Unassuming little Café Viva, with its jumble of nondescript tables set up across from the pizza oven, has been on Broadway for nearly as long as I can remember. The menu calls attention to the “Natural” and “Kosher” pizza, blessed by Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, so a sign says. These are not words that normally entice me. But the Napoletana slice with whole-wheat crust ($2.50) does entice me, every single time.
The secret of Café Viva’s pizza is in the crusts. All of them—whether spelt, corn crust, whole wheat or good old flour—are thin but sturdy enough to
hold a variety of toppings—from green-tea herbed miso-tofu to soy sausage or plain old mozzarella—without drooping (horrors). Slices are dusty with cornmeal on the bottom and have a nice thin layer of topping that doesn’t ooze off if turned upside down (more horrors). Wanting to sample the unusual corn crust pizza, I tried the Azteca ($3.55), which comes laden with mozzarella, red onion, red pepper and corn kernels. Yet, this slice was too fussy for me and didn’t taste remotely Mexican. I snagged some of my daughter’s Napoletana, instead, loving the simplicity of tomato, cheese and mild whispers of garlic and oregano on the rustic whole wheat.
(near 97th Street)
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