East Meets West

Manhattan pizza heads to Midtown

By Greg Sabin
May 2024

Christopher Fairman is a walking advertisement for a well-run restaurant. Having been a manager at The Shack and Magpie, he knows how to work with good people who run good businesses and make good food.

When he told me he was going manage a new, buzzy Italian place in Midtown, I couldn’t wait to try it.

The restaurant is Pazza Notte—Crazy Night in Italian—at 18th and L streets. It’s fun, irreverent and inviting.
Black and white photographs line the walls, portraying celebrities and models, cars and kittens. The vibe is old country and new world.

It’s the creation of two restaurateurs from New York City. Tove Nord and Carlo Borea opened the first Pazza Notte 24 years ago in Manhattan. Their focus is on simple preparations, quality ingredients and fun.

Borea is from Rome. Nord was born and raised in Sacramento. The chance to match her Midtown Manhattan enterprise with one in Midtown Sacramento was irresistible.

Christopher Fairman came on a few months after the September opening. He tells me they consistently fill the dining room with high-energy, happy crowds. One night I saw three birthday parties.

“It gets pretty exciting as the evening goes on,” Fairman tells me. At the time, I was at the u-shaped bar sipping a glass of Italian Barbera and watching the sun stream in. A relaxed, welcoming Saturday afternoon. Midtown strollers wandered past.

The menu also welcomes. Pizzas, pastas, entrees and small plates feature beautiful preparations and exceptional ingredients. No dish is more than $30—smart for a new restaurant looking to gain a following.

Chicken parmesan, Penne alla Carbonara and perfect calamari make for satisfaction. Salads feature beets and citrus, lobster and crab, and tomato and mozzarella. All are prepared with skill and generous portions.

Pizza is the star attraction. Cooked in a specialty oven imported from Italy, the pies are thoughtfully topped, thin crusted and shaped in a Roman-style oblong. Fairman’s favorite is the Pizza Forestale, a white pie topped with roasted portabellas, goat cheese, caramelized onions and truffle oil. Rich, savory and comforting. No wonder I received multiple staff recommendations to try this one.

But I have a soft spot for Pizza Di Enzo, a red sauce pie (and what a beautiful red sauce) topped with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and arugula. Food done simply and well.

The bar menu has a host of champagne cocktails and a dozen “martinis” prepared with everything from espresso to mango puree, served with enough left in the shaker for a friend. The wine list draws from California and Italy.

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, Pazza Notte is a place to grab a bite before a show or a drink afterward. It’s a place to luxuriate on an afternoon, sipping wine and spreading burrata with a Calabrian pepper relish on toast. You can watch the world walk by and catch an old movie on the bar’s television.

It’s a spot for a professional lunch or meal with friends. Whatever the occasion, with Christopher Fairman keeping an eye on things, expect a splendid time.

Pazza Notte is at 1801 L St.; (916) 706-2997; pazzanotte.com.

Greg Sabin can be reached at saceats@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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