Joe’s Pizza Opens in Midtown, Immediately Becomes Times Square’s Best Pizza

For as many tourists that visit the Great White Way, Times Square has long been a wasteland for good pizza. I don’t know what’s worse, bedbug Elmos or that tourists grabbing a slice at La Famiglia or Little Italy Pizza (God forbid, 2 Bros), think they’ve tasted the legit pizza New York is known for. Sure there’s the Midtown John’s outpost, but as far as good slicerias go, you used to have to walk down to New York Pizza Suprema across from the Garden. Things have improved. You can walk over to Corner Slice on 11th Avenue or crosstown to Sofia Pizza Shoppe but until recently, if you wanted a great slice right there in Times Square… fuggedaboutit. No longer. Today, Joe’s Pizza opened at 1435 Broadway just two blocks south of where the ball drops. It immediately took the mantle of Times Square’s best pizza.

“You’re always nervous when you move into a new neighborhood,” Joey Vitale told me. Joey is the grandson of the original Pino ‘Joe’ Pozzuoli, famed pizza operator of Joe’s Pizza in the West Village.

By the looks of things, he’s got nothing to worry about. The new Joe’s Pizza on 1435 Broadway literally a block from Bryant Park and just a few steps up and out of the Times Square NQR station has the look and feel of the 14th Street East Village expansion. Unlike the West Village original, it’s roomy with stools and counters on either side of the pizza counter, behind which, three new deck ovens are being broken in.

“The ovens are going to need to get seasoned, but we’ll get there,” Joey said, noting on an Instagram post that the “neighborhood took us in with open arms.”

I’ve done same-day comparisons of slices at the 14th Street and West Village Joe’s Pizza locations, something that I’m not prepared to do this early on until they’ve had a chance to break in the ovens. Judging by the number of folks likely to swing through, that shouldn’t take long. (Good luck on New Year’s Eve, guys.) For now, I can say that there’s that classic Joe’s super-thin crust with the crispy, almost toasted undercarriage, lightly sweet sauce and just as thin a layer of cheese. I’d argue that there’s a little less cheese on this slice, but you have to give them a minute to get settled and a chance for these ovens to be broken in.

There’s that classic Joe’s super-thin crust with the crispy, almost toasted undercarriage, lightly sweet sauce and just as thin a layer of cheese. I’d argue that there’s a little less cheese on this slice, but you have to give them a minute to get settled and a chance for these ovens to be broken in.

It’s a great slice, I’m sure they’ll hone until they get it right, and even now I’d say I’d be proud to have folks from out of town hit it up and leave with it as their impression of New York City pizza.

For the uninitiated (whatsamattayou), here’s what I’ve said about Joe’s Pizza in The Daily Meal’s list of 101 Best Pizzas in America and in Phaidon’s Where to Eat Pizza in the past:

Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza has served fresh, hot, cheesy slices to tourists and residents alike, making it a truly iconic New York City landmark. It’s as synonymous with New York City as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Everyone has a favorite slice joint, but if the city were to have just one, this would be it. It’s made every conceivable best-of list (many of them tacked on the walls and in the windows), and for good reason. The key to Joe’s success is their traditional New York City-style pizza with thin crust, great sauce, and just the right ratio of cheese, sauce, and crust (just a bit less of the first two). It took about 38 years for Joe’s to try to capitalize on its West Village success, opening an East Village location on 14th Street a few years ago that turns out a similar-quality product — if with slightly less demand (consider this side-by-side comparison). That was followed pretty quickly by their first location in Brooklyn (in Williamsburg), where they promised not to lose sight of their blue-collar virtues — they’ll still sell pizza for $2.75 a slice. 

Joey said that he’s managing the Williamsburg location, that his uncle would continue to run the West Village spot, that his cousin would be taking over Times Square, and that “We’re going to have to come up with some new family members to open up other locations.”

Might be time to have some more kids too. In the meanwhile, God’s work, guys. Thanks for fixing the Times Square pizza problem, finally.

