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L'asso to Stake Claim in Crowded East Village Pizza Market

EAST VILLAGE — A new outpost of acclaimed pizzeria L’asso is set to open on First Avenue in the coming weeks, marking the NoLIta restaurant’s first expansion since opening nearly eight years ago and adding to the new wave of upscale pie-makers in the neighborhood.

The Mott Street restaurant — sitting only blocks from Little Italy institutions like Lombardi’s — is noted for having some of the borough’s best pizza and invariably attracts long lines.

The new location, to be called L'asso EV, will open in much larger digs between East Sixth and Seventh streets sometime in late September or early October, said L’asso partner Greg Barris.

The space, which remained vacant for about a year after Korean barbecue joint Bonjoo closed, will come equipped with two wood-burning ovens to fire up its signature pies that include specialty toppings like homemade potato chips, truffle oil, mascarpone and walnuts.

“I think we’re definitely going to make people a little worried,” said Barris, 29, referring to the East Village’s crowded pizza market that includes favorites like Motorino, Pulino’s, Artichoke and South Brooklyn Pizza.

“There’s an endless amount of pizza in that neighborhood, but there really isn’t anyone doing what we’re up to," Barris said.

L’asso prides itself on serving D.O.C.-certified pies — a designation reserved for pizza made to the standards of the Italian government. The restaurant also uses non-bromated flour not typically found in pizza doughs, despite the fact that the additive, potassium bromate, is a known carcinogen.

The new space will seat about 85 and include a full wine menu, a dozen beers on tap, and a broad menu courtesy of executive chef Claudio Cristofoli, of Cipriani fame.

A sommelier, barista and cicerone (or beer expert) will be on staff to help diners navigate the menu, and the restaurant will eventually stay open from breakfast till late into the evening.

Barris said he and his partner, L’asso founder Robert Benevenga, had been looking for a new space for three years, deciding on the First Avenue address after nearly opening a location in Los Angeles instead.

The East Village resident added that the area’s foot traffic, as well its proximity to bike and bus lanes and the F and L trains, made it the perfect fit.

“The East Village is more classic New York City,” said Barris, a stand-up comedian who partnered Benevenga after hosting semi-legal comedy nights in the original restaurant's basement space.

The emphasis at the new location will be placed on high-quality and organic ingredients, as well as menu items other than pizza, he noted.

“We’re trying to do more interesting dishes, more thoughtful dishes,” Barris explained, adding that they will nonetheless pass through the brick oven.

“The concept is going to be incorporating a lot of new ideas with a lot of older and traditional ideas,” he added.

That may mean a scaling-back of L’asso’s pizza menu at the new location — the Mott Street restaurant currently offers 26 pies, plus four to eight seasonal selections — but Barris assured that the focus will remain on the restaurant’s trademark.

“We’re expecting to be making a lot of pizza,” he said.