6:08 PM

• 107-12 70th Road
• Forest Hills, NY 11375
• (718) 544-4600 •

If there's one thing that this blog advocates for, it's for the inclusion of more restaurants to the area. Good ones. Fun ones. Cool ones. Ones that might make people in Manhattan or Brooklyn go "hey, nice." Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Numero 28 Pizzeria, the rather highly regarded minichain that sells upscale wood-fired pizza recently opened a Forest Hills location and I decided to go... four times.

Numero 28 is sort of like a cross between the gastropub feel of Station House and the Italian restaurant feel of Tuscan Hills with a thin crust pizza menu a la Nick's. The exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs, and glowing ball table lamps are youthful and cool, but the dark woods and red leather seating along the wall between the bar and the open hearth wood-fire oven lends an upper-class atmosphere to the place. As a result, Numero 28 is able to appeal across age demographics, alienating no one but those with little kids.

On none of my four trips to Numeo 28 did I order standard Italian entrees, so if that's what you're looking for a review of, then I hate to disappoint you, but you're gonna be disappointed. I did, on the other hand, try two of their appetizers and both were very good. The first appetizer, the Polpo Alla Griglia, a grilled octopus leg with Brussels sprouts over a butternut squash puree was more than very good. It was amazing. It was tender, lightly charred, exploded with flavor, and both Lutsy and I absolutely loved it. The other appetizer I tried, on a subsequent excursion with my parents, was the Sicilian Rice Balls. The rice balls, which are filled with a meat sauce and mozzarella cheese, are about halfway between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball,  come in a group of three, and are served in a little bowl of sweet marinara sauce. We all liked them very much, and I'd certainly get them again. My parents were happy to have tried them but weren't swooning. "I prefer the ones we had in Sicily," my mom remarked. First world problems notwithstanding, I predict that you'll enjoy them.

In no particular order, I tried seven pizzas from Numero 28. All were good even if I didn't like them. Case in point, the Marinara pie was particularly awful, but that's my fault because I was a schnook and didn't read the description. Others out there might say "hey, this is loaded with anchovies and capers and doesn't come burdened with pesky cheese? Who could ask for more?!" That said, I'm sure it was a good pizza. It's just that I'm the wrong market for such a dish. On the other side of the spectrum, the Numero 28, a white pie with speck and mushrooms, was insanely good. I wish they made a red pie version because, at the end of the day, red pies are where my heart is. Speaking of white pies, aside from the Numero 28 the white pies, across the board, were weaker than the red ones. The Salsiccia e Friarielli pie, which comes with spicy Italian sausage and broccoli rabe (gotta have my dark greens), and the Pere, which is a Gorgonzola pie topped with walnuts and thin spices of pear were both just okay. The Salsiccia was understandably bitter, but also kinda dull. I'd absolutely get it again, mind you, but I'd want to get it with a companion who is ordering a red pie so we could split the two. Meanwhile the Pere, which one would expect to be sweet, wasn't. Indeed, it was somewhat bland. I really can't recommend the Pere, but Numero 28 can fix it by adding a drizzle of honey and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. THEN I think it'd be great.

The Margherita pizza is the closest to a standard plain pie that I saw on the Numero 28 menu, and it's not going to disappoint you. The marinara is sweet, there's just enough fresh basil to give you that amazing aroma without turning the pie into smelling like a dry goods store, and they don't skimp on the cheese. Skimping on the cheese is the biggest threat to a good margarita pie and Numero 28 loads the pie down with fior de latte (the go-to cheese on most of their pizzas). If you want something with a little bit more oomph, the Fricchettone and Rustica pies are great. The Fricchettone is loaded up with kale, sausage, basil, and two kinds of cheese and honestly is just heaven on a plate. The similarly optioned Rustica uses green pepper, which I thought made the pizza a little less complex and interesting on the tongue. On the plus side, it's easier to pronounce, especially after two glasses of malbec.

Margherita (top) and Pere (bottom) pies
Fricchettone pie
Numero 28 pie
Marinara pie
Rustica pie
Salsiccia e Friarielli pie
Having now sampled a rather large swath of Numero 28's pizza menu, I can state unequivocally that they know what they're doing. The pizza is most similar to Nick's in theory, but not in practice. Nick's is where I'd go for a more traditional pie if I want that pie in this style. Numero 28 is more specialty-focused. There's no basic cheese pie; no pepperoni pie; no plain white pie. And while they have a "toppings" list where one could presumably build the pie of their choice, since there's no basic cheese pie to build it on, the toppings section seems like a waste of menu real estate. Plus, as I alluded to before, Numero 28 isn't really kid-friendly. I'm not saying that they'll kick you out, but Nick's with it's bright lights and big booths is way way better for families with children.

Side notes to the management: please lose the TV over the bar. NASCAR and negronis do not mix.

Each individual pie is about 12 inches in diameter, which is enough for one person to eat without stuffing themselves to bursting, and costs an average of $17. They also make pies for "couples" that are bigger, and "family" sized pies that are about a yard long.

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