[PIE HIGH] Pizza is the United Nations of food, bringing together diners from all walks of life in a communal bond of cheese, tomato sauce and tossed dough. So how does a restaurant up the ante? Booze, naturally. Oven and Shaker's winning formula combines well-executed but simple Neapolitan pies with a creative cocktail list that covers all the bases. The concept—the brainchild of Nostrana's Cathy Whims and bartender Ryan Magarian—has been a steady crowd-pleaser in its casual Pearl District space, smartly decked out in dark wood and burnished metal. The long bar has backless stools and offers cocktails from four categories: fresh, dry, strong and free (as in little to no alcohol). A "strong" standout is the house-original añejo Manhattan, a south-of-the-border twist on a classic that's a beautiful blend of aged tequila and bitters, nicely garnished by a slice of spicy mole salami wrapped around an Amarena cherry. For something less potent, try the Botticelli, a refreshing mix of vodka, Aperol, cava, and fresh lime and grapefruit juice. A short but stellar list of recent starters included a finely chopped kale salad dressed in anchovy vinaigrette, with grapefruit, toasty breadcrumbs and a crunchy "poppy seed fricco" wafer of pecorino. Nearly as good was the antipasti misti of corn, cauliflower and fennel, each prepared in a different way. Among the 12-inch pizzas, the ever-changing pork belly pie is a consistent highlight. In August, it was served sauceless with mozzarella and Cotija cheese, corn, poblano pepper and cilantro. Also check out the cheeseless "octo pie" of octopus, tomato sauce, garlic and lemon that was elevated by salty fried capers. Both pizzas were thin, crispy and charred beautifully, making it that much more of treat to take home the leftovers. ROB FERNAS.
Several wines on the well-chosen list are available at 46 centiliters (16 ounces), giving tipplers more flexibility in their ordering. Liters of wine are available for takeout.