First Impressions: Adoro Lei

Adoro Lei barI wasn’t sure what to expect from Adoro Lei, the restaurant that has just opened in the former Antarctica space on Hudson, just below Spring. On one hand, it’s hard not to get excited about a restaurant that takes pizza seriously. On the other hand, in the run-up to the debut, its Tumblr has been aggressively cool, with imagery—sneakers embroidered with “Adoro Lei,” people cavorting in “Adoro Lei” shirts, promotions for DJ brunches—that makes me feel like I’m not part of the target demographic.

I went for lunch last week. The room is spiffily nightclubesque: black walls, black ceiling, black tables, and black banquettes, with a few touches rustic (wide-plank floors, antique-y chairs) and industrial (metal grates and stools). Paintings by Dessie Jackson depict young women, sometimes smooching. (Adoro Lei means “I love her” in Italian.) I liked the large liquor-themed water glasses; I hated that TVs were on—one showing a sporting event, the other “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”—but at least they were muted. And the rock music was at a bearable volume.

I ordered the Citrus Pear salad and a margherita pizza (called the Rosina). The salad was delicious, with poached pears, ample Gorgonzola, and nicely crisped pancetta shards. As for the pizza, I’m honestly not sure what to say. I grade pizza on a near-impossible scale, with Franny’s at the top and Roberta’s just below it. Other types interest me much less. I liked aspects of Adoro Lei’s pizza—especially the formidable chew to the crust, including the middle. But I think it might have benefited from more time in the wood-burning oven: There was more doughiness than I care for, but not enough crispiness, blistering and char. The tomato sauce was fine but not a standout. All in all, I enjoyed it but I didn’t fall in love with it. I could’ve had a conversation while eating this pizza—and at Franny’s, you might as well not bother, unless we’re going to talk about how fantastic the pizza is. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare Adoro Lei with those restaurants, and perhaps the pizza is different at dinnertime. And perhaps you’ll simply like it more than I did, because we’re deep in personal-preference territory here.

I would absolutely go again, and after reading this description Adam thought it sounded like pizza he would really enjoy. But I have no idea what dinner is like there, and I can imagine that the weekend “Adore Me Brunch” with DJs is not my thing at all. Big speakers are everywhere throughout the room, and there’s a lot of space behind the bar stools; it could fit quite a standing crowd. Weeknight dinners might not be crazy at all—if you go (or have been), please do report back. I did hear from some friends who tried going for Saturday brunch: “The music was painfully loud. It was so bad that I got blasted ten feet backward when I opened the door.” (UPDATE: DJs at happy hour.)

P.S. If you ask for black pepper, the server will haul out a yard-long peppermill, or Rubirosa as I prefer to call it.

P.P.S. No delivery yet, but you can call and order it for pick-up.

Adoro Lei is at 287 Hudson (between Spring and Canal), 646-666-5096;

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