What it is: If the font Helvetica opened a pizza lunch spot, it might look a lot like Bagni di Lucca. It's utilitarian but elegant, with flowers on the table and trendy oversized incandescent bulbs augmenting the natural light from the glass wall looking onto East Fifth Street. The well-edited menu is written across a chalkboard wall: mainly pizza (personal sized, just under 10 inches), but also calzones and gelato and beer and wine. A small note in the corner makes it seem you could also buy ham and olives by the pound.
What we tried: I opted for the vegetable pizza, which came topped with eggplant, zucchini and colorful peppers, artfully arranged and sprinkled with fresh basil. The personal pizzas come with a side salad ($8.75 for the lunch) and I chose the romaine instead of the spring mix. It was creamy with grated cheese, like a Caesar, without any croutons.
My dining partner ordered a quatro staginoni, which came with ham, mushrooms, and artichokes separated amongst the pieces. (It was supposed to include black olives, but he didn't mind the omission.) I was first presented with the wrong pizza (a margherita, which the house has declared the specialty), but correcting the order took less than five minutes — although my crust wasn't quite as crisp as my companion's. The taste was fresh, light on sauce, and the roasted banana gelato I got to go for dessert was a perfect way to transition back into a hot summer afternoon.
Why you should go: I think this could be the East Village's answer to the Western Gateway's popular Proof. The line got long at about 12:30 p.m. and seating might be a smidge too limited, but that goes to show demand for options like this is exceeding supply. (Extra help arrived from Lucca during the rush, as the pizza spot's owner is Steve Logsden, who owns the restaurant around the corner and down the street.)
Bagni di Lucca, 407 E. Fifth St.
Hours: 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Hours may be expanded.