My girlfriend, Jen, got her hair cut at Pirka last weekend. (Her favorite stylist from Commune moved here not too long ago — both places are highly recommended, by the way.) While waiting, I noticed Tonda next door, so we stopped back on East 4th Street last night to try it out. The weather was perfect for outdoor dining, which we opted for, but the stylish decor inside the restaurant didn’t go unnoticed. Thin-crust pizza places are popping up around NYC like crazy these days. I already have some long-time favorites (Lil’ Frankies, Gruppo), so what does it take to stand out from the pack? Well, the vibe is one thing. Tonda is the kind of place where locals will be hanging out, unlike those frightening (and overrated), downtown tourist traps.
Appetizers are important. We got the potato balls (perfect) and the rice balls (pictured above). Just look at that melty cheese. These are not your grandma’s rice balls. Don’t get me wrong, I love old-school Italian rice balls, but these are on a different and quite spectacular level. Do not skip them.
The salads sounded great, but we skipped straight to the pizza. I’ve read they have a $30,000 oven at Tonda. Was it worth it? I’m gonna say yes. The crust is just about perfect. This is the heavenly gorgonzola & speck pizza. Now that I’ve tasted it, I suppose I could just make it at home, but don’t let that keep you away from Tonda. They’ve got about dozen more pizza options, and I think I’ll be back to try a lot of them. Overall, I’d say Tonda is at the top of my thin crust pizza list right now, and that’s saying a lot.
Since it was such a nice night, we strolled down to Chinatown to check out Apotheke. I know, it’s been open for nearly a year now, but it’s still the kind of place someone has to tell you about because it sure doesn’t look like a cool bar from the outside. I was tipped off by Kim Haasarud. Kim, aka “The Liquid Chef” lives in California, but she always knows the best cocktail spots in NYC.
The drink menu is divided into categories like “Pain Killers,” “Aphrodisiacs,” and “Stimulants.” Going with the theme, there are antique medicine bottles on the shelves behind the bar and the bartenders (barchefs, I suppose) wear white pharmacy-style jackets. Jen got the “Strawberry Fennel,” which is a perfect summer-time drink. I opted for the “Five Points” made with “house elixir #4 with hibiscus,” bitters, NY state unfermented grape juice, and house-pressed sugar cane-infused rum. I’d rank it up there as one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tried. In fact, I can’t think of anything that even comes close. One bit of advice — don’t show up late on the weekends, or you’ll never get in.