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    Restaurant Reviews
    Monday, July 22, 2024

    A Diamond formed of sourdough: New pizza spot a welcome addition to Bank Street

    The Thin Glizzy at the Diamond in New London (Rick Koster)
    Italian Chopped Salad (Eileen Jenkins)
    Dining side at the Diamond in New London (Rick Koster)
    Sourdough crust pizzas at the Diamond in New London (Rick Koster)

    HOLD FOR GO BOX!

    In 2005, the Planning and Development Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature introduced a bill called Pizza Per Capita (HS 2679-C), which would require that one out of every three dining establishments in every community in the state primarily serve pizza.

    In a speech on the floor of the house, representative Whittaker Sneetch (D-Yantic), author of the bill, exulted, “Screw a nutmeg. What IS a nutmeg?! No, I’m talkin’ pizza. As a state, it’s who we are!”

    With that, he flung open a grease-stained white, square cardboard box -- illustrated with a comical drawing of a mustachioed Italianate fellow in a chef hat, winking in exaggerated fashion as he blows a kiss, and with a word-balloon that says, “Mama Mia That’s-a Good Pizza!” -- then shared triangular slices of pepperoni and green pepper pie with fellow lawmakers.

    While the box design was ultimately canceled as racially offensive, the bill passed by a unanimous vote and, as everyone in Connecticut knows, you’re never far from a pizza restaurant.

    For that reason, those of us who review restaurants for The Day’s Night & Day entertainment guide try to avoid overloading our readers with analyses of pizza restaurants.

    On this occasion, though, I can’t help myself. I’m celebrating the arrival in New London of The Diamond, a new addition to the rapid regentrification of Bank Street. I wrote about the restaurant a few months back when owner David Pollack and chef Dan Cook opened the place. I was intrigued by their friendship, solidified while working together at The Pequot, a seasonal restaurant on tiny Fishers Island, where they also developed a pizza recipe based around experiments with sourdough and a brick oven.

    Encouraged by their success, Cook and Pollack relocated to the Whaling City, where there are year-round possibilities and what appears to be yet another upswing in the on again/off again dynamics of Bank Street commerce.

    The Diamond is located in a space that’s most familiar as the former Ernie’s Café, though with an expanded floorplan divided into two sections. Walking in, the right side has a few tables along the wall and a direct sightline to the oven. The left half is a darker tavern area with numerous tables, a semicircular bar, interesting wall art and lighting installations and an imaginative cocktail and beer/wine selection. Oh, and behold a wooden shuffleboard table so long it gives me a headache to imagine how it was delivered and installed.

    Throughout the Diamond are old school video games, and a variety of music airs continually – the only constant being that the tunes are fun and uplifting.

    Because the “kitchen” is more or less just a pizza oven – no ranges, ovens, griddles or grills – the original menu was limited to pies and salads and a cheese tray, and the Diamond didn’t open till late afternoon. Over the course of the restaurant’s brief existence, though, Pollack and Cook have started opening for lunch and slightly expanded the fare to include wings, a clever sourdough-blanketed hotdog, and a few exquisitely designed grinders.

    With a variety of pals and on separate occasions late last week, I visited the Diamond twice. Every one of us was delighted by our food, and our servers were solicitous while not hovering. A note on menu translation: Cook is a published poet whose duty it is to creatively name the food items. Puns are abundant, and I must mention at the outset a pizza called the Jaco Pistachious. Inasmuch as the recipe contains garlic cream, and garlic and I don’t get along, I haven’t tried this pie. But anyone who can infuse the name of the greatest electric jazz bassist of all time into a pizza is A-OK.

    Here are capsules of what we enjoyed, with a note that the sourdough underpinning, with its distinctive and slightly bitter spangle, was a big hit.

    A Real Fun Guy ($13 for 10” $21 for 14”) – This selection from the “white pizza” portion of the menu, staggered my friend Christelle, a self-proclaimed pizza snob who “will eat any and all pizza in front of me and then complain about it,” because it was so excellent she had nothing to bitch about.

    The thin sourdough crust was the perfect balance of crispy and chewy with slightly charred, rustic edges and a generous toppings-array of roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella, chives and garlic cream sauce. The onions were slightly sweet and as such the ideal accompaniment to more savory items. It was a delicious whole effort, and the finishing touch of chives and chive flowers were a lovely visual addition.

    The New England Wasp ($14 for 10,” $22 for 14”) – Another white pie, this creation fused goat cheese, prosciutto, fig jam and whole basil leaves. MK, who typically doesn’t like sweet elements on pizza, was nonetheless hooked by the disparate ingredients and it worked in a big way. The sourdough crust, though, was in her opinion what elevated the whole experience to the next level.

    The Gabbagool ($15) – a toasted grinder that arrived heaped with warm salami, capicola, and provolone on crispy Italian bread. It similarly overflowed with roasted red peppers, red onions, tomatoes and "shrettuce." The key component — oft-omitted in lesser sandwiches — was the roasted red peppers, and the sandwich’s appellation summons an iconic scene in “The Sopranos” featuring Junior Soprano. No spoilers. And a gentle wash of Italian vinaigrette brought out the subtleties of all the flavors and provided a soft underside to the crispy bread.

    The Joy of Buttafuoco ($14 for 10,” $22 for 14”) – Despite its darkly amusing name summoning images of one of America’s all-time losers, this pie, a clever mélange of sausage, caramelized onion and Mike’s Hot Honey, was a multi-spangled flavor assault with every bite.

    Thin Glizzy ($10) – A sizable all-beef dog wrapped like a babe in sourdough, basted with Dijon mustard and green peppers – I opted out of the onions – brought snap with every bite. Again, the sourdough “bun” was inspired and offered a happy spark of unexpected flavor.

    Italian Chopped Salad ($16) — This was a sizable and craftily conceptualiizion with escarole, celery, giardiniera and champagne vinaigrette. My wife Eileen dove into this one, commenting happily on the very tangy giardiniera — briny cauliflower, carrots and celery — exceptionally fresh escarole and a smooth, rich dressing. She asked for burrata to be added from the extensive list of free-range pizza toppings, and claimed the cheese’s creaminess was the perfect mellow complement.

    It’s too soon to suggest that Bank Street is “back,” whatever that ultimately means, but it’s encouraging to walk from the monument down to the fire station and take note of several businesses and restaurants that have slowly taken root since COVID.

    The Diamond is another gem, so to speak, plus it provides that stretch of real estate with that most valuable state resource: pizza.

    The Diamond

    53 Bank St., New London

    (979) 716-4009, diamondnewlondon.com

    Cuisine: Thin crust sourdough pizza, sandwiches and creatively stocked lounge

    Atmosphere: Family-style dining on one side, tavern vibe on the other, and a shuffleboard table and plenty of video games

    Service: Order at counter. Servers then deliver your food and drink and take care of you in efficient fashion.

    Handicap access: Easily maneuverable with plenty of room

    Prices: Reasonable

    Credit cards: Yes

    Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Tues., Wed. and Sun., noon-11 p.m. Thurs., noon-midnight Fri.-Sat.

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