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)

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

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.

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