Ate at the new Motorino that was formerly UPN for the first time. To sum up: much improved as a restaurant, killer crust texture, flavor missing in action.
The space now looks and acts much more like a proper restaurant with nice touches of decor, mellow lighting, and full complement of service staff including a helpful hostess.
Mathieu was working in the kitchen alongside multiple assistants. Dressed in immaculate monogrammed chef coat, with brow furrowed he examines each pizza skin as he slowly shapes it then gently places it on the counter, examining it for a moment with a slight frown. There is real focus here, and that I admire greatly.
The dough is generously risen yet still handles quite well during shaping. No stickage despite long periods of time sitting on the counter so I’d guess a lower hydration dough. Curiously they bunched up pizzas in groups of six then baked them at once close together in the Acunto. Bake time was north of 2 minutes.
The crust baked evenly and puffed substantially. The pizzas looked not quite classic Neapolitan but still beautiful. Biting into the crust revealed an awesome texture. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, it was cooked through everywhere. There was no heavy chewing. This was a delightfully well-digested dough.
But something was missing both in the crust and toppings – flavor. Despite its spectacular texture this crust tasted as empty and non-present as Grimaldi's crust (Hello bakers yeast, I thought).
I’d like to go back and try the Margarita. This time I had a smoked bufala mozzarella from Italy, cremini mushroom, olives, and sausage pizza with no sauce. While the mushrooms and sausage were fresh and tasty, they were overwhelmed by the saltiness of the olives and lost in a sea of cheese as firm and bland as any American fresh mozzarella. The olive oil on top was empty and greasy.
Eating a slice of this pizza was eating a big slice of bland.
With so much press and potential in the space I'd hoped Motorino could fill in UPN’s customer experience gaps while producing a pizza approaching UPN’s, but it seems Anthony took his pizzamaking magic with him when he left. What remains is a far more pleasant restaurant to visit and a Neapolitan pizza with all the texture of but none of the flavor of a world champ.