Either David Mancini, owner and chef at Supino Pizzeria, is striving for a casual atmosphere or he really is so laid-back (or poor?) that he doesn't notice his scarred tables and chairs and tiny napkins, way too flimsy for pizza-eaters. Service is friendly in a slacker way, that is to say, languid, but it gets the job done just fine. All the work has gone into the food; Supino's saving grace is brilliant thin-crust pizza with imaginative fresh ingredients — even an egg.
Mancini was inspired by his father's Italian relatives in the village of Supino, near Rome, who use brick pizza ovens in their back yards. When he decided to open a restaurant (last August, in the same space that used to house Flat Planet Pizza), he used his paesani's methods of developing flavor but decided against their thick, focaccia-like crusts, in favor of a New York method of mixing and stretching dough. You can see him hand-stretching the rounds through the open door to the kitchen.
That makes for a delectable thin crust that's not too chewy, which is a good thing. You shouldn't need superior jaw strength to wrench off a bite of pizza. I'm one who believes the toppings are the stars, but I happily munched on Supino's delicate white crust.
Mancini serves five red pizzas and six white, meaning no tomato sauce; almost all are made with traditional ingredients, no pineapple, no taco fixings. (By "traditional," I don't mean "certified Neapolitan," which is very restrictive, but ingredients that feel compatible with an authentic Italian pizza.)
The red sauce is supremely simple, nothing much besides some fresh-tasting though canned crushed tomatoes (Mancini won't reveal the brand). I tried it on the Bismarck, Mancini's favorite, which is red sauce, fresh mozzarella and some good salty prosciutto, with an egg cracked in the middle. The egg cooks runny and blends excellently with the tomato and cheese. If there's any left, you can sop it up with the crust.
The Primavera, a white, is topped with fresh tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, red onion, mozzarella and spinach — lots of flavors. Even the eggplant is moist, not dried out as often happens with pizza eggplant.
Another white, which is blander, is the Affumiciata (smoked). It combines smoked gouda, ricotta, mozzarella and roasted garlic, and its saving grace is speck, a prosciutto that combines the advantages of curing and smoking. Other whites are El Greco, with spinach, feta and kalamata olives; Red, White & Green, with fresh basil, capers and roasted red peppers; and a simple Margherita.
The $4.50 green salad is generous and excellent, though I like the red wine vinaigrette much better than the lemon-basil citronette. Plenty of arugula is what lifts these greens above the ordinary. Croutons are made from the same dough as the pizza.
My very favorite dish may be the housemade manicotti, a huge portion of ultra-thin pasta stuffed with ricotta and a bit of Parmigiano and topped with red sauce and mozzarella. Sublimely soft and simple, it's comfort food of the first order, like nonna used to make. Nothing challenging about it except the cheese that stretches out into filaments you love to twine around your fork. The crepe-like manicotti melt in your mouth — sorry, there's no better way to say it.
For dessert are more crepes — the Italian is crespelle — with sweetened ricotta, chocolate sauce and roasted pistachios. Unfortunately, the chocolate overpowers the other flavors.
Although Supino is supremely informal, if you look up high, there's been a successful attempt at decorating, with framed sculptures by Marisa Gaggino. She uses kitchen implements and chimney tops and creates tomatoes out of metal. Light fixtures are galvanized washtubs.
On Saturdays the place is filled with Eastern Market shoppers from all over, but, on other nights, it's become a neighborhood destination, with regulars from Lafayette Park and Indian Village. The tables are set up so that you might sit next to a friend or to a stranger. On a recent Thursday night a family of eight made room for a party of eight, and let a stranger hold their baby while they tucked in.
Supino is open till 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and till 11 p.m. on weekends, closed Sundays and Mondays. No liquor license, but you can order San Pellegrino limonata or aranciata.
Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.