It is my fourth or fifth time dining at Thompson and Bleecker Pizza and Wine Tavern since its opening this past August, and I still find it a challenge to pick what to order. The menu has been carefully curated, broken into antipasti, salad, pizza and dessert, yet the familiar debate ensues. Should we order an antipasto of spicy feta dip? Will we be limited to getting less pizza if we do? What pizza should we even order? If only we could have all ten of their perfect pies.
I’m a fan of the Diavola, which consists of spicy soppressata, an Italian sausage, hot honey and Greek oregano. My friend reminds me that I should try a new pizza this time around, like the Di Parma, comprised of prosciutto, arugula and shaved pecorino. While I agree with her, I can’t give up the Diavola since I have ordered it with every visit. Finally, we arrive at an agreement: caesar salad, one Diavola and one Di Parma. I reassure myself that next time, I will be able to try more of what Thompson and Bleecker has to offer.
And what Thompson and Bleecker has to offer surely goes beyond its creative artisanal pizza. Gazing around this vibrant Ithaca Commons spot on a Thursday evening transports me; I am no longer in Ithaca, but in New York City, almost. Perhaps this feeling is evoked since owners Milly and George named Thompson and Bleecker after the intersection of their first apartment in the city. The candles on each sleek, wooden table twinkle. Milly makes her rounds, ensuring all guests are having a wonderful time, which is an easy feat. Patrons sip on red wine while simultaneously biting into doughy crust and cheesy goodness. The center of all the hum is the pizza oven, a large-tiled structure that crackles and pops with each pizza that enters.
Pro-tip: The best seats in the house are the ones closest to the show. Waiting in anticipation, we watch. George lovingly rolls out the homemade dough, twirling it like a scene from a movie. He drizzles vibrant red tomato sauce on top, followed by careful arrangements of garlic, endives, olives — you name it. The aroma of fresh mozzarella wraps around us like a comforting blanket. While each pizza is lovingly crafted, it would be a mistake to overlook the other dishes like their salads, which range from a Greek salad of feta cheese and tomatoes to the classic Caesar.
Promptly, our waiter arrives with a flourish and presents our own Caesar salad, which is stacked on the china dish like a mountain. We heap piles of romaine lettuce tossed in a house-made caesar dressing onto our plates. Its simple elegance is the perfect precursor to the pizza, but still holds its own, especially with the decadent addition of parmesan cheese. Is it the best caesar salad I’ve ever had? Yes.
We are still scarfing down the salad when our two pizzas arrive, the Diavola and the Di Parma, straight from the pizza oven. My friend asks for some lemon, which she squeezes on top of her first slice. The lemon enhances the flavor of the soppressata, but the freshness of each ingredient alone means every single one can be savored with no additional sauce necessary. The pizzas range from $13 to $17, which is on the pricier side, but all of the ingredients are organic and the menu items are made in-house — no microwave, no freezer. The proof is in the pizza. The crusts of both pizzas are incredibly fluffy, and the lightness of the dough complements the clean taste of the tomato sauce.
In an homage to Naples-style pizza-making, Thompson and Bleecker advertises its own pizzas as “Neapolitan.” The definition of Neapolitan-style pizza, according to the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, includes basic dough, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, tomatoes and must be prepared in a very specific way. The True Neapolitan Pizza Association is the traditional authority on whether a pizza spot can be officially branded as Neapolitan. Since the pizzas at Thompson and Bleecker contain a variety of other ingredients like sausage, prosciutto, garlic, endives and onions, they cannot be verified as truly Neapolitan.
That being said, I appreciate how Thompson and Bleecker takes inspiration from the traditional Neapolitan style and adds their own special savoir faire. Take, for example, their festive Party on Dude pizza, whose main toppings include pepperoni, mild pepperoncini and pecorino topped with a dash of sea salt. All of their pizzas are not only bursting with flavor, but are unique. I am already planning my next visit, but what to order? Perhaps it is time for some Party on Dude followed by a rich tiramisu.
Serves: Neapolitan Style Pizza
Vibe: Warm and stylish