Joe’s Pizza
1435 Broadway,
New York, NY 10018 
Phone: (347) 312-4955
joespizzanyc.com/
Subway: N, Q, R, W, 7, B, D, F, M, A, C, E

Joe's Pizza in Times Square
Times Square tourists and office workers finally have a great slice to call their own.

Oh, Loverboy. Pizza, Oh Pizza, My Sweet Pizza, You’re the One… (Maybe?)

If things go as planned, Loverboy, the East Village’s newest pizza spot (brought to you by owners Richard Knapp and T.J. Lynch of Nolita gin mill, Mother’s Ruin) may actually be able to serve pizza by early August.

“We’ve basically decided to say, ‘Fuck Con Ed,’” the bartender at Loverboy explained. “We’ve outfitted the kitchen so that we can just go all electric. We’re closer than where I thought we’d be since making the shift. We should be ready to serve pizza within the next two weeks.”

In an interview with Grub Street, Loverboy co-owner T.J. Lynch said the spot hadn’t been named for the Patrick Dempsey pizza deliveryman-gigolo movie or the ’80s band (we’ll have to settle for a hed inspired by Mickey & Sylvia) and described their concept as combining “the unpretentious feel and good drinks of Mother’s Ruin, but with pizza by the slice and pie.” Instead of having folks leave the bar to find slices to sop up the frozen cocktails, they decided they’d serve pizza themselves (“I think it’s because we’re geniuses” Lynch added).

Loverboy’s pizza style? Lynch, who worked on it with consulting chef Nick Pfannerstill (previously chef de cuisine of Dovetail), told Grub Street, “Our style is called awesome pizza. That’s the culinary definition.” More specifically, he then went on to describe it as a square-style with a thicker crust that’s not quite Sicilian-thick.

Tone can be lost in translation, but the quotes do read a little, ahem, abrupt and… confident.

Hey, God bless if you can back it up. The East Village could use another good pizzeria and it’d be nice if this corner, which has been a disastrous parade of unsuccessful restaurants and bars, would turn out to be something that’s actually good and more than just a douche magnet.

The last attempt, Lumé, a self-described “Epicurean drinkery” was seized in 2014. Previously, it was Life – Kitchen and Bar, which took over Verso (probably only vaguely remembered for a topless diner encounter immortalized on neighborhood über-blog EVGrieve), and which was at one point Caffe Cotto, Caffe Pepe Rosso and God knows what else after Pedro’s Bakery, where Iggy Pop apparently once ordered food in the 1990s during a documentary before realizing he didn’t have any cash.

That being said, Loverboy being the first success in a long time on a corner full of consecutive failures will be no small feat.

How hard is it to go from gas to electric? We’ll have to see. The bartender said the pizza would be in the “Roman style” but thicker and more like a Sicilian pizza, but softer toward the middle. Loverboy plans to sell pizza by the pie and by the slice and to also do delivery. The pizza toppings that will be available on the menu are still a bit of a secret.

Loverboy
127 Avenue C,
New York, NY 10009 
Phone: (917)202-0599
facebook.com/loverboynyc/
Subway: L (1st Ave)

50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

There’s a new online pizza guide that is setting out to rank the world’s best pizzerias and while Italy is the dominant part of the guide so far, 50 Top Pizza representatives gathered today at Neapolitan pizzeria Ribalta in Manhattan to announce the top 50 winners across five different continents outside of pizza’s birthplace.

“This is the first online guide for pizzerias, not pizzas, we’re talking about the pizzerias,” announced Maria Rosaria Galletta, who translated the event’s announcements from Italian.

Parse that as you will. There’s a trove of pizza listicles writers out there who may beg to differ, but you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find any who will disagree that 50 Top Pizza may be the most thorough online ranking of Italian pizzerias. In attendance were 50 Top Pizza’s curators, wine journalist Luciano Pignataro (LucianoPignataro WineBlog), Barbara Guerra and long-time sommelier, master taster of cheeses and olive oil, Albert Sapere. The list was published by Formamentis and financed by a number of sponsors including Caputo Flour, Olitalia, Così Com’è and Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

While most of the awards will be doled out to pizzerias in Italy, it was the international (outside of Italy) results that were shared at the event, some of which are bound to set at least some American pizza experts, specifically New Yorkers and Chicagoans, talking.

