Soul-satisfying Italian comfort food in the LES

By Hannah Howard

When you head to a restaurant run by Adam Elzer—one of the partners behind Empellon, Supper, Frank, and Lil’ Frankies—you can count on a few things. First, the food is going to be grandma worthy. Second, you might have to unbutton your pants. And third, it’ll be absolutely worth it.

Sauce fits this bill perfectly. The cheerful space on the corner of Allen and Rivington opens onto the corner, where the outdoor tables provide prime real estate for Lower East Side people watching. Inside, nostalgic décor echoes the unpretentious, comfort food–heavy menu. The simple red-sauce plates are inspired by Southern Italy by way of New York City—and executed exceptionally well. Take the mozzarella di Bufala. It arrives all milky and luscious, with a few fat slices of tomato, leaves of basil, and a shower of spiced olive oil and black sea salt. So simple. So perfect.
Sip a refreshing Aperol Spritz or a juicy red (Barolo by the glass, perhaps?) with pasta that’s made in-house daily and served with grass-fed beef Bolognese, “Grandmother’s tomato gravy.” Or look to the selection of specials, like a kale and ricotta agnolotti in a fresh filetto di pomodoro. Pizzas are crispy crusted and addictive.

The signature dish, “the plank,” is a creamy pile of polenta topped with rich beef ragu, a mountain of cheese, and peppery olive oil. It’s perfect for sharing, as is a generous slab of fluffy tiramisu or a panacotta drizzled in chocolate, for a dessert that would make any grandma jealous.


Mon–Thu 5 PM–10:30 PM; Fri 5 PM–midnight; Sat 11 AM–midnight; Sun 11 AM–10:30 PM

price range

$13 (LES Classic pizza) to $25 (grass-fed steak alla pizzaiola)