A truffleless truffle pizza
Today I had lunch at La Bottega on the Maritime hotel's sunny deck. It's a place I love, though only on weekday afternoons. At night and during brunch on the weekend, it's much more of a scene with service that is both snooty and spotty.
I discovered the Maritime when the Food Network offices moved to the swanky meatpacking district over 2 years ago. On my department's first visit, I was delighted to find an outdoor oasis that felt more Miami than Manhattan. Paper lanterns dangled from the sky and bright blue and white umbrellas were scattered throughout the stylish space. I expected a pool to be waiting right around the corner.
While the restaurant's ambiance had won me over instantly, I wasn't sure what to expect from the food. One bite of the robiola, olio and tartufato bianco, a pizza-style sandwich slathered with soft cow's milk cheese and topped with an intoxicatingly delicious drizzle of white truffle oil, and I was hooked. I ordered it on all future visits, and today, during an impromptu lunch with the crew from Dave Does (Food Network's online only web series), would be no different.
After settling in at a large, cozy table in the back, we started with some antipasti, including seared tuna tossed with cannellini beans and olive oil and a fava bean, pecorino and mint salad. Both were light and refreshing, and had I known better, I would have ordered the salmon tartare I'd been eyeing and called it a day.
When the pizzas finally arrived, Dave Lieberman, the host of Dave Does, immediately announced that mine did not have any truffle oil on it. I thought he was wrong since I'd gotten a whiff of that distinctive scent the moment our plates hit the table, but after one bite, I knew that the unthinkable had happened. My truffle pizza had in fact been delivered without truffle oil. To some people, this might not be such a travesty, but to someone who expects all her meals to exceed expectations, this was close to catastrophic.
By the time the star ingredient did arrive, our waitress, who was fairly nonchalant about the whole ordeal, drizzled a few drops on my now cold slice. Still excited for that first bite, I was disappointed to find that the bread had become soggy and the cheese, usually warm and creamy, had hardened slightly. Even a few extra drops of truffle oil didn't help revive my lackluster robiola. Never one for waste, I still ate every last bite, but the experience was not nearly as euphoric.
Although my days of ordering this precious pizza are now over, it might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes I let my love of one dish keep me from exploring any others. So rather than ban La Bottega from my restaurant repertoire due to their grave mistake today, I've decided to use this as an opportunity to explore the rest of their menu on future visits. The way I see it, who would want plain old cheese and bread (even if it sometimes does come with a splash of white truffle oil) when they can have octopus carpaccio with fennel and celery, pan roasted sea scallops with lentils, or homemade butternut squash ravioli with sage instead?
The Maritime Hotel
363 W 16th St., at 9th Ave.