Before the list’s methodology was explained, the event began with the curators offering a reminder that pizza was born in Italy, noting many actually don’t know that (it was unclear through the translation if this was tongue-in-cheek or they really felt it needed to be said).

“There are other pizza guides in Italy, but this one is different because it’s online and it’s completely free” asserted Mr. Sapere. “And there is a geolocation system that can bring you all the way to the door of the pizzeria.”

The curators reached out through their personal networks to pizza experts and passionates to create a panel of 107 people from all over Italy. Each was asked to submit up to 20 favorite pizzerias in Italy. All told, 900 pizzerias were nominated. The top 500 are being featured in their guide and were all reviewed anonymously by the panelists. While Neapolitan pizza may be the most famous Italian pizza style, Roman-style pizzerias, “gourmet pizza” (which they defined as pizza mostly served in Italy’s northern regions), and the pizzerias of Tramonti were also included.

Continue reading 50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

How Toro Pulled off the Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pop-up

Last week’s Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pop-up took over Toro with foot-long cheese pulls, delighting Chicago transplants and skeptical New Yorkers with pizza FOMO. But how did it come about? And how did Lou Malnati’s pizza heir and Toro partner Will Malnati and team pull it off?

“I was in Chicago for the Beard Awards,” chef Ken Oringer explained. “I told Will, ‘There must be thousands of Chicagoans in New York City who crave this pizza. Why don’t we do some type of pop-up?’”

Toro had been doing guest chef pop-ups over the past year, inviting friends like Rachael Ray (who connected Will with chef Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of the original Toro in Boston) to cook, selling tickets for the events in the private dining room. Time and again the question arose: could they pull off a Lou Malnati’s pop-up? “It never went away,” explained Malnati. “So, one day I was like, ‘All right, all right, all right. Let’s see if we can really do this.”

The May 30th, Lou Malnati's pop-up at Toro featured two PBRs per guest.
The May 30th, Lou Malnati’s pop-up at Toro featured two PBRs per guest.

Moving forward meant Will acting as middleman between the kitchen in New York and the Lou Malnati’s team in Chicago, figuring out what they had and what they’d need. Will may have spent years establishing restaurateur cred beyond pizza, but the Chicago native earned his pizza chops in the family business before studying at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, working in every restaurant. He even returned to Chicago after graduating to open a Lou Malnati’s before starting a career in hospitality in New York at EMM Group.

Continue reading How Toro Pulled off the Lou Malnati’s Deep-Dish Pop-up

New East Village Artichoke Pizza About To Open

The sign is up and the butcher paper is about to come down at the new Artichoke Pizza just across the street from the old one, which sadly burned down just a few weeks ago (FDNY fire marshals said it was caused by heat from its overheated pizza oven flue). The new sliceria had been in the works for almost a year and there’s a new lease, about six times the space for customers, and about 15 times more room for the Artichoke crew to sling their signature pies late into the night for hungry East Village party-zens. These things sometimes have a way of turning from days to weeks, but cousins Francis Garcia and Sal Basille said they may open as soon as today.

It’s happy news that the block will continue to feature one of businesses that helped bring life to a strange stretch of 14th Street that will soon see even more foot traffic from all the people who will call all the new construction going up either work or home.

And it sounds like if you swing by in the opening weeks, you may have a chance to eat a slice from a pie personally slung by one of the owners. More from the Artichoke pizza boys to come.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
320 E 14th Street,

New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 228-2004
artichokepizza.com
Subway: L

Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

Whether you agree with Buffalo chicken as a pizza topping from a culinary or philosophical perspective or throw it in with pineapple and ham as a controversial bastardization, you’d be hard-pressed to deny Buffalo chicken’s iconic presence on menus at pizzerias across America. And while Teressa Bellissimo is generally credited with having invented Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar in 1964, credit for its invention as a pizza topping is a little harder to pin down. When did wings move out of the side dish and onto the pie? Who Invented Buffalo chicken pizza?

