Co.(pane): Jim Lahey’s Pizza was Worth the Wait

I am not the kind of person who runs to a restaurant the day that it opens. I can’t stand lines or being on call-waiting for 30 minutes just to get a reservation. I figure, if the restaurant is great, it will only get better with time and practice. And if it isn’t, then all the better that I don’t waste my time and money while everyone else is doing just that!
So now you know where I stand…but that still does not excuse me.

 Co.(pane) opened in 2009, and I JUST made it here. Jim Lahey, bread guru behind no-knead bread (which, yes, I still have yet to make) and Sullivan Street Bakery (Home to truly delicious pizza bianca and other treats), opened this casual pizzeria as his first foray into New York’s competitive pizza world. Some people loved it, some were less than charmed. So how did it measure up?

 Co is a casual, breezy restaurant with lots of sunlight and a long communal table in the center of the room. 
There is also a film projection of a fireplace. Consider me obsessed. Yes, there is a pizza oven behind that somewhere, but really…fake fire is just about the most fascinating thing ever. 
 Veal meatballs with homemade sauce, Parmesan and basil, served with bread and butter.
I tried these mostly because Serious Eats had named them some of the 15 best meatballs in NYC. They were indeed pretty delicious, but not what I would call the BEST. All of the flavors were spot on – mild, juicy veal, salty Pecorino and nutty Parmesan cheeses, fresh, acidic tomatoes and sweet basil. It was a textural thing for me. The balls were just a WEE bit densely packed for my taste – I prefer a squishier, lighter ball that dissolves in the mouth. 
These were still awesome, mind you. Just not the BEST.
The bread served with it was totally exemplary. Sour, crusty, bouncy, with a loose crumb and some soft, sweet butter on the side. Here, we could see Lahey’s specialty starting to shine through. 
Escarole salad with bread crumbs, capers, lemon, olive oil and anchovies.
This might be my new favorite Caesar salad in NYC. Though it lacked the garlicky punch of Caesar, the salty, acidic, pungent dressing that was like a breath of salty sea air instead of a fishy kick of low quality anchovies was totally amazing. No cheese was needed, with the brine and salt of the anchovies and capers giving the necessary salinity. The breadcrumbs were really freshly toasted croutons; thick, crunchy without and tender within, they were some of the best parts of the salad. The escarole had the mild, verdant taste of romaine but the velvety mouth feel and stiff texture of endive. It totally stood up to the assertive dressing, and made the salad perfection personified.
Bird’s Nest Pie with Oma and Tallegio Cheeses, Asparagus, Quail Eggs and Truffles.
I was originally going to order the Margherita pizza, to see how they do a plain old ‘za, but…hello…truffles.
What kind of heathen doesn’t order truffles when the opportunity arises?
The aroma of truffles was apparent the second the pie hit the table, along with the deep scent of the Tallegio cheese.
Upskirt shot: charred in spots, but not burnt. Pliant but not flimsy. Exemplary crust.
And the pie itself was…fantastic. Marmie called it “spring on a plate,” but don’t be impressed…I think she read it somewhere.
Fresh, light asparagus was shaved thin and piled on raw. Some pieces were snappy and fresh and some were charred to a crispy, almost sugary, carcinogen filled delight. I liked those pieces best. The Tallegio cheese was melty and funky and the Oma cheese was buttery and rich; both cheeses complimented each other and the rest of the ingredients perfectly without any one overwhelming another. The eggs were delightfully runny, and when I folded the pizza in half, the yolk broke and made an rich sauce for all of the incredibly light and roughage-y asparagus, which really needed the fatty lubrication. The yolk was way more decadent and thick than a chicken egg’s yolk, and did not drip out of the pizza, but stayed very nicely within its carbohydrate confines.
Damn. I would like some carbohydrate confines!
And the truffle. The bewitching, intoxicating, deep but heady truffle. Making the asparagus meaty, the eggs light, the cheese funkier and the bread more sour and complex. Four thick and hearty shavings of it.
I love truffles.
The dough itself was fantastic – not cracker thin, but still managing to be light and pliant and crispy at the same time. Totally fantastic.
Actually, the whole MEAL was totally fantastic. Great service, reasonable price point and some really amazing food. The Caesar salad was out of this world, and the birds nest pizza is something I could eat every day of my life. 
Co was definitely worth the wait.

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