If you\’ve been dreaming about delicious vegan pizza (or even if you\’re skeptical that plant-based pizza can be as good as the original), you\’ll want to check out Double Zero.
New York City’s East Village has always been a hotbed for change. It’s a place where you can find authentic Polish and Latin American foods on the same block, and where an Orthodox church abuts a progressive, New Age house of worship. Its parks were home to political movements, and its streets were shut down to celebrate major election wins. The charm of the East Village is that it’s constantly evolving. And the stretch of Second Avenue where Double Zero lives is no different.
A part of the neighborhood
Having called the area home for nearly five years, I’m familiar with the rows of restaurants and shops. On my walk to Double Zero on a balmy August evening, I admittedly forgot to double-check the restaurant’s address. But because I had time to spare, I meandered through my old stomping grounds to see if my favorite spots were still there.
Crossing Second Avenue, on East Fourth Street, I looked across the street to see what had replaced Winebar, a small plates restaurant favored by younger locals looking for an inexpensive but quality place to post up for an evening of people watching. When I steadied my gaze, I saw that Double Zero had in fact replaced where I’d spent so many exciting college nights. I took this as a good omen.
When I arrived (just 20 minutes before opening), the restaurant’s manager Lucas Quijada set me up at an outdoor table with water and a menu while the staff completed their set-up. Having managed my share of New York City restaurants, this small touch of hospitality was illuminating. This was a restaurant where its people cared.
“We have been fortunate to have a full house of both locals and destination visitors from the day we opened,” Quijada says of the neighborhood.
The menu was robust. I counted at least nine pizzas and 10 “not pizzas,” a section of the menu that lists everything from smaller snacks, like Marinated Castelvetrano Olives with Rosemary and Red Chili, to Double Zero’s version of lasagna, Zucchini Lasagna with Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara, Macadamia Ricotta and Pistachio Pesto. A cheese plate featuring house-made nut-based cheese was also available, as was a simple and traditionally Italian dessert menu.
Thoughtful food for everyone
Studying the menu, it was clear the food wasn’t confined to a particular region in the boot-shaped country; after a quick conversation with the restaurant’s owner and renowned plant-based chef Matthew Kenney, I learned this was intentional. “We are inspired by the spirit of Italy,” says Kenney.
This is an important clarification, as many Italians may take umbrage with the fact that their silken mozzarellas and mouth-melting ricotta are replaced with smoked almond and macadamia versions. However, all the nonnas out there will be pleased to know the nut cheeses did not sully the pizzas and pastas at all. In fact, they are the highlight of many dishes.
In a plant-forward restaurant, you’d expect the beautiful flavors of the fruits and vegetables atop a pizza to remain simple, rather than masked by overthought and overdone preparation. Yet the nine pizzas on the menu each come with a curious number of competing toppings. For instance, the Balsamic, Radicchio, Fig Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Smoked Almond Ricotta, Olive Tapenade and Arugula weighs heavily on the incredible house-made dough.
A note on the menu pays special attention to Double Zero’s pizza dough, which is made with finely ground flour that holds up to the heat of a wood-burning brick oven. The dough is perfectly crunchy and fluffy in all the right ways. This is the dough chefs spend their careers trying to make.
The Cacio e Pepe Pasta, however, remains fairly simple with crispy black olives and arugula. The pasta is perfectly al dente and the cheese is delightfully creamy; both of these ingredients, alongside an order of Tiramisu rich with coconut and almond, are standout items on the Double Zero menu.
Innovation without pretense
Kenney’s commitment to quality ingredients and an innovative approach toward plant-based dining is clear throughout the restaurant. His vision is executed by Double Zero’s Chef de Cuisine Matt Zita and Matthew Kenney Cuisine’s Director of Culinary Operations Scott Winegard. Their approach to food, especially nut-based cheeses that have historically been unimpressive, is enough to encourage the most egregious meat eaters toward plant-only eating, if just for one day a week.
The rest of the Double Zero team executes this ethos without pretense. This is not the oft-parodied vegan restaurant we’ve seen in movies and on television. Instead, from busser to manager, everyone at Double Zero breathes authenticity into their recommendations and menu knowledge.
When asked if the entire team is vegan, Kenney notes, “Many of our team members are not strictly plant-based, but are drawn to our brand based on their recognition of the benefits and beauty of plant-based cuisine.”
Based on the beauty of its plant-based pizza, Double Zero will continue to add to the East Village’s vibrancy and agility as years pass.
PHOTOS BY Double Zero