The hard beginning of a search for the originator of Buffalo chicken pizza has to be 1964 with their Nickel City origin. From there, consider that La Nova Pizza is generally accepted as the first pizzeria in Buffalo (in 1971) to also start serving wings. It seems logical that would mark the best starting point for the first pizzeria to serve Buffalo chicken on top of pizza. I’m working on finding out when La Nova started making their Chicken Finger Pizza (it features a blue cheese base, spicy crust, fontinella, Cheddar and mozzarella) but so far, no word as to whether it marks the birthplace of this topping’s national prominence.

Continue reading Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

Sofia’s New “DoughDici” Pizza Soufflé Is New York’s Most Inventive Pizza in Years

There’s a unique, new pizza in town. It’s called the “DoughDici,” and it’s a poofy play on a Detroit-style pie, a purposefully fallen pizza soufflé with a thin frico edge and an airy interior that resembles the inside of the Platonic ideal of a garlic knot. The DoughDici, a play on “dodici,” Italian for “12” (a nod to its dough’s 12-hour rise), is the creation of pizza tinkerer Tom Degrezia of Sofia Pizza Shoppe on 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th. Because of the time that goes into tending them, each DoughDici will be sold by appointment (link below) in limited quantities (two to three a day) just a few days a week.

If you’re a pizza fanatic looking for the next new thing: this is it.

There’s an ever-so-slight oil crisp-brown and golden undercarriage, a frico, Detroit-esque crust that’s slightly chewy and salty from the cheese, but without the Motor City overflow.

Degrezia has been tinkering with the DoughDici in his Sutton Place sliceria for seven months (he’s still looking for someone to make pans with the slightly angled effect he’s striving for), giving lucky regulars a slice if they happened to be there when a pie came out. Meanwhile, Degrezia’s partner Matthew Porter has trademarked the name. They were inspired by the Detroit-style pizzas popularized at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg but wanted to take their own approach.

Continue reading Sofia’s New “DoughDici” Pizza Soufflé Is New York’s Most Inventive Pizza in Years

Cornering the Market on Grandma Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen at Corner Slice

Ivan Orkin, the brash Jewish guy from Long Island who supposedly had no business opening a wildly successful ramen shop, is now the ramen guy whose brand seemed to have nothing to do with pizza and who has now opened Corner Slice, a grandma pie joint.

“You could say I’m the white guy making ramen, but the white guy went to Japan in 1980 and learned how to make it for 30 years,”Orkin retorts. “My family was Japanese and my heart is Japanese. Pizza is no different. I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital and been here my whole life. The experience of a great pizzeria… it’s who I am. If you listen to my backstory one of the things that reminded me about ramen was New York diners. Your guy was always there. You could get your food pretty quickly. I think pizzerias are really similar.”

The truth, as Orkin and partner David Poran quickly point out, is that Corner Slice, Gotham West Market’s new pizzeria, is the brainchild of chef and partner Mike Bergemann, 29, who Orkin and Poran call “the mastermind of the pizza.”

It’s been asserted that 2017 will be the year of the square pizza in New York City, a declaration Corner Slice will help cement. Bergemann describes the pizza he and his younger brother Pete, 27, are baking in an electric PizzaMaster deck oven from as “a blend of every square-style pie.” Actually, thinking inside the box has been on the rise for years. Prince Street Pizza opened with squares in 2012, when chef Michael White was also testing square pies at his East Village Midwestern riff Nicoletta. Razor-thin edged square icon Rizzo’s opened in 2013, on the Lower East Side after being Queens-bound nearly 55 years, and quadrate aspirations made news in 2015 at beloved Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s and with Matt and Emily Hyland of Emmy Squared.

A topdown view of the pizza at Corner Slice.
Mike Bergemann calls his grandma pizza “a blend of every square-style pie.”

