tonda pizza and killer cocktails

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.

22 thoughts on “tonda pizza and killer cocktails

  1. i love how thorough your reviews are. i’m going to be bookmarking all of the places you recommend when i finally go to nyc 🙂

  2. Hey Justin,Tonda and Apotheke look great! Ray and I are huge pizza lovers – can’t wait to try this place.What’s the name of Jen’s stylist at Pirka? Sorry…I know it’s a girlie topic I’m throwing in here. 🙂

  3. peal: thanks. this is definitely a good spot to try if you don’t like doing the touristy stuffsuzanne: then definitely check this one out. her stylist… i’ll have to double-check, but her name is something like Kazue. she’s great and super nice.

  4. bunny: thanks for visitingtangled noodle: first time, really? well, you’re in for a treat if you can find some.ginger: really? nothing like this in all of Cincinnati? i bet if you opened a place like this, it would be an instant hit.girlichef: good idea

  5. It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to eat when I was in NYC – your reviews have revealed so many great-looking places to me. I did go to Gruppo though, since we were staying in the next block. That was some good thin crust pizza.

  6. Justin, thanks for the compliment–it’s just about the best thing I can hear about my photos!You sold me on Apotheke. I must check it out now, no excuses, especially when I live like 5 minutes away.

  7. christina: you’re welcome. so you live in chinatown, more or less? then maybe I should mention a drink there costs about $15. I could get three bowls of noodles at my favorite spot for that price.

  8. It sounds like you had a wonderful evening. The rice balls look great and the pizza has me drooling. The bar sounds funky and cool. I can’t wait to visit NYC someday.

  9. Wow! Tonda looks SO good. When I get back to NYC I will be visiting that restaurant for sure! Thanks for another great review!-Whitney

  10. Ah, and I’ll need to try some great cocktails in New York: Cocktails are rubbish in Manchester (where I live), try to ask for a Kir and the barmaids look at you with a blank stare, imagine the rest: sweet tasteless unsubtle drinks.. sigh…

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