The country’s first-ever women-only hotel, built at the turn of the 20th century, recently retook its original name—the Martha Washington—after passing through multiple owners in the last five years, and a fresh renovation. A big draw to this convenient locale, north of Madison Square Park, is the new ground-floor Italian restaurant Marta, helmed by Danny Meyer (of Shake Shack fame) and his Union Square Hospitality Group. Marta offers Roman-style pizzas—thinner than thin, crispy crusts cooked in two wood-burning ovens—and beyond that, a thoughtful wine (all Italian) and beer list that’s carefully been whittled down.
We asked Corey Gargiulo, Marta’s beer aficionado, for drink recommendations that can stand up to Executive Chef Nick Anderer’s creations (Anderer was also just nominated for the 2015 James Beard awards in the competitive category Best Chef: NYC). It might be the classiest night of pies and brew ever—and you can apply these harmonious pairings outside of Marta, too.
Westbrook Gose (Sour) + Delicate Flavors
For the more adventurous beer drinkers, Gose (pronounced “gose-uh”) is a traditional German-style sour wheat beer that’s been seeing a revival in the past few years. And the 4% version brewed by Mount Pleasant, South Carolina’s Westbrook is one to try. “The beer has a lemon tartness, notes of herbs and a dominant saltiness derived from either local water sources historically or the addition of salt; these qualities make Gose an interesting beer to enjoy on its own, but also to pair with food,” says Gargiulo, who pairs it with the Coppa Cotta pizza (shoulder ham, Fontina, arugula and red onion). “The coriander and salt of the Westbrook Gose provide a nice counterpart to the bitterness of the arugula and matches the delicate and herbaceous shoulder ham. The beer is light enough as to not overwhelm the pronounced yet delicate flavors of this pizza.”
Logsdon Seizoen Bretta (Saison) + Mushrooms
The Funghi at Marta just happens to be our favorite from the menu—between the gooey Fontina are Hen of the Woods and hedgehog mushrooms, sprinkled with red onion and thyme, and the result is a delicious white pizza that you can’t believe is vegetarian. With the Funghi, Gargiulo recommends the award-winning Logsdon Seizoen Bretta (an 8% saison) from Mount Hood, Oregon, which is fermented with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain common in Belgian brewing. “The earthy complexity provided by Brettanomyces yeast is a perfect match for mushrooms, while remaining dry enough on the palate to cut through the Fontina cheese,” he notes.
Grimm Tesseract (IPA) + Spicy, Bold Pizza
There’s a great story behind the Grimm Tesseract draft beer (8% double IPA) that Marta offers on tap. “Joe and Lauren Grimm are nomadic brewers—not having any brewery space of their own and traveling to other breweries to borrow their space to brew,” says Gargiulo. “Recipes are developed in their home in Brooklyn and each beer produced is a single-batch limited edition release which may or may not ever be brewed again.” Noting that IPAs go well with spicy and bold foods, he recommends pairing it with the Amatriciana pizza (pecorino, guanciale, onion and chili). “Grimm Tesseract’s hop bitterness stands up to the spice, and soft bready malts match the crispiness of the crust while cooling the palate,” he says.
LoverBeer Beerbera (Sour Ale) + Meats
As you’ll note from its color, the 8% LoverBeer Beerbera looks closer to wine—which is because this sour ale from Piemonte is brewed with Barbera grapes. “This is a fun introductory sour beer for people who love wine, but may be timid about beer because it has oaky and acidic qualities unfamiliar to wine drinkers,” notes Gargiulo. “Pairing this beer is almost like pairing wines made from Barbera and I like to pair this beer with the Macellaio pizza (pork sausage, guanciale, soppresata, mozzarella, grana padano). Notes of red fruits and oak are bold enough for the array of meats with a tart finish to help cut through the fat.”
Amarcord Ama Bionda (Ale) + Margherita
The lovechild of New York and Italy is Ama Bionda, a 6% Belgian-inspired ale created specifically for the Italian dinner table, in a collaboration between Italy’s Amarcord Brewery and Garrett Oliver, the Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery. “This golden ale is a simple yet complex beer that matches perfectly with simple dishes,” says Gargiulo. “The delicate nature of such a simple pizza like the Margherita begs for a simple yet well executed beer. Ama Bionda has enough hop bitterness—it’s made with 3 different hop varieties—to cut through the mozzarella, with a light malt character to match crust and a touch of herbaceousness to match the basil with a palate cleansing carbonation preparing you for the next bite.”
Marta is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the lobby of the Martha Washington hotel at 29 East 29th Street, Manhattan.
Images by Leah Boatright