Square-centric pizzerias have been pretty successful recently. Prince Street’s Spicy Spring square now tops many pizza-lovers best-of lists, Rizzo’s soldiers on and Matt and Emily’s Emmy Squared is an Instagram staple bound to amplify the trend when their second Detroit-style spot opens in the former Blue Ribbon Bakery space. (It will be their first Manhattan pizzeria). With 310 Bowery, grandma pizzas (always square) have even entered a New York City bar pie arena dominated by poofy crusted quasi-Neapolitan rounds at Alligator Lounge and Crocodile Lounge in Williamsburg and the East Village. But lackluster “Detroit” squares at the new Bryant Park Whole Foods (not good) are a reminder that it’s quality, not being on-trend, that leads to success.

You’ll find that focus on quality at Corner Slice.

“The pie is special because it’s made properly,” Orkin explains. “I don’t mean to sound like a jerk but we have good flour made with care and fermented the way dough is supposed to be fermented in my opinion. And I think we decided we could make a little less money and buy better ingredients and make it up in volume. We’re really doing that on purpose because we want people to enjoy the pizza and not get caught up in the price of artisanal ingredients. The reason why slice business has fallen off is because they’re not using great ingredients. New York took a bit of a left turn into Neapolitan style and we’ve lost our way a little bit in terms of what New York pizza is. It’s been an international phenomenon and while it’s absolutely delicious when done properly, it’s just not New York pizza. Remember, that’s means going to John’s where they say, ‘No Slices,’ and it’s like, ‘Dude, how many times do I have to tell you we just serve pies.'”

Corner Slice’s signature tomato square calls on New Haven tomato apizza and Jersey tomato pies for inspiration. The crust is airy and light with a pocked, golden-crispy undercarriage and a wide, dark edge reminiscent of a crunchy bread loaf that should eliminate comparisons to focaccia. There’s a thorough slathering of bright tomato — part California sauce, part Jersey chunk — spread across the base and a scattering of garlic confit. It’s garnished with a gentle Di Fara finish of grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (fresh basil goes on the pie into the oven).

The effect of enjoying Bergemann’s tomato slice and an espresso almost has more in common with the fresh, crusty pan con tomate traditionally served with coffee in Catalonia. And in case it wasn’t obvious, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a delicious slice.

Bergemann has a ton of ideas and he’s been involved in every part of the design and process. (He did all the branding and design with his girlfriend Courtney Inge.) There are 10 to 20 baked goods in the mornings until pizza starts being made at 11:30 am, including a delicious lard bread. I caught up with Mike Bergemann the day before he opened Corner Slice to learn more about the philosophy behind what he and his partners are doing at Corner Slice.

Continue reading Cornering the Market on Grandma Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen at Corner Slice

California Slice Renaissance? Tony Gemignani Leads the Way

What’s the state of San Francisco slice culture? What are the worst reheat sins a sliceria can commit? What’s the future of pizza? Tony Gemignani has become synonymous with great pizza in California since opening his first shop, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, in North Beach in 2009. He hasn’t looked back, opening 12 other restaurants in California and Nevada, and three slice stands in the Giants AT&T Park! So, with the opening of his newest San Francisco slice joint on Haight Street, who better to ask the questions above?

For the uninitiated, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Gemignani’s Pizza Rock routinely make lists published by national publications that rank America’s best pies. This pizza maven grew up in Fremont, and got his start as a teenager at his brother Frank’s spot Pyzano’s, and has spent more than a quarter century perfecting and “respecting the craft” (his motto).

Tony’s dexterity in pizza-throwing, his pizza making skills and bragging rights for having spun the world’s largest pizza (a Guinness World Record) make him a great character study. But one of the most interesting things about him as a pizzaiolo is his expertise in different pizza styles. Where many struggle to do one style well, several of Tony’s restaurants do many expertly. You’re just as likely to find a great cracker-thin Chicago pie as a classic American pizza, or pizza pies done with Roman flair, Detroit panache and according to traditional Neapolitan rules.

So, it’s interesting to see him take on what one might argue is a dying art: the quality slice joint.

Slice House opened in the lot that housed Haight Street’s famous Psychedelic Shop.

