I have been to Orso twice now in the post-Will era and have been encouraged by what we found both times. We ordered our standard fare and found no striking changes, except for a marked improvement in the calamari as noted above. Fingers crossed that the smooth sailing continues.
My husband and I had lunch here one day last week. I had two old favorites: the pork belly and the roasted cauliflower. Both were every bit as good as I remember when Will was in the kitchen. My husband strayed from his usual pizza order to get the meatball grinder, which is served in a sort of folded pizza crust. He loved it!
Matt and I got three pizzas the other evening (always must have some for his breakfast the next day!), and I thought they were of comparable quality as the Artley-era pies; Matt liked them a lot, but felt they were not quite as good (Matt's palate for things such as this is at least equal to mine, but he's also more susceptible to bias). So there's two more data points.
We haven't been to Orso recently, but knowing how much pride Will took in his staff, I would expect the quality of execution of the regular menu to remain high. What will probably be missing is the creativity - the specials, the new menu items, the unexpected flavors that blow you away.
Unfortunately, I had my first solid evidence of a post-Artley decline last night. I'd ordered pizza 2-3 times from Pizzeria Orso since Will left, and thought the quality was just about the same; last night, I ordered two pizzas: a Fun Guy ($15) and a Capricciosa ($15), both of which I'd had multiple times in the past (at least five times each), and both of which had always been consistent in their quality.
The Fun Guy was still very close in character to a pre-Artley version (the sourdough starter was left at the restaurant, so the crust will remain comparable for awhile; it's the toppings that will be the first to change). However, the Capricciosa was the first-ever version that was in decline, and other than a couple of objective reasons, I can't tell you why. It was extremely salty, low on artichokes (which counteract the salt), and the slices of ham were stuck together which revealed that they were not of the highest quality. It may indeed be the same ham they were using before, but when you get 3-4 slices stuck together because of improper slicing, it enhances whatever flaws there are, and puts the entire pie out of balance - this pizza would not have seen the light of day had Will been running the kitchen.
Next to Pupatella, this is still the second-best pizza around (I had Pie-Tanza within the past week, and it's just as it always is (which isn't as good as this))
I hope this a one-off, but I fear little "things" like this might begin cropping up here-and-there which could be a precursor to a larger downfall. I should also add that I've had a disproportionate number of Orso pizzas, so I'll be one of the first to know - most customers probably wouldn't have even noticed this, or, for that matter, cared.
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