December 9, 2014- By Steven E. Greer
After writing my story that pointed out the dearth of quality pizza Downtown, I decided to trek up to 29th Street and Park Avenue to try out the new Danny Meyer pizzeria in the Martha Washington Hotel called Marta. I had heard that it was a very thin crust pizza, which I do not like, but I had an open mind.
The pizza was OK, which I will get to later. However, the first thing that I noticed was the bad service, by Danny Meyer standards (it’s all relative, folks). Over that last several years of dealing with Danny Meyer places, I have rarely ever had a problem with service.
At Marta, the waitress was not paying attention and some sort of pseudo-waiter-in-training was my real waiter, I think. The food came out via a busboy who did not speak a lick of English: something very unlike Danny Meyer establishments. My water went empty, which again, is very unusual at Danny Meyer places. The General Manager was nowhere to be found. Only when it came time to check out did I see my waitress once again. She apologized for not being able to offer dessert due to some mishap behind the scenes.
My opinion of the poor service was reinforced when I left Marta and walked to a nearby restaurant where I know the staff well. I did not bias them. They commented on their own that they had been to Marta twice and had bad experiences with the service too.
Now, back to the food and kitchen. I like that Marta has an open kitchen. However, Chef Nick Anderer was not in the kitchen and the rest of the staff gave off bad vibes, except for the man rolling the dough. I suppose that the cold sterile environment of the hotel lobby that flows into the restaurant did not help.
I ordered the $14 “Marta Mista” salad, which looked quite good on the website, with Italian peppers. What arrived looked more like a Japanese salad. The waiter explained that peppers were “not in season”. How pretentious, I thought. I can go to Eataly and get a bushel barrel of them.
I then ordered the $16 Salsiccia pizza (Mozzarella, Pork Sausage, Crimini Mushrooms). Everyone has their favorite style of pizza. Although I like crust that is more like Totonno’s, I was willing to give the super thin cracker-like crust of Marta a pass. What disappointed me, however, was the lack of savory taste in the toppings. I barely tasted anything other than bread and oil. The sausage was very unpronounced.
Marta also has a grill for meats, similar to North End Grill, including an ex-North End Grill chef. Perhaps I might have enjoyed that better.
The bottom line is that Marta is a fine place to go if you are in the area. It is not horrible. However, it is not a two-star fine dining establishment either, as Pete Wells of the New York Times reviewed it.
Go to Marta just for food, drinks, and fun. Don’t go to Marta looking to be impressed as you would be at Gramercy Tavern. It is painfully obvious that Danny Meyer is an influence in name only at Union Square Hospitality.