Tony’s 25-seat Slice House takes over 1535 Haight Street, which before housing a pizzeria called Fast Slice, was once home to the Psychedelic Shop, often cited as the world’s first headshop. Inside, portraits of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon pays homage to icons of the 60s. Tony uses an old Blodgett oven to fire up 10 different 13-inch and 20-inch pies, and reheat five different slice styles: cheese, pepperoni, grandma, Sicilian, Love Me Two Times (pesto, mozz, double garlic and “sun-bathed tomato”) and the Purple Haze, which he discusses below. Going beyond the traditional definition of a sliceria, Tony’s Haight Street menu also offers sides, salads, pastas, sandwiches and burgers (you won’t guess his secret burger ingredients). Sausages are homemade, patties hand-formed and burger buns baked daily.

What’s the state of San Francisco slice culture? What are the worst reheat sins a sliceria can commit? What’s the future of pizza? Who better to ask than Tony Gemignani?

In this interview, Tony talks about how the Haight Street slice joint has been received, whether he’d ever franchise, the travesty that is putting pepperoni on a pizza post-bake and what’s going on with the quality of the average slice in New York City.

What oven are you using?
It’s an old double-stack Blodgett and the stones in it are like 20 years old on the upper deck. They never changed it and it’s still cracked. The bottom deck they re-did maybe five or six years ago. It has no markings on it. Once I opened it up, I was like, “Oh, this is a fucking old Blodgett!” It cooks great. I won’t ever change it.

What’s the signature slice?
Purple Haze or the grandma. You don’t see grandma on the West Coast. It’s a little bit thinner than my Sicilian. We sell a ton of both of those all day.

How did you decide on the location for your new slice joint and what’s different about this one compared with your other ones?
It had to be a special place, not only with the look of it and the artists that we brought in. The menu had to change for the clientele: more vegetarian pizzas, more pesto on the menu, and a lot of burgers. People don’t know, but I serve great burgers.

Continue reading California Slice Renaissance? Tony Gemignani Leads the Way

New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland

Slice aficionados who’ve bemoaned the lack of a good slice in Midtown can rejoice. A new sliceria called Sofia Pizza Shoppe in Sutton Place is serving a crispy-bottomed thin pizza that inspires faith that the art of the quality New York City slice joint may yet persevere in the face of average reheats and the $1 slice. But this kind of quality doesn’t usually pop up out of nowhere. No wonder then Sofia’s family pedigree is linked to one of Brooklyn’s longstanding, unheralded neighborhood pizza institutions, Bensonhurst’s J&V Pizzeria.

Sofia opened last July on the west side of 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th streets in a space last occupied eight years ago by a pet groomer. Founders and friends Tom Degrezia (left) and Matthew Porter have both directing and acting credits (Porter had a role on “30 Rock”) and a passion for pizza. But it’s Degrezia with the sauce in his veins. His grandfather Vincent Degrezia opened J&V Pizzeria in 1955. And Sofia isn’t his first restaurant. Tom and his dad opened Sofia Wine Bar & Cafe on 50th near Second Avenue in 2008, where they serve a limited pizza menu.

“We live in the area, so we knew there weren’t any great slice places around, but when we started getting pizza delivery requests at the wine bar, we knew it wasn’t just us that felt the neighborhood needed a go-to ‘sliceria,’” Tom explained.

In fact, Degrezia and the New Hampshire-born Porter (who name Staten Island’s Joe and Pat’s and Rocco’s Pizza Joint in Chelsea as their respective favorite slices after theirs and J&V’s), said until Sofia opened, they had to go downtown or Brooklyn to get a good slice. They weren’t alone.

Ten years ago, bewildered by the dearth of quality slices in Midtown, I spent a week systematically seeking good pizza. River to river, 25 blocks deep, America’s supposed pizza capital was dominated by Bravo, Little Italy Pizza, Sbarro, and Papa John’s. Neapolitan joints PizzArte NY and Don Antonio by Starita (by Roberto Caporuscio of Kesté renown) have made inroads, but when it came to New York slices, it was a disgrace. (For the record, Pizza Suprema on 31st and 8th is technically in Chelsea.)

The wait is over.

Continue reading New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland