It Came From the Library: 4

By: Jonathan Milder

The recession may be walloping the fine dining and casual dining sectors, but somewhere in between there is a small but thriving niche where the upmarket and downmarket meet. In this midmarket enclave, familiar, fast, dare-I-say ‘comfort' foods such as burgers and pizzas are approached with a sense of craft and artisanship and an obsession with ingredients imported from the world of fine dining. The new establishments fitting this mold tend to be tightly focused on doing one thing and doing it exceptionally well. By drawing on the best of the upscale and the downscale, the gourmet and the populist, these new spots wear a sort of double halo: they are simultaneously democratizing and aspirational.

Thus far this month a deafening media buzz has hovered over a number of new artisanal pizzerias in New York and LA that very much fit this mold. The focus has largely been on Jim Lahey's much anticipated Co. But Co. is just the latest -- though perhaps best, despite what a gustatorily-challenged pencil-pusher at the NYTimes might think -- of the city's new pizzerias, joining a crowded field of newcomers including Motorino, San Marzano, and Artichoke.

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