weeks before it went under for money laundering.
The staff were nice enough. I paid my money, got my water cup and adjourned to a window-facing booth to enjoy Pestolini’s finest feature: people watching. Say what I will about their food, they have a pristine location for spotting the vortex of people draining toward Grand Central Market or the Metro stop.
I was stupidly optimistic about the arrival of my olive topped pizza. It had every appearance of tasting good. It took me about one slice to come to grips with the fact that I was chewing something, but not tasting anything.
Have you ever had the experience of eating something supposedly hearty and realizing it was entirely devoid of anything nutritional? If not, head on down to Pestolini and see how the other half lives.
Beneath the sodium bomb olives and the bland cheese was a crust I can only describe as hard tack. That’s right folks, if you want to know more about the bland salt bread used as a naval ration for centuries because of its ability to endure without spoiling in the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope between India and London, here’s a chance.
The crust at Pestolini crackles with a whisper that seems to say, “I am flour, water, sodium and possibly baking soda: fuck yourself.” There’s nothing wrong with hard tack in a pinch. It has calories. The problem is that prolonged exposure to something this lacking in essential vitamins gives you scurvy.
I have a family history of scurvy because *spoiler alert* significant branches on my family tree are poor white trash. I have no desire to sink into their atavism and devolve into a middle Texas shit bag. So, I’ll pass on Pestolini moving forward.
I award the corner spot a begrudging “1” on the binary and silently stow away memory of this egregious bargain in the section of my mind reserved for monitoring food stores that will keep from spoiling in the weeks after the coming cataclysm.