“So, like, you’re allergic to bread?” Of all the questions that I get about my allergies, I find these kinds of questions to be rather inane. I hate having to explain to people that I’m not allergic to the concept of “bread” but rather the dairy or nuts that are potentially in the bread. Is your bread dairy-free and peanut-free? Then I’m not allergic! (If you can’t figure this one out, just stop here.)
There are, of course, some foods that I consider categorically dangerous, foods like pizza that inherently contains gooey cheese as a necessary component. Pizza is a food that I had previously placed on the strict DO NOT EAT list, and I am largely okay with that. I may have been ostracized at sleepovers and Girl Scout meetings in my younger years, but as a fastidious avoider of pizza, I have also been immune to the bribery of several thousand campus clubs—“Meeting on Tuesday at 7 PM! FREE PIZZA!!!!!!”
As I said, though, I am technically just allergic to the cheese on pizza, and so if someone, somewhere made a cheeseless pizza, technically, I could eat it. A city like New York, which some would argue is the capital of pizza (sorry Naples), must have that somewhere, right? Behold, the Brunch with Bear team has found the impossible: allergy-friendly pizza!
Amidst the dirt and danger of Hell’s Kitchen and New York’s Theater District stands Nizza, right on 9th Avenue, between 44th and 45th Streets, just a short walk from the 42nd Street – Times Square station on the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, R, and S trains. It is close to most Broadway theaters, and is a great place to go for your pre-theatre dinner!
The inside of Nizza is pretty standard for a New York restaurant—cute décor, nice ambience, low lighting. The walls are lined with colorful bottles and the bar features prominently as an entire wall of the establishment. Outdoor seating is an option during the warmer months, but do take into account the crowd and traffic of 9th Avenue (read: cigarette smoke and truckers honking constantly).
The waitstaff at Nizza is a tad blasé but don’t let that stop you from being direct. They were able to accommodate the dairy and peanut allergy easily, and did not hesitate to double and triple check when I had questions. They seem very used to accommodating special requests, particularly food allergies. One of the things that our waitress checked on was the bread, a rosemary and olive oil focaccia sort of bread, which was very olive-oily but very delicious. I don’t know if we’ve gone over this before but I love bread so Nizza gets extra points for extra bread.
The pizza crust at Nizza, according to our waitress, is completely dairy-free. (For our non-gluten friends, I am told they have many gluten-free options as well, but obviously we cannot speak of those with any expertise.) Seeing as this blog is about brunch, I ordered the brunch pizza, the pizza uova, with eggs, pancetta, cherry tomatoes, and arugula.
At this point, I might just start to cheer, because pizza! As I mentioned earlier, I really have no reference point for pizza but the idea of a brunch pizza is just genius. The sauce was not overwhelming, and the crust was puffy enough to accommodate the pile of ingredients. The eggs were cooked firmly enough that they did not go dripping over everything, and the pancetta and tomatoes kept it full of flavor. Altogether, the pizza encompassed some of my favorite things—arugula! arugula!—and combined them in a way that was both filling and thrilling! Pizza! What a concept!
If any campus clubs were offering me a free Nizza pizza uova, I would likely hand over my email address, phone number, and possibly several volunteer hours to get that pizza. While no one else in the restaurant was as excited as I was about the idea of eating pizza, they seemed to be enjoying the pleasant atmosphere. The clientele at Nizza was mostly just trendy adults eating pizza, but a few young families were also enjoying themselves. As I said before, Nizza is a great pre-theatre venue, and also a great casual lunch spot if you can handle the madness of Midtown.
The pizza portion was enough food for two people, so I kept half and took it home for lunch the next day. It was very easy to reheat in the oven, top with a little fresh arugula, and enjoy over a Netflix night. If it were a little closer to campus, and a little farther from Times Square, I would easily head back to Nizza often!
New York is a city of food and possibility, and unfortunately when I first came to live here that was a more dangerous combination than I would have liked. Thanks to restaurants like Nizza, New York has retained its potential for adventure—the good kind—and we can’t wait to have many, many more.