In early July, the team behind Mother’s Ruin—that Nolita pick-up-bar mainstay with food—opened Loverboy in Alphabet City. The general concept here is similar: an unpretentious (though ambitious) cocktail bar with a menu of interesting snacks, sandwiches, and, just added last week, an array of loaded-up square slices of pizza.
Loverboy feels like a neighborhood spot, even if the neighborhood’s changed. There are cushioned barstools, a drinking counter looking out over Avenue C, and a pair of odd but comfortable high tables. There’s also a large open standing area near the entrance, though thankfully for those of us who like to keep our shouting to a minimum, the big crowds of weekend warriors have not yet ventured this far east.
The classic, vaguely red-white-and-blue color scheme is handsome and cheerful, with a pink neon sign the only real millennial Instagram bait. As at Mother’s Ruin, the service is friendly and wholly professional, and there are surprising touches of extra hospitality, like a free water station with ample-sized cups. Maybe things will change as word gets out about the excellent pizza, but right now Loverboy is a low-key gem.
Loverboy was supposed to open with pizza as the star of the menu, but Con Ed had other ideas, quoting a “six-month to a year” wait time on installing gas. Owners TJ Lynch and Richard Knapp said screw that, and quickly pivoted to electric ovens for their slices. And though it took more time than they hoped to get the recipe right, get it right they most definitely did. These thickish square slices have a crisp-and-chewy crust that’s almost like a focaccia and holds up well under the onslaught of often-sloppy toppings.
I ate three slices last Saturday night (there are currently six varieties available, one of which is a dessert), and loved them all. The Mc 4 Guys didn’t necessarily look promising, with all that shredded lettuce hiding the goodies underneath, but this Big Mac homage (burger meat, cheddar, pickles, special sauce, sesame seeds, tomatoes, etc.) is superb, and so laden you really have to eat it with a knife and fork (I know, I know). The pepperoni slice, called the Loverboy, was almost as gloppy and equally as good, and holds up as another example of why putting ranch dressing on pizza, once an absurd notion, has turned out to be a genius move. The Honolulu Hot Stuff is also a winner, with pineapple, Canadian bacon, and peppers sinking into a sea of creamy, melted cheese.
There are other, non-pizza things to eat at Loverboy, all of which you can order with confidence. The Chicken Parm Sando is tender and juicy, with a slather of tapenade giving it an extra kick. The Endive Salad is a well-composed plate, balanced among tastes (bitter, tart, sweet), and textures (creamy, crisp, crunchy). In contrast, the Loverboy Ceasar [sic] may be a bit one-note, but it still satisfies, and the Fried Calamari is delicious, the addition of lively togarashi spice and a blob of nori mayo setting it apart from the thousand other such dishes in bars all over town. Finally, if the kitchen’s frying up Tamarind Hot Wings when you go, you should get them: these meaty, spicy, sticky, only-slightly-sweet chicken bits will be devoured in seconds.
Here’s hoping Loverboy is just far enough away from the East Village/Lower East Side drunk zone to keep its grown-up (though still fun) atmosphere. Locals will want to stop in often, and NYC pizza completists should make an effort to check these beauties out soon.