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And if $18 seems high for a funghi pizza, note that the funghi in question are quartered chanterelles and frilly hen-of-the-woods, seasoned with thyme and just enough salt. Like almost all the toppings, the mushrooms are beautifully cooked with an insinuation of smoke; only the shoulder ham, layered between fontina and arugula, seemed to want more time in the oven, or maybe it needed to be sliced thin, so the edges could crisp and curl.
Few pizzerias invest heavily in atmospherics, because pizza and the people who love it come and go in a few minutes. Still, it’s a surprise just how little atmosphere the Union Square Hospitality Group has tried to conjure at Marta. The dining room, with its majestic high ceilings and blocky fluted columns, has the cold, empty monumentality of a 19th-century bank. There’s some energy at the counter that faces the ovens, but very little in the rows of square tables behind it. The restaurant is open to the hotel lobby, and after a while, the comings and goings can make you feel as if you’re eating in the waiting room of a train station.
Lingering over a long series of courses is not advised. Marta works best when treated as a pizzeria, not a restaurant. Main courses are available, but they are not as trustworthy as the pies. Pork ribs managed to be both charred and undercooked, while a slow-roasted short rib needed a more potent infusion of flavor than gremolata could give it. The mixed grill of lamb chops, ribs and sausage was a magnificent exception, but in general the larger plates are best for those who can’t eat pizza. (Marta does not make gluten-free dough.)
A quick appetizer while the pizza bakes is absolutely recommended, though. Wood smoke wraps around rabbit meatballs, heavily peppered and herbed. The kitchen does fine work with hot oil, swathing vegetable fritters or seafood fritto misto in a translucently thin, light-gold batter and gently browning the bread crumbs around green supplì shaped from very good basil risotto.
After pizza, there is an affogato that is exactly right, an ice cream sandwich that’s harder to like than it should be (the salted chocolate cookies could be thinner or softer, the pistachios crisper) and a cup of tiramisù that’s bracingly drenched in espresso. It costs just $5, which is helpful because pizza and fried food both need bubbles. Marta has a few Italian sparkling wines, but the real action is in the stockpile of nearly 40 Champagnes, from a $66 Roger Pouillon Cuvée de Réserve to some $300-plus vintage treats. Nobody goes to Rome for Champagne with pizza, either, but this isn’